The Rent Is Too D*mn High On CHANNEL ZERO: BUTCHER’S BLOCK – “The Red Door”

Channel Zero

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.

Channel Zero: Butcher's Block - Season 2
Just a relaxing game of Chess between Cannibals, Cronenbergian Brood Children, and Meat Servants.

Meaty Musings

*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.

Channel Zero: Butcher's Block - Season 2
Edie Peach could sell coals to Newcastle – if she wasn’t leading children to their doom.

*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.

Channel Zero: Butcher's Block - Season 2
Capes are a must for blood baptisms to The Pestilent God.

*Alice enjoys some post-baptism  beef carpaccio, a more refined haute cuisine version of that sometimes risky Wisconsin classic “cannibal sandwich” (aka steak tartare).

*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 Fingerturns 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.”

Channel Zero: Butcher's Block - Season 2
Not quite a Red Wedding of the Billy Idol or Game of Thrones variety.

*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.

Channel Zero: Butcher's Block - Season 2
Tonight on CHANNEL ZERO –  a Very Special Father and Child Reunion!

*“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?

Channel Zero: Butcher's Block - Season 2
Manicures in the Peach Summer House are … a bit on the bloody side.

 

CHANNEL ZERO:BUTCHER’S BLOCK Goes Beyond the Red Door with “Alice In Slaughterland”

Channel Zero

Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block
Episode Four “Alice In Slaugherland”
Written by Harley Peyton
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 full, in-depth recaps of each episode (then check out other great recaps at FSHG).
Now let’s take a deep dive into the symbolism and references I noticed in the delectable, disturbing fourth episode of Season Three, “Alice in Slaughterland.” Episode recaps and observations for Seasons One and Two can be found at SciFi4Me.com, and my observations for Episodes One through Three can be found here.

Meaty Musings

 * Channel Zero is not the first to employ a variation on the title of Lewis Carroll’s 1865 masterwork Alice In Wonderland. In the horror/fantasy genre, some recent book titles include Alice In Zombieland (2011) by Lewis Carrol and Nicholas Cook, Alice In Zombieland (Book 1 of The White Rabbit Chronicles) by Gena Showalter (2012), and Alice by Christina Henry (2015). I haven’t had a chance to read the Showalter series yet, but  recommend Cook’s version, with its fantastic John Tenniel-inspired illustrations, and Henry’s depiction of an Alice abandoned and forgotten in an insane asylum.

*Our Cannibals Are Different Through the first three episodes, the Texas Chain Saw Massacre style “Cannibalism as a Political Metaphor” has dominated Butcher’s Block like the Peach family dominates the town of GarrettIn Episode Four, “All in the Family Cannibalism” seen in movies like Raw (2016) and both versions of We Are What We Are (MX 2010, US 2013) becomes an equally strong theme. The situational/survival cannibalism variant (the 1972 The Andes Mountain Crash/Alive, The Donner Party, Ravenous/Albert Packer) is has not made an appearance yet, and probably won’t through the final three episodes.

“Wait a minute!” I can almost hear you saying, “Are you telling me there are sub-sub-genres within the Cannibalism sub-genre of the Horror genre?” Yes, there are.

Channel Zero: Butcher's Block - Season 2
Decapitating Robert Peach will prove to be the least stressful part of Louise Lispector’s evening.

*The “pay attention to this & here’s a flashback so you know it’s important” shot of a dismembered hand on a plate of meat at the end of Episode Two reminded me of that unforgettable finger atop plate of fries in The Hitcher (Dir. Robert Harmon 1986 & starring Rutger Hauer). Thanks, Butcher’s Block – I shouldn’t be eating French Fries anyway!

*Joseph Peach (Rutger Hauer)  fancies himself a serene gentleman farmer, quietly tending his human garden. Quite a contrast to Farmer Vincent in Motel Hell (1980 Dir. Kevin Connor), who can’t keep his garden of still-alive victims under control.

*The so-dark-it’s a black hole comedy of Louise (Krisha Fairchild) & Luke (Brandon Scott)  disposing of the body ends with one head in a bowling bag – very similar to Eight Heads in a Duffel Bag (1997 Dir. Tom Schulman).

*The auto-cannibalism and self-harm of Zoe Woods (Holland Roden) have roots in reality; a fictional example can be  found in the Stephen King short story “Survivor Type” (from his 1985 collection Skeleton Crew).

Channel Zero: Butcher's Block - Season 2
It’s deleted scene from “Louise & Luke Open a Crime Scene Cleanup Business!

Now for the Religious Stuff 

(which is stuffed in this episode like a holiday Turducken).

*Alice (Olivia Luccardi)  to Zoe as Alpha and Omega?  This could be a reference to  Revelation 1:8 – “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.

*According to Luke’s dad, Joseph Peach promised Deputy Chief Vancyk (Tyrone Benskin) he could acheive everything his heart desired – for a price. He may have a “landlord,” but here Joseph Peach acts as Satan, a la the temptation of Jesus in  Matthew 4:8-9Next, taking him to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. And he said to him, I will give you all these, if you fall at my feet and do me homage.

Channel Zero: Butcher's Block - Season 2
Too bad Luke Stanley didn’t look at the Old Testament artwork at his dad’s house.

*If Luke had paid more attention to the picture behind him in the hallway at Dad’s House, he  might’ve noticed HOW VERY MUCH it looks like Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac.  It’s very appropriate that Butcher’s Block is airing during the Lenten season; the first reading at 2/25 Mass for the 2nd Sunday of Lent featured this reading.

*Edie Peach (Diana Bentley) has some of the best lines foreshadowing and referring to sacrifice and rebirth.

*In Episode Three Edie assures Zoe, “There’s a place for you at our table, and there is a room for you in our home,” and in this episode she remarks,“The House is a lot bigger on the inside than it looks.” Both lines recall  John 14:2In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.

*Another Edie-ism at lunch keys into the overarching theme of this episode and Butcher’s Block as a whole. “It’s like every day is Easter around here, you know?” With Aldous Peach as a possible betrayer, the Peach family lunch (and their later wine sharing) may be their Last Supper,” resembling the following passage from the Gospel of Luke.

14 When the hour came, he took his place at table with the apostles. 15 He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover* with you before I suffer, 16 for, I tell you, I shall not eat it [again] until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” 17 Then he took a cup,* gave thanks, and said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; 18 for I tell you [that] from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.

If it doesn’t have the actual Eucharist, “Alice In Slaugherland” references the ritual. And no, it’s the “real presence” of Christ in the wine and bread, not cannibalism.

Channel Zero: Butcher's Block - Season 2
Edie Peach – an overly friendly, cannibalistic food pusher.

A few after-dinner musings –

*Robert Peach’s (Andreas Apergis)  hospital murder music in “All You Ghost Mice”?  Mozart Piano Sonata No. 11.

*”Spindly Father Time” (Quinton Boisclair) corners Alice in a Red Room that could’ve come from the *ghost story by H.G. Wells or *the memorable early scene in Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre.

*Is Alice traversing an endless field of Goldenrod?

*In end of episode, the portrait of two sisters alone changes into one of the sisters with the rest of the Peach family.

*Louise Linspector is missing a portion of her right index finger.

*While Joseph describes the house as “Our little plantation at the top of the food chain.” But Joseph Peach and the Gardner (Julian  Richings) both note that their landlord/boss “… is a bit of a prick.” Later at lunch it’s noted that “the rent is almost due.” The Pestilent God doesn’t strike me as the most forgiving of property owners.

Channel Zero: Butcher's Block - Season 2
Wonder if Joseph Peach uses preservatives like Motel Hell‘s Farmer Vincent?

*Alice meets three people on the way to the House (Joseph Peach, The Gardnder and Izzy) before encountering three doors.

*Louise Linspector, master of the morbid quip. “I’ve got a dead Peach in my basement and he ‘aint gonna keep.

*Connection between S2/S3 – eating something in the underworld? Alice drinks the wine, Zoe has not eaten any food in the underworld “upstairs” – only her own flesh.

*Forgot to note the last episode’s memorable nod to the Checking In to the Creepy, Soon-to-be-Closed Hospital of Death trope featured in such horror movies as The Void (Dir. Jeremy Gillespie, Steven Kostanski, 2016), and Infection (Dir. Masayuki Ochiai, 2004)

*Due to his bloody death in Episode Three, we bid a sad farewell for to adorably earnest social worker Nathan (Aaron Merke,  aka Red Baseball Cap Guy in Season Two’s “This Is Not Real.” He joins Season One’s Deputy Adorkable (Bruce Novakowski)  and J.D. (S2) (Seamus Patterson) in the Channel Zero Hall of Memorable Supporting Characters We Lost Too Soon Due to Plot Requirements.

*Kidney Parfait and Ear Wafer, anyone?

CHANNEL ZERO Goes On the BUTCHER’S BLOCK for Season Three

Channel Zero

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.”

Channel Zero: Butcher's Block S3E2
The Flayed Man from GAME OF THRONES has nothing on The Pestilent God.

Meaty Musings

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.”

Channel Zero: Butcher's Block S3E2
If David Lynch ever created a cooking show, this would be it.

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.)

Channel Zero: Butcher's Block S3E2
What is it with kids wearing red, leading people to their doom?

*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).

Channel Zero: Butcher's Block S3E1
“Hi, you may remember me from such movies as DON’T LOOK NOW & THE BROOD.”

*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.

Channel Zero: Butcher's Block S3E2
And in Episode Two, BUTCHER’S BLOCK serves up some prime Nightmare Fuel.

Wonder what Butcher’s Block has cooking for Episode Four, “Alice In Slaughterland?
I can’t wait to dig into it.