Fang & Saucer Deep Dive-CHANNEL ZERO: THE DREAM DOOR Ep.4 “Bizarre Love Triangle”

Channel Zero

Channel Zero: The Dream Door
Episode Four, “Bizarre Love Triangle”
Teleplay by Mallory Westfall
Story by Mallory Westfall & Isabella Gutierrez
Directed by E.L. Katz

[All images courtesy Syfy]

For an in-depth recap of this and every episode of Channel Zero, I highly recommend a visit to Father Son Holy Gore. Check out his other great recaps, movie reviews, and in-depth essays on horror.
Now, let’s take a deep dive into the symbolism and references I noticed in Bizarre Love Triangle“, the fourth episode of Channel Zero Season Four.  My episode recaps and observations for Seasons One and Two are at SciFi4Me.com, and my observations for Season Three can be found here at Fang and Saucer.

Channel Zero: The Dream Door - Season 2.5
CHANNEL ZERO: THE DREAM DOOR — Pictured: Troy James as Pretzel Jack — (Photo by: SYFY)

Dream Police Observations 

*Time to stock up on some Japanese footwear? Pretzel Jack’s tabi shoes are available online.

*CZ now has it’s own variation on The Blue Screen of Death – the Blue Glow of Creepiness. This week, it fills young Jillian’s (Mimi-Tsega Stafford) bedroom before the first appearance of Pretzel Jack (Troy James).

*Jillian’s dad is physically gone, but her mom (Miriam Smith) is emotionally distant. Her response to Jillian’s “I miss Dad“? A curt “Get into bed.”

*Troy James, who brings Pretzel Jack to life, first came to notice on America’s Got Talent. He was Father Time in Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block, and will portray the villan “Ragdoll” on The Flash.

*This episode begins with a discussion of killing Pretzel Jack, and ends with his explosive demise.

*In between running for their lives through a sub-basement filled with exercise equipment on one side, and fill dirt & gravel on the other, Sarah Winters (Diana Bentley) delivers an info dump to Tom (Brandon Scott). He’s not the father of her child, so he can stop stalking them now.

*Like a couple recent genre movies, CZ sets a climatic confrontation in a community/high school/YMCA swimming pool. Sometimes these scenes work (Let The Right One In), and sometime they really don’t (It Follows).

Channel Zero: The Dream Door - Season 2.5
Somebody at this hospital sure loves the color blue.

*Pretzel Jack’s apparent “death” via swimming pool isn’t the first in Channel Zero. Margot Sleator’s Not!Father (John Carroll Lynch) ended up submerged for eternity in a backyard pool at the end of No End House.

*After joining forces with Ian (Steven Robertson) to defeat Pretzel Jack, Jillian (Maria Sten) suffers the ear-bleed variation on the “Psychic Nosebleed“, common (at least in genre fiction) to anyone displaying psychic powers.

*Ian is again overtly courteous and informative. He informs Maria that using their ability “depletes you.” Yet despite her symptoms of vomiting and dizziness, Ian doesn’t bother getting her anything to eat besides tea.

*Ian’s magic herbal tea includes turmeric, cinnamon, lemon balm, red raspberry leaves & ginger. Ostensibly healthy, it sounded to me more like something from the kitchen of Mrs. Castavet (Ruth Gordon) in Rosemary’s Baby.

*Especially after we see how Ian replenishes himself at the anonymous fast food joint. Truly on of the revolting meals since the dinner scene since The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989), or Mr.Creosote enjoyed a wafer-thin mint in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983).

Channel Zero: The Dream Door - Season 2.5
Not Pictured – the Puppy in the Cone of Shame.

*Poor Tom – the only shirt the hospital can find for him features a puppy wearing a cone of shame.

*Girl talk between Sarah & Jillian servers as a turning point in Jillian. She’s listening, and being listened to, a woman displaying empathy for the underlying issue in Jillian’s life – trust. Sarah’s made a conscious choice to trust, Jillian not sure if she can.

*As much as I love seeing Diana Bentley back in the CZ universe, the whole Tom/Sara/baby subplot did not, for me, fit into the main storyline. It seemed to serve as “Tom’s Secret” more than as an integrated part of the story, at least to me.

*Ian borrows from the Obi-Wan Kenobi Crappy Mentor Playbook to draw Jillian in; helpfully guiding her through this new world, but omitting key facts that might send her away.  Like Luke Skywalker, she commits to training without fulling knowing what’s involved.

*The Obivously Empty TV Coffee Cups cliche makes it’s Channel Zero debut. Is an Empty Cup Award in CZ’s future?

Channel Zero: The Dream Door - Season 2.5
Here’s a better look at the Cone of Shame puppy!

*Bill Hope repeats his “I Have to Tell You Something SO Important It Can’t Be Said Over the Phone” routine, calling both Tom and Jillian. “I’d like to tell her in person.” Too bad Ian snooped around with Jillian’s phone and intercepted the call.

*I wish more characters in books, movies, and TV would read “The DON’T LIST” from Murder Ink: The Mystery Reader’s Companion. Rule 1 – “Don’t go for lonely cliff-side walks with those you’ve just disinherited.” Or leave phone messages for your disgruntled son to easily intercept.

*The Bill Hope’s ghost neighborhood development Willow Courts advertised houses starting at $899,000. “Welcome Home … Homes for Families … Opening late 2016

*Ian arrives at Room 105 at the Mill Road Inn and delivers the Wham! Line of the delivers the Wham!Line of the series; “Not the kid you were expecting, Dad?”

*Bill dealt with his son’s behavior by protecting Ian from the consequences of his actions, and/or thinking up rational explanations “when the dog disappeared or that bully from school went missing.” Which sounds familiar to true crime fans reading about Jeffrey Dahmer, or anyone reading the 2003 novel We Need To Talk About Kevin (or watching the 2011 movie version starring Tilda Swinton).

 

Channel Zero: The Dream Door - Season 2.5
Enjoy some herbal tea with a side of incest.

*Bill seals his fate (at least as far as Ian’s concerned) with a dismissive “You always were a bad seed.” William March’s 1954 novel became a 1956 movie (Dir. Mervin LeRoy) starring  Patty McCormack as the oh-so-determined (and oh-so-amoral) Rhoda Penmark. Less said abut the Rob Lowe 2018 remake the better.

*Bill advises Ian, “for once in your life, do what’s right.” Unfortunately for Bill, Ian decides that involves bringing his childhood friend Tall Boy (Stephen R. Hart) to life. Ian, through Tall Boy, pulls a variation on the Oedipus myth and Bill’s eyes are crushed into his skull.

*This season of Channel Zero does love its Eye Scream.

*Though we must commend (I guess) Ian’s thoroughness in Post-Patricide Crime Scene Cleanup. Better than Norman Bates!

*”Bizarre Love Triangle” includes an homage to another creepy-in-retrospect Incest Kiss.

*This episode’s title comes courtesy the New Order single off their 1986 album Brotherhood.

 

“Every time I think of you
I feel shot right through with a bolt of blue
It’s no problem of mine
But it’s a problem I find
Living a life that I can’t leave behind.”

 

*Another great choice from the New Order back catalog? “Blue Monday” (featuring flipbooks in the video below!)

“How does it feel
To treat me like you do?
When you’ve laid your hands upon me
And told me who you are
I thought I was mistaken
I thought I heard your words
Tell me, how do I feel
Tell me now, how do I feel”

Next episode, Channel Zero promises “You Belong To Me”; who will belong to whom though, and what will be left of them?

Until next time, Dream a Little Dream of Stabby the Murder Clown …

The first three seasons of Channel Zero are currently on the Shudder streaming service. Channel Zero: The Dream Door is currently available on demand and will join them on Shudder in 2019.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uEBuqkkQRk

Fang & Saucer Deep Dive-CHANNEL ZERO: THE DREAM DOOR Ep.3 “Love Hurts”

Channel Zero

Channel Zero: The Dream Door
Episode Three “Love Hurts
Written by Leonore Zion & Lisa Long
Directed by E.L. Katz

[All images courtesy Syfy]

For an in-depth recap of this and every episode of Channel Zero, I highly recommend a visit to Father Son Holy Gore. Check out his other great recaps, movie reviews, and in-depth essays on horror.
Now, let’s take a deep dive into the symbolism and references I noticed in Love Hurts“, the third episode of Channel Zero’s fourth season.  My episode recaps and observations for Seasons One and Two are at SciFi4Me.com, and my observations for Season Three can be found here at Fang and Saucer.

Channel Zero: The Dream Door - Season 2.5
Questions In A World of Blue”, Channel Zero style.

Dream Police Observations 

*As he relentlessly made his way through Vanessa Moss’ (Barbara Crampton) home, Pretzel Jack became a smiling, white-goo dripping CZ version of the implacable, deadly, and silent murderer Jason Voorhees of Friday the 13th fame.

*Turns out “floating meditation” is quite the hot trend in some circles.

*Hopefully Ms. Moss was a certified doula. Not quite a midwife, doulas act as a helper/coach for expectant mothers.

*How many Americans can drive a manual transmission vehicle? Five percent of all cars sold in the US are stick shift, and the late Ms. Moss was owned one of them.

*Det. McPhillips (Grey Bryk) describes Pretzel Jack as a “Dr. Seuss character gone wrong.”

*Pretzel Jack’s hibernation in, and eventual emergence from, a suburban crawlspace reminded me of Not!Dad (John Carroll Lynch) lurching through a quiet suburban neighborhood in Channel Zero’s second season, No End House.

Channel Zero: The Dream Door - Season 2.5
Tom (Brandon Scott) starts telling part of the truth to Jillian.

*The crawlspace has a special place in horror fiction and movies, including –

– A 1971 novel by Howard Lieberman, adapted into a 1972 movie directed by John Newland and (unofficially) Buzz Kulik.

-The related-only-by-title 1986 movie starring Klaus Kinski and directed by David Schmoeller. The filming of this version was apparently so traumatic it inspired a documentary about the experience called Please Kill Mr. Kinski.

*Jillian mentions “thinking about all the bad things that could happen” (emphasis mine). Wonder if the late Dr. Carnacki (Steven Weber) had a chance to address Jillian’s generalized anxiety, expressed as worrying about future events.

*Jillian and Tom will sure need that trauma therapist Dr. Carnacki recommended after witnessing his (off camera to us) murder at the hands of Pretzel Jack.

*The mummified husk of Pretzel Jack (did Jillian take it from her old childhood home) resembles both a South American mummy and the false mother created from Margot Sleator’s memories in No-End House.

Channel Zero: The Dream Door - Season 2.5
This is the weirdest couples therapy session ever.

*It’s true that Carnacki and Tom are not listening to Jillian – and she isn’t listening to them. I heard their reactions as a mix of “mansplaining” and expressing reactions to Jillian’s story that attempt to rationalize the impossible; seeing Pretzel Jack as a symbol (Carnacki) or a real human being wearing a disguise (Tom).

*This events in Dr. Carnacki’s office reminded me of Nola Carveth in David Cronenberg’s 1979 movie The Brood. Like Nola, Jillian creates a physical expression of her emotions that acts both as her protector and avenger. What would’ve happened if Jillian had gone to Dr. Hal Raglan’s Somafree Institute of Psychoplasmatics for therapy?

*Spoiler Alert – Dr. Carnacki’s description of a lover’s vulnerability in a relationship (metaphorically asking their partner if they’ll “cut me open and spill my guts”) turns out to be all to real for several characters.

*Ian presents himself as a wise Obi-Wan type to Jillian and Tom. In relating a very PG-rated version of his story and how it relates to Jillian, Ian may be more like Luke Skywalker’s mentor than they realize.

*Technically the psychic pair in John Farris’ 1976 novel (and 1978 movie) The Fury aren’t related, but their powers, and the people who hope to use those powers for their own ends, reminded me a lot of Jillian and Ian this episode.

Channel Zero: The Dream Door - Season 2.5
Ian has a creepily impressive collection of vampire skulls.

*Ian describes their power as both a Bat-Signal and a kind of tumor.

*Since there isn’t a National Science Museum (that I could find at any rate), maybe Ian is misremembering the National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C..

*The Pretzel Jack in Jillian’s childhood flipbooks is a creepypasta version of Bing-Bong from Inside Out. Ian’s description of the very thorough process required to permanently destroying their creations (“fully smash the head, cut his  head off, use a meat grinder, incinerate him …”) makes Pretzel Jack into (as mentioned earlier) an indestructible boogeyman out of horror franchises like Halloween or Friday the 13th.

*Lykoi cats are real, and in their own way, really adorable.

*Jillian’s dad Bill (Gregg Henry) makes his audio-only debut via that old time classic “I can’t tell you some very important information over the phone” cliche.

*Credit to Father Son Holy Gore for catching the name of the end credits music. “Love Song” by The Damned.

 

Next episode, Channel Zero brings a “Bizarre Love Triangle” to life as only it can!

Until next time, Dream a Little Dream of Stabby the Murder Clown …

The first three seasons of Channel Zero are currently on the Shudder streaming service. Channel Zero: The Dream Door is currently available on demand and will join them on Shudder in 2019.

Fang & Saucer Deep Dive-CHANNEL ZERO: THE DREAM DOOR Ep.2 “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”

Channel Zero

Channel Zero: The Dream Door
Episode Two “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”
Written by Alexandra Peachman & Nick Antosca
Directed by E.L. Katz

[All images courtesy Syfy]

For an in-depth recap of this and every episode of Channel Zero, I highly recommend a visit to Father Son Holy Gore. Check out his other great recaps, movie reviews, and in-depth essays on horror.
Now let’s take a deep dive into the symbolism and references I noticed in “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”, the first episode of Channel Zero’s fourth season.   My episode recaps and observations for Seasons One and Two are at SciFi4Me.com, and my observations for Season Three can be found here at Fang and Saucer.

Dream Police Observations 

*”Where Did You Sleep Last Night” (aka “In the Pines”) has its origins as a folk ballad. Recorded many times, notable versions include Bill Monroe 1941 and 1952 as “In the Pines”, by blues artist Leadbelly in various versions of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”  from 1944 through 1948, and over the closing credits of an episode of Investigation Discovery’s A Crime To Remember.

*If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes From A Marriage (1974) and Killer Klowns From Outer Space (Dir. Stephen Chiodo, 1987) had a baby, it would look a lot like Channel Zero: The Dream Door.

*Were Det. McPhillips (Grey Bryk) and Det. Fraser (Marina Stephenson Kerr) conducting an investigative interview with Jillian and Tom? Why the heck weren’t they interviewed separately?

*Ian (Steven Robertson), such a helpful font of esoteric knowledge! This episode we learn Pugs were the favored dog breed of Chinese royalty, and Ian recommends the use of lucid dreaming as a tool of self-discovery.

*We learn a bit more about Jillian’s father Bill Hope; the name of one of his bankrupt real estate deals (Willow Courts), and Jillian was eight when he abandoned his family.

Channel Zero: The Dream Door - Season 2.5
CHANNEL ZERO: THE DREAM DOOR Puts the  “Fun” in Funeral

*In between cups of macha tea, Mrs. Sherman (Mirian Smith) enjoys walking her cat. Macha is both a type of tea – and the name of a goddess in Celtic mythology.

*Tom begins – and ends – this episode in a tub. He also likes to give Gumby toys to (not so) random children in public parks. Since we saw him arguing with the child’s mother (Diana Bentley) last week, it’s probably not a random encounter.

*Dr. Carnacki (Steven Weber) recommends start on Xanax to make it through the day and Ambien to sleep at night. Besides being featured in criminal defenses, “People taking Ambien have sleep-walked, driven their cars, prepared and eaten food, made phone calls, and had sex while not fully awake without memory of these activities,” according to EverydayHealth.com.

*Unlike her husband or therapist, Ian really listens to Jillian, encouraging her to confide in him. It is not a coincidence that Ian is refilling a hummingbird feeder.

Channel Zero: The Dream Door - Season 2.5
Ian (Steven Robertson) – Provider of tea, esoteric knowledge, and an oh-so-sympathetic ear.

*Jillian leans about the Laughing Shadow and interesting Portuguese words like cafune.

*But as TVTropes.com notes, Jillian is so happy to be listened to, she fails to listen to Ian. She “only refers to a “contortionist clown” before Ian says, “Pretzel Jack killed your friend.”

*2nd drink alert of the episode – Kambucha!

*Vanessa Moss (Barbara Crampton) takes advantage of Tom’s trust. Her technique is similar to Ian’s; present a sympathetic front, listening to Tom and offering her therapy pool for meditation, while surreptitiously spying on him for her own gratification.

*Pretzel Jack recreates a horror genre staple this episode – the Spider Walk.

Channel Zero: The Dream Door - Season 2.5
Hey, there IS a bogeyman in the closet!

*The 80’s power pop of “Catcher In The Rain” (1985) by Van Duren and Good Question plays over the closing credits.

 

Next episode, an oft-recorded pop song reminds us that “Love Hurts”. And on Channel Zero, boy does it ever!

Until next time, Dream a Little Dream of Stabby the Murder Clown …

The first three seasons of Channel Zero are currently on the Shudder streaming service. Channel Zero: The Dream Door is currently available on demand and will join them on Shudder in 2019.

Channel Zero: The Dream Door - Season 2.5
Farewell, Vanessa (Barbara Crampton) – we’ll miss your good advice and hi-tech voyeurism.