Last year, Syfy introduced the world to Channel Zero, a horror anthology series based not on bestselling novels or comic books, but on the fright-inducing Internet-borne stories dubbed creepypasta. Season 1's Candle Cove was an exquisitely haunting tale about an evil-inducing children's TV show, and Season 2 ups the ante with an abundance of surreal despair in No-End House, which easily cements this series' status as the scariest show on TV. (Other than the news, I guess.) Get ready for a permanent case of goose bumps on top of goose bumps.
"Haunted house" stories have been essential to horror for just about as long as it's been a genre, but Channel Zero: No-End House provides a refreshing take on the trope that is as emotionally traumatic as it is visually disturbing. (Perhaps "refreshing" isn't a choice word there.) The titular establishment exists as something of a real-life urban legend, mysteriously inviting the bravest of the brave to enter its series of increasingly upsetting rooms, with zero guarantees of safe passage throughout. The six-episode season is one that's best explored without a ton of prior information, but we'll lay out No-End House's bare foundation.
At the center of Channel Zero: No-End House, assuming its center can be found, is a young woman named Margot, played by The Path and Defiance vet Amy Forsyth. When her best friend Jules (Chasing Life's Aisha Dee) returns home for the summer, Margot is still mourning the death of her dad John, who'd previously passed away under truly unsettling circumstances. John is played with award-worthy precision by John Carroll Lynch, also recently known for his attention-grabbing performance on another horror anthology. The character is introduced as a doting father through the use of old home videos from the family's happier days, and without sharing more about how John is used in the memory-heavy storyline, I'll say that the full gamut of Lynch's talents are utilized here, from comedic warmth to intimidating madness.
For a mood-changer, Margot and Jules head out for a fun night on the town, but it's a night that changes their lives forever, as they're eventually directed to the No-End House. But it's not a change for the better, and they're not alone. Also making this cursed journey are high school friend J.D. (This Life's Seamus Patterson) and Seth (Manson's Lost Girls' Jeff Ward), who'd just met the others during their bar trip. (Former Revenge recurrer Sebastian Pigott is also involved, but his story is best left untouched here.) This would probably be a super-quick series if the characters didn't actually make it through the house, so it's safe to say they do just that, and that they'll never stop regretting that decision, all for very different reasons.
Channel Zero: No-End House is based on the trio of creepypasta stories written by Brian Russell, with most details changed in order to expand the terror-filled narrative. Show creator and showrunner Nick Antosca, a former writer/producer on Hannibal, spearheaded a writing staff that includes Child's Play creator Don Mancini, former Twin Peaks writer (among other things) Harley Peyton and more. There's no denying that the twist-driven mystery would be pulse-pounding and dramatically poignant if limited to just the scripts, but there is -- how do I put this? -- no end to this series' stunning use of visuals to strike fear and dread into viewers at just about every given moment.
Similar to how Candle Cove was directed solely by The Boy helmer Craig William Macneill, No-End House was brought to live-action entirely by director Steven Piet, whose main claim to fame is the crime mystery Uncle John, which is currently on Netflix. When paired with the masterful editing -- as well as the constantly eye-catching art direction and production design both inside the House and out -- Piet's direction is what takes No-End House from great to perfect. We see so many long pans that bring to mind both Alfred Hitchcock and It Follows, often without even a soft hint as to what those pans will reveal. And viewers would be smart to pay attention to every detail that makes it on camera, as you never know which characters, settings or objects will usher in the next game-changing (and sometimes heartbreaking) reveal.
Beyond its terrifying sights and the myriad feelings it inspires, Channel Zero: No-End House is also incredibly powerful with its dread-dripping use of sound design, and viewers will likely hum to themselves the next time they're walking through the dark, just to stay distracted. Thankfully, though, the Syfy series doesn't attempt to appeal to the smell and taste senses, as that would create a wholly separate level of discomfort. You'll see why.
Admittedly, I have a slight bias for this season in particular, as it actually provided me with a form of catharsis tied to a personal tragedy from my past, strange as that may be. But that was just an added bonus of sorts, since it wasn't necessary to put Channel Zero: No-End House in the uppermost echelon of horror TV. No, that's made possible by everything stated above, as well as both the entrancing performances of the main stars and the sanity-crushing appearances from lesser-seen cast members.
Entering the No-End House may be a horrible decision for the characters themselves, but there's no better choice out there for anyone that thinks TV isn't scary enough. And even though viewers will likely want more than just six episodes, take comfort in knowing the show never overstays its welcome, much like the visitors of the House themselves. I'm already biting my nails down to the bones for Season 3.
Turn on a night light, grab a security blanket, or do whatever else keeps you sane in the dark, and tune into Channel Zero: No-End House when it hits Syfy on Wednesday, September 20, at 10:00 p.m. ET. And to see when all the other far-less-scary shows are hitting your TVs, check out our fall premiere schedule.