Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block
Episode One “Insidious Onset”
Written by Nick Antosca
Episode Two “Father Time”
Written by Harley Peyton & Angel Varak-Iglar & Mallory Westfall
Episode Three “All You Ghost Mice”
Written by Angela LaManna & Justin Boyd & Nick Antosca
Directed by Arkasha Stevenson
[All images courtesy Alan Fraser/Syfy]
Since I’m a little late to the Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block Party, I recommend you visit Father Son Holy Gore for full recaps of “Insidious Onset,” “Father Time,” and “All You Ghost Mice” (then check out other great recaps at FSHG).
In these articles I’ll be covering the material that was in the second half of my Channel Zero recaps for SciFi4Me.com. I take a deep dive each episodes’ symbolism and references, along with my personal musings, notes, & educated guesses. Here’s what I dug up for “Insidious Onset,” “Father Time,” and “All You Ghost Mice.”
The most obvious influence on Butcher’s Block is a classic horror trope – cannibalism, both historic and cinematic. From Sawney Bean’s 17th Century brood and Ed Gein’s solitary pursuits, real life cases have influenced an entire subgenre of horror. Cannibal Holocaust, Tobe Hooper’s 1974 Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes – this taboo provokes potent and visceral reactions in audiences.
A lesser-know but worthwhile title to track down is Parents, Bob Balaban’s 1991 directorial debut. Parents presents an jovial, enthusiastic cannibal Dad (Randy Quaid), pursing the family tradition in a candy-colored Lynchian nightmare. On TV, Syfy’s now canceled Grindhouse tribute series Blood Drive had their main characters sample a diner’s mystery meat in “Welcome to Pixie Swallow.”
“My family’s always been in meat.”
Alice Woods (Olivia Luccardi) and Louise Linspector’s (Krisha Fairchild) Dinner with the Peach clan ( and especially it’s maggot and fly infested aftermath) establishes the biggest influence from the cannibal sub genre – Texas Chain Saw Massacre in their version of TCSM’s “dinner from hell.” Naomi Garrett’s essay “Cannibalistic Capitalism” brilliantly makes clear the link between a family meal and economic theory. Garrett’s description of TCSM, in my view, applies just as well to Butcher’s Block; “exemplary in its terrifying, nightmarish (but bleakly parodic), vision of an America, metaphorically and literally devouring itself.”
*Setting – The City of Garrett is a forgotten, isolated area. Like many Rust Belt one-industry towns, its economic decline seems unstoppable. Season Three is set, like the 1992 Bernard Rose directed Candyman, squarely in an (mostly) grey landscape of downward mobility, populated by broken families torn apart by abuse both past and present.
Garrett’s residents are forgotten by the wider world and exploited by the Peach family for protein. Last season, technology (television, smartphones) lured unsuspecting victims to the No End House to serve as brain food. Garrett’s inhabitants, like the residents of Cabrini-Green in Candyman, are trapped, by poverty and institutional neglect, as offerings to the Peach family and their Pestilent God. (Although economic issues did play a supporting role in NEH: Margot Sleator’s father committed suicide to prevent his family’s economic ruin and fall from their comfortable middle-class existence.)
*Family Relationships – The core relationship of each season of Channel Zero has ranged from twin brothers separated by death (Candle Cove), lifelong friends/sisters who’ve drifted apart (Margot and Jules in No End House), and now biological sisters dealing with mental health/parental abuse issues (Zoe (Holland Roden) and Alice Woods in Butcher’s Block).
*Mental Health Issues “Insidious Onset” describes a specific set of schizophrenia symptoms. The Trephine Drill used by Joseph Peach (Rutger Hauer) on Alice was a part of the surgeon’s toolkit in trepanantion procedures to treat mental illness.
*Influence of David Lynch – The supersaturated color and off kilter hyper-reality of Edie Peach’s talk about the food chain at the beginning of “Father Time” would be right at home in the David Lynch directed Blue Velvet (1986) & and Mulholland Drive (2001). Alice’s buried fear of mental illness bears a striking resemblance to The Lady in the Radiator from Eraserhead (1977).
*The French “New Extremity” Influence The “meat suit” worn by Pestilent God, the “don’t watch this scene if you’re eating” nature of Robert Peach’s (Andreas Apergis) jailhouse snack, and the auto-cannibalism of Zoe Woods hearkens back to the intense (and borderline unwatchable) French “New Extremity Horror” of Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs (2008).
*Humans have worshiped various Gods of Pestilence throughout history. Is Butcher’s Block Pestilent God one of them? Interestingly, Joseph Peach asks Alice if she believes in God and seems amused that she acknowledges a “higher power” – but does not formally worship it.
*Smart Mouth – both The Brood (1979) & Don’t Look Now (1973) feature small figures who either attack characters outright (the snowsuit clad children in Brood) or leads them to their doom (Now‘s old woman in the red coat).
*The Peach’s Stairway to Heaven appears where their cursed mansion once stood. Building a playground over it makes as much sense as choosing a Native American burial ground for a suburb (Poltergeist). It is also an effective blend of horrific and surrealist imagery – like a train barreling out of a fireplace or clocks melting on tree branches.
*Garrett’s police force makes the cops in Touch of Evil look like The Untouchables by comparison. Even Chief Wiggum from The Simpsons has a better grasp on the basic requirement of his job than Chief Vancyk (Tyrone Benskin).
* Louise Linspector’s taxidermy hobby appears to relatively benign, if creepy (for now). Let’s see if she drifts into Ed Gein/Norman Bates territory.
Wonder what Butcher’s Block has cooking for Episode Four, “Alice In Slaughterland?
I can’t wait to dig into it.