Those who tuned in to the Channel Zero season 3 premiere on Wednesday, February 7, probably noticed that whereas Candle Cove was in open country and No-End House was in the suburbs, Butcher’s Block brings its frightening tale to a neglected, lawless part of the city, and the resulting story, if the premiere is any indication, may be one of the scariest yet! Executive producer Nick Antosca shared his insights about how his creepypasta-based anthology show has become one of the best horror series on television.
Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block is based on the central concept of a series of anecdotes called “Search and Rescue Woods,” shared by Kerry Woods on a popular subreddit called “No Sleep.” Among the gruesome tales of the deaths of those the narrator and fellow SAR officers were too late to save is the mention of complete staircases often found miles from civilization in the middle of the woods. These eerily out-of-place stairwells have been transported to a vast city park in Antosca’s adaptation.
“Initially I intended to set the season in the woods, just like the story,” says Antosca, “but as we started to explore the mythology and ideas behind the staircases, we found ourselves asking questions that led us down different paths, and you have to follow the idea where it takes you.” The new story begins with sisters Alice (Olivia Luccardi of It Follows), who is starting her job as a family advocate, and Zoe (Holland Roden of Teen Wolf), her older sister who suffers from psychological issues.
The setting changes the dynamic of Channel Zero, which tells a very different story each season, and this one is quite distinct from its predecessors. “We wanted to tell a story about predators and prey, and it felt more natural in a decaying American city,” Antosca says. “Also, it’s a location we hadn’t explored before on the show. We did spend a lot of time in the woods in Candle Cove.” Make no mistake, though, the park in Butcher’s Block is untamed and very scary, with rusty playgrounds and supernatural inhabitants with names like “Meat Servant” and “Pestilent God.”
There’s even a small, preternaturally speedy creature named “Smart Mouth,” who appears in the premiere episode, raising the creepy factor from the very start. “I mean, yeah, it’s startling when he moves so fast,” admits Antosca. “The actor who plays Smart Mouth, Linden Porco, is a great physical performer. He can become terrifying very quickly. When you expect to see that figure move like a child, but then he’s so aggressive and nimble — it’s jolting. And obviously some of that Smart Mouth imagery was inspired by Don’t Look Now, Phantasm, and Phenomena.”
It becomes very clear in the Channel Zero season 3 premiere that Zoe’s mental illness, which will no doubt become an important factor as the sisters question the supernatural occurrences happening around them, is hereditary, and Alice, as the younger sibling, is in danger of losing herself to schizophrenia as both her mother and her sister did. “There’s trauma in their past,” says Antosca, “and you can’t easily leave that behind, as tempting as it might be to try… The scariest thing to me is losing yourself, losing the ability to rely on your own mind. That’s such an utterly destabilizing, overwhelming, obscene-feeling idea. It doesn’t need anything supernatural to make it scary.”
Fortunately, the sisters are under the supervision, detached though it may be, of their new landlord, Louise, who has been investigating the mysterious deaths in the Butcher’s Block neighborhood for years. But Louise isn’t above being creepy herself as she speaks to deceased animals undergoing taxidermy in the premiere. “Louise is a very skilled taxidermist, and that talent may come into play later in the season in interesting ways,” teases Antosca. “Krisha Fairchild is a wonderful actress and she somehow manages to be both incredibly warm and empathetic and slightly sinister at the same time.”
There’s no doubt about it; Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block has upped the ante once again for horror television, outdoing even its own previous seasons in some ways. By introducing a haunting concept, terrifying creatures, and compellingly damaged characters from the very start, the next five weeks of the six-episode season are sure to leave fans of the show thrillingly scared out of their wits as usual. Channel Zero airs on Syfy each Wednesday at 10pm ET, and the next episode of Butcher’s Block is on February 14, 2018.