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The first month of 2018 has been a strong one for television in general, but good horror TV has been largely absent. That all changes with the anticipated premiere of Channel Zero: Butcher's Block, the third entry in Syfy's standout genre anthology. CinemaBlend recently spoke with Channel Zero creator and writer Nick Antosca, who shared some of the biggest horror influences that went into putting Butcher's Block together. To be expected, they're all pretty excellent inspirations. According to Antosca:
We start from scratch and we challenge ourselves to take risks every season. This season is sort of stylistically influenced by more opulent and aggressive directors in some cases. Particularly [Dario] Argento. It's a very Argento-inspired season. Also, Bernard Rose, Nicolas Roeg. Candyman is a big influence on the season, and so is Don't Look Now. And Arkasha is particularly influenced by Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me and that kind of bold strangeness.
A group of classic genre entities got highlighted there by Nick Antosca, and they're not necessarily films and directors that get spoken of in the same breath all that often. Channel Zero's inspirations inform each season's tone more directly than other elements, and Butcher's Block is certainly more visceral than past seasons have been, and it kicks the door open on the eldritch surreality that Candle Cove's puppets tapped into. The story follows two troubled sisters who move to a new town that's adjacent to the hellish titular neighborhood where people are going missing. The Butcher's Block name ties back to the aged local Joseph Peach (Rutger Hauer), whose reality-tearing family can give the sisters an unimaginable gift, but at great and terrifying costs. With a story like that, each of the influences mentioned above makes a good amount of sense.
Director Dario Argento casts the biggest shadow over Channel Zero: Butcher's Block, and it's the Italian legend's feverish and frenetic energy that's on display here, as well as his sensory appeals. Bernard Rose's Candyman enters into this season by way of characters directly inviting dark and unexplainable forces into their lives. And from Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now comes not only descents into obsessive madness, but also the haunting use of a hooded red cloak. (As seen in the image above.)
Nick Antosca also talked a bit more about Butcher's Block director Arkasha Stevenson beyond just the way she invoked the unflinching weirdness of David Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me into this season.
Arkasha Stevenson directed all six episodes of this season, and just like Craig [William Macneill on Candle Cove and Steven [Piet] on No End House, she's got a very distinctive, very confident style, and a very unique sensibility. It's true that I and she have kind of a twisted sense of humor, but I think of Butcher's Block as our slightly more comedic season. There's a dark, wild absurdity to the horror, and kind of an extremity to it.
To be sure, Channel Zero: Butcher's Block still has some of the grief elements that helped give the first two seasons their emotional depth. But now with the aforementioned Lynchian quality where something can become so horrifically absurd that only maddened laughter will suffice as a reaction. Anyone who has read the creepypasta source material "Search and Rescue Woods," from writer Kerry Hammond, knows that viewers are in for some extremely freaky sights and concepts that are baffling enough to be amusing. (And as someone who has seen more than half of the season, I can confirm that to be true.) All hail the stairways in the woods!