After three episodes, it’s easy to see what works best on Channel Zero: Candle Cove and what doesn’t: when characters engage in long conversations about life the show grinds to a halt, and when it gets to the weird and horror elements it takes off.
That was very clear in this week’s episode, “Want to See Something Cool?” The first half dealt with cliche story lines of lost potential love and old vendettas, but then went nuts in the second half with an ever-present Tooth Child, a suddenly and unexplained appearing daughter, and a clan of killer kids being led by their evil teacher.
There doesn’t seem to be much mystery left about what happened in 1988, and that’s fine. The evil puppet show gave Eddie special powers, which he used to kill kids who bullied him, and Mike in turn killed him to stop it. The real mystery is in the present day, and that’s where the stakes are now: why did Mike come back, what does the teacher have to do with all of it, and what–or who–is the Tooth Child?
Admittedly, the first half was fine, though the interrogation of Mike had some rough spots of dialogue. But it felt unnecessarily slow, especially when it was followed by the bonkers second half. With only six-episodes in a season, I wish they’d worry a little less about making us care about the characters and more about the weird stuff going on. The bizarre elements are far more entertaining, and for a horror show that’s not a bad thing. Considering how many new elements were introduced in the second half of this episode, it looks like the final three episodes will finally focus on the weird. I also thought last week’s character-driven episode would be the last of those, so who knows.
The strengths of the episode’s later scenes come from clever directing decisions. Most of the story takes place during the day, frequently using wide, bright shots that feature empty space. It makes the town feel claustrophobic by showing how much is unfilled. The town is everywhere, closing in on you, a feeling that grows the more you see it. This lets the sparingly used night time sequences take on a much more ominous feeling. When Tim was walking through the woods it instantly felt dangerous, and that was before we started getting glimpses of murderous children.
Speaking of the children, if we are heading to a Children of the Corn-style massacre then sign me up. Creepy children are always scary (somehow demon kids look like sharks with cold, black eyes), and having them led by their sweet old teacher — with an intriguing concern for Mike — makes it even better.
The puppet show, with its extended sequences, also seemed more terrifying this week. Even if kids weren’t showing up dead without any teeth, that show would be unsettling.
So Channel Zero ended up showing us a bunch of cool things this week, it just made us wait for them. Going forward we hope they’ll feature more Tooth Child and less chattering.
What did you think of this week’s episode? You can talk all you want about it in our comments below.