What if there was something talking to kids through the television, but only kids could see it?
A decades old murder mystery brings Dr. Michael Painter back to his quiet hometown of Iron Hills for the pilot episode of Syfy’s new show Channel Zero. Based on the popular Creepypasta titled “Candle Cove”, the eerie, low budget show lures kids into danger. (Read more about the Creepypasta here.) In “You Have to Go Inside” Michael finds himself at a crossroads. Despite being a well respected and rather famous child psychologist, Michael feels drawn back to his hometown where his twin brother Eddy and four other kids were murdered in 1988. While the murders remain unsolved, all of the victims bodies were recovered, except for Eddy’s. Michael quickly learns that something (0r someone) is still lurking around his hometown and is ready to strike again.
You Cannot Escape Your Past
The episode opens to Mike sitting for an interview on a television set. He comments to the interviewer that adulthood is a sophisticated mask of who we truly are, confidently and perhaps unintentionally implying that despite our efforts, we cannot let go of our past.The interviewer beings to ask Mike about his past before saying they have a special guest on the phone for him to talk to who has experienced a similar family trauma as Mike. He reluctantly picks up the phone to which he hears static, laughter, and a child’s voice asking “Mike? Why are you scare dot come home?” Suddenly, Mike realizes the camera crew is fake as the interviewer just sits patiently waiting for Mike to do something.
We cut to a flashback of a treelike burning figure walking down a hallway that screams of the later episodes of Stranger Things before seeing Mike going through a standard morning routine in his suburban Pennsylvania home.
Mike drives out to visit his mom unannounced. On the drive out to Iron Hills, we see flashbacks to Mike playing with Eddy. Everyone in town greets Mike kindly, but they’re clearly surprised to see him there. When Mike approaches his old classmate and friend Sherif Gary Yolen about looking into the files of his bother’s murder, Gary is reluctant to bring up the past but insists Mike joins him and his wife (Mike’s old friend Jessica) and some of the crew for dinner.
Flashbacks and New Victims
At the Yolen house, Gary, Jessica, Michael and a few of the other cops from the station discuss their kids behaviors and land on the topic of television when the Yolen’s son Dane complains that his sister Katie has been watching TV for hours. Mike quietly brings up Castle Cove, as the group discusses the show in more detail, Mike clearly becomes uncomfortable and eventually excuses himself from the table. He, in a scene that nods to The Poltergeist, Mike finds Katie siting in front of a tv with nothing on but static. The TV turns off and Katie warns Mike that “it went away”. Mike leaves the home and wonders around, having more flashbacks of being bullied with his brother Eddy by a specific group of kids. After a particularly bad day, the boys go home and sit quietly. Suddenly, their television turns on and only shows static to the viewer. Still, the boys are transfixed by the same show that Katie was watching, Castle Cove. Eddy is never the same.
Back in real time, Mike encounters a strange Skeleton faced figure much like the one discussed at dinner. Instead of being monster, it simply looks like a costume. The next morning, the Yolen’s daughter Katie is missing. Mike’s odd behavior and not getting home to his mother’s house make him look all too suspicious. As Mike and the rest of the group look for Katie, Mike continues to have flashbacks of his childhood.
When Jessica questions Mike’s reasons for being out so late, he can’t give her an answer. As she presses him, we discover that Mike was recently released from a psychiatric facility for having a psychotic break.
Again, we flashback to Mike, but this time as an adult, mutilating his arm while his wife is watching terrified.
Mike disappears from the group and goes to the Yolen home where Dane is watching a normal television show. Dane isn’t surprised at Mike’s appearance and says that Katie said he would come. Dane tells Mike he can find Katie at the Crows Nest. Again, Mike flashes to when he and Eddy were kids.
When Mike goes out to find Katie alone, he again encounters the Skeleton masked person. The crude, simplistic costume makes the scene incredibly uncomfortable as we know that under the mask is a person, perhaps a person who knows what happened to Eddy all those years ago (could it be Eddy himself?). Mike chases the skeleton into the woods and finally finds Katie safe and sound with a couple of teeth knocked out. When he brings her home, the “tooth child” comes onto the scene, covered in teeth and collects Katie’s teeth. What makes the tooth child so terrifying is knowing that all those teeth may have come from local children. How long has this presence been in Iron Hills?
Why “You Have to Go Inside” Works
“You Have to Go Inside” hits all the markers for a great set up to a successful horror show. It’s the right balance of creepy, relatable, and mysterious. Much like how Stranger Things gave us an enemy that couldn’t be completely pinned down in our own reality, Channel Zero has given us a gateway into a terrifying yet relatable version of our world. Michael is a rational guy. As a child, he was cautious and timid where his brother Eddy was bold and confrontational. Michael is one of the last people you would expect to be revisiting his brother’s death, yet something compels him to go forward.
The threat of something calling out to children through the safety of their own homes coupled with the mystery surrounding Eddy’s death (and where his body is?) makes for a solid start to Channel Zero.
You can watch new episodes Channel Zero on Tuesday nights at 9 pm on Syfy.
Images via NBC/Syfy