Monday, October 31, 2016

"Candle Cove" Episode 3: WHO went WHERE and they gotta bring WHAT??

Well, I'm not sure what more I can do for you on Halloween than talk about spooky stuff. And the spookiest new thing I'm into right now is Candle Cove, the first season of SyFy's creepypasta anthology series Channel Zero.

For the first two episodes, it was eerie with promise, which was all I asked for. Now, as we hit the midpoint of the series, the 'pasta' of the 'creepypasta' is really starting to kick in.

What do I mean by that? Well, I've tried to define it before, but even I can't completely put it into words. It's horror writing with the amygdala chopped out. It's the ability to tap right into the human psyche and understand that a children's show full of screaming puppets or a man with abnormally long legs definitely counts as 'horror.' It's stepping outside the accepted tropes, looking over your shoulder at a shadow in the corner, and asking yourself what it would look like after two doses of Robitussin.

That's part of creepypasta. The other part is knowing when to drop the weirdness on the reader. You can't just walk right in with weirdness. You have to let elements linger. Let the narrator notice that her roommate never leaves his room. Let her notice the odd smells coming from his closet and figure it's just the dumpster under the window. Then let her find out what he keeps in there once the story is too far gone to ratchet it back into sanity.

Candle Cove, for those of us familiar with the source, told its entire original story in the first episode. But the visuals we saw of the show itself, while obviously a bit weird, didn't quite strike the horrific note that imagining the Skin-Taker in our own minds did. A failing? or a slow reveal?

The latter, as it turns out.

Episode 3 has finally started to veer full-swing into the sort of weirdness that I tend to expect from my creepypasta. Hints were dropped here and there, trusts were betrayed, but now we're seeing for sure that not everything is as it seems and characters who seemed innocent are actually quite involved (and vice-versa). The Eddie Painter flashbacks are growing darker and darker and, whether intentionally or not, forcing me to read between the lines into what could be some table-flippingly big changes from what we've come to accept of this plot.

We're also finally getting answers as to why there was a seeming error re: Jawbone/The Skin-Taker's name in the credits. Apparently this wasn't an accident or a casual name change at all. Where it's going, I'm not yet sure.

One thing I'm extremely pleased about is that Channel Zero has not resorted to jump-scares or gore, which (again) shows me they know what they're doing and how to handle this story. There's tension, there's blood, there's the assumption of some very gory endings, but things that would usually be shown onscreen as shockers are relegated to offscreen (even if only just) with gruesome sound effects. Free from having to worry about being pointlessly startled or grossed out, we're free to immerse ourselves in some genuine scares.

It's been set fairly in stone now that the show "Candle Cove" in-universe makes kids do horrible things... but now we're starting to see the flip side of that. The fact that the presence of the show, and the presence of Mike Painter (who seems somehow especially tied to it), makes grownups do things just as terrible. With the kids, they're innocents -- glassy-eyed and clearly brainwashed, moving fluidly to do horrible, violent things. But with the adults, it's paranoia, outrage, fear... instead of feeding ideas into their heads, it simply pokes at what's already there.

Which is potentially even more horrifying than a brainwashed kid.

I look forward to seeing where they go for the second half, if they go where I think they will, or if they'll completely flip the script. Let's just say... hm... I can't see them writing the lead as one of a pair of identical twins without some awful fallout incoming.

"Channel Zero: Candle Cove" airs Tuesday nights at 9 PM on SyFy.