Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block
Episode Five “The Red Door”
Written by Mallory Westfall & Justin Boyd & Nick Antosca
Directed by Arkasha Stevenson
[All images courtesy Alan Fraser/Syfy]
As with previous episodes of the Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block Party, I recommend you visit Father Son Holy Gore for a full, in-depth recap of “The Red Door” (then check out the other great recaps at FSHG).
Now let’s take a deep dive into the symbolism and references I noticed in the fifth episode of Season Three, “The Red Door.” Episode recaps and observations for Seasons One and Two can be found at SciFi4Me.com, and my observations for Episodes One through Four can be found here.
*It’s taken me a couple years, but I think I’ve arrived at a Unified Connecting Theory of CHANNEL ZERO – or at least for the first three seasons. In each installment (so far), characters are trying to escape from one dimension back into “the real world” to wreak havoc (Candle Cove), are lured into an alternative dimension as a psychic food source (No End House), or trying to avoid becoming dinner for a long-dead cannibal clan living in a mansion in the sky/alternate dimension (Butcher’s Block).
At the end of Channel Zero: Candle Cove, Mike Painter voluntarily exiles himself to a netherworld to spend eternity as jailer for his murderous brother Eddie. Margot Sleator escaped from Season Two’s No End House with the help of the father recreated from her memories. At the end of Butcher’s Block, will Alice “wake up” and rejoin her sister Zoe in reality, or remain “upstairs,” content in the cannibalistic embrace of the Peach family?
*That plaintive “music to slit your son’s throat by” at end of Episode Four? Brenda Lee oh-so-sad 1962 hit “Break It To Me Gently“.
*The MCMXII on the handsome Peach fireplace mantle indicates it, or the entire place, was built in 1912.
*I might be wrong about my “Peach Family portrait changing” at theory at the end of Episode Four; there may just be portraits on each wall of the fireplace room. Although the changing portrait theory is still a horror classic.
*Use of sound in both Zoe and Alice’s centipede extraction scenes are masterclass examples of “less is more.” The sound creates more repulsion/disgust than the most explicit effects. Based on their appearance and behavior, the sister’s fears are represented by the carnivorous and aggressive centipedes and not their more mild-mannered millipede cousins.
*Watching Zoe eating the centipede to reclaim her identity reminded me very much of the Sin Eaters tradition; although they usually only ate bread to symbolically take on the unconfessed sins of the recently decased.
*”Red Door” recreates 1821 Henry Fusili picture “The Dream” twice, first with Smart Mouth (Linden Porco) crouching over a sleeping Alice (Olivia Luccardi), then with the actual picture hanging above Smart Mouth, The Meat Servant (Thiago Dos Santos) and Joseph Peach (Rutger Hauer) during their chess match.
*Is Alice listening through the floor because she hears Smart Mouth knocking on wall? Is Smart Mouth looking for Izzy (Annelise Pollmann)? Or both?
*For a show that usually trusts the audience to connect plot points on their own, Evalina Peach (Angela Narth) is surprisingly on the nose in lecturing Joseph to find Izzy for sacrifice to The Pestilent God and the strict timetable for this sacrificial “rent payment.” Is this bit of exposition designed to explain the situation to the audience, or underscore Joseph’s arrogance and lack of urgency?
Whatever the reason, in the final scenes it is amusing to see cool and collected Joseph Peach acting like a nervous middle manager preparing to deliver bad quarterly sales results to his District Supervisor.
*We see another set of Three Doors in this episod. Like last week, each leads to a very different destination. The Blue Door in Alice & Zoe’s bedroom just connect a hallway to a (seemingly) normal room, the Red Door leads to The Pestilent God, and the White Door opens up on the abandoned park.
*The Brood-esque “children” in “Red Door” – Dolphin (Samantha Adam), Goat Cake (Yale Rayburn-Vanderhout), and Kitten (Cody Willis) – made me wonder. Are these Edie’s children? Is her unborn child destined to be another hunter in the pack?
*Farewell to Aldous Peach and actor Bradley Sawatsky. This is his third role on Channel Zero – ahe played Principal Williams in Candle Cove, and the unfortunate “Lawn Watering Man” in No End House (who kept his head, but bled out after getting stabbed in the neck with the nozzle of his own watering hose).
*We find out how Louise Linspector (Krisha Fairchild) Lost Her Finger – turns out was her wayward brother bit it off and ATE IT during a particularly destructive sibling argument over his poor Life Choices. Louise’s reaction to her brothers disappearance,“I was relieved,” reminded me of Esther Blodgett’s from the 1954 version of A Star Is Born. At the end of her rope dealing with her husband’s alcoholism, Esther finally admits an uncomfortable truth –
“Sometimes, I hate him. I hate his promises to stop, and then the watching and waiting to see it begin again. I hate to go home to him at nights and listen to his lies … I hate me cause I’ve failed too.”
*The relationship between Chief Vanzyk (Tyrone Benskin) and his son Luke (Brandon Scott) ends this week. The elder Vanzyk now regrets choosing the Peach family over his own flesh and blood. But his loyalty ends with blood family; it doesn’t extend to the town that he’s supposed to protect. “You can’t save everyone … Compartmentalization is a psychological survival skill. Take care of the ones you know. Those you don’t are less of a priority.” Wrong answer, Dad! In response, a silent, shattered Luke kills his father.
* Jeff Russo’s score for the Red Room and Baptism hall scenes is a spiritual successor to that classical music/Halloween/horror movie favorite Bach’s Toccata & Fugue.
*Pizzicato strings crawl through this series, and especially in “Red Room.” Familiar to any horror fan, this is not so much music as the sound of scattering spiders bursting out of a hiding place and all over some unfortunate victim.
*I wonder if The Pestilent God and the horned creature haunting the forest in The Ritual (2017) are relatives?
*Zoe (Holland Roden) displays true heroics this episode. Rescuing Izzy? Impressive, yes. But even more amazingly, Zoe runs through miles of marble hallways IN HEELS while carrying the young girl!
*Alice chooses to fall into the dubious embrace of the Peach family, because “anything is better than going insane,” while Zoe decides to reclaim her life (imperfect as it may be) – “I want to go back to the way I was.” To me, Alice’s change felt rushed coming from a character who was so determined in previous episodes. Now Zoe knows what it’s like to try and help a sibling who can’t – or won’t – “wake up.”
*Only one overtly religious image this week, but it is a doozy. Alice, radiant and dressed in white, is led to the altar by The Meat Servant for a baptism in blood. The traditional interpretation of baptism in blood refers to martyrdom – not a literal dipping in a vat of blood. Is this foretelling a martyrs fate for Alice?
*Some of the CarrotHand bundles Zoe pulls from the soil look more like blind translucent worms than fingers.Do we hear heartbeats on the soundtrack during this scene, reminding us where those fingers came from?
*If the Gardner looks familiar, the actor playing him is in familiar acting territory. Julian Richings previously played Death on the CW series Supernatural.
*Watching Izzy’s’ head pushing through the Red Room wall recalls both the arms reaching through the walls in Roman Polanski’s 1965 psychological thriller Repulsion and a baby’s head emerging during childbirth.
*Will the bootlegger tunnel in Louise’s basement play a role in the finale? It could provide a route for Louise, Luke and/or Zoe back to the Peach Plantation.
*Surprisingly, it is possible for Luke to survive his father’s panicked murder attempt. There are emergency treatment options if major arteries are not damaged. It’s not for the squeamish, but the 1989 in-game injury to hockey player Clint Malarchuk may be a case of art imitating life.
*“We don’t eat children.” Joseph Peach tells a Alice – white lie revealing his family’s hypocrisy. They don’t eat children; they just turn them over to The Pestilent God as a sacrifice.
*Another mystery; Edie calms Izzy as the approach the Red Door. We hear the flies buzzing as she tells the little girl,“Let’s go home … where I live.” Is the Peach Plantation’s true appearance that of a charnel house – or maybe a meatpacking plant?
*The gigantic beetle sculpture in the Peach Museum of Unnatural History looks like an very oversized representation of the Dung Beetle. Practical in life, in ancient Egypt they were beloved for their role in death and rebirth.
Next week brings this chapter of Channel Zero to a close. I hope both Zoe and Alice survive. But as the tagline for famously The Texas Chain Saw Massacre asks, I wonder “what will be left of them?”