The sweet and painful thing about SyFy’s Creepypasta-fueled hit series, Channel Zero is that its six-hour seasons are over all too quickly. Now, with the finale of season 3 – Butcher’s Block – looming, series creator/showrunner Nick Antosca and Butcher’s Block director Arkasha Stevenson have come forward to give the world some insight on what makes the show’s brief glimpses into realms of nightmare work so very well.
Speaking to a collection of journalists, Antosca stated that the only pressure the Channel Zero team feels to top previous seasons is the pressure they put on themselves. “The pressure is to do something different,” he explained. “I feel like we’ve done what we set out to do in terms of doing a different flavor of horror each season. Kind of a different vibe. Now as we prep for the fourth season we want to make sure that we continue to do that: that we provide viewers with a new experience every time. Part of that comes with having a new director every season. Someone we can showcase that will bring a new point of view.”
That someone for the Butcher’s Block story arc has been Arkasha Stevenson, an up-and-coming director and graduate of the American Film Institute. She was the one tasked with realizing the titular slum of Butcher’s Block and the parallel universe which houses the immortal predators who use it as a feeding ground. Speaking to Downright Creepy, Stevenson explained how she found Channel Zero’s trademark queasy tone easy to sustain across Butcher’s Block’s forty-five day shoot.
“[The tone of the series] is like a fungus: it takes on a life unto itself. It’s growing whether or not you’re wanting it to, but in the most wonderful of ways. I had never done a shoot that long before so I didn’t really know what to expect would happen. But what I found is that it allows for a visual language to be created between the crew and the characters, and you get to push that deeper and deeper, exploring new things. At the end of the forty-five days it’s a language everyone is fluent in whether they want to be or not. By the end of the day nobody thinks a homunculus child eating a cat is weird, it’s just expected!”
Antosca warns viewers to expect the unexpected regarding Butcher’s Block’s finale, however. “Expect certain characters to get their comeuppance… But expect the fate of the protagonists may be different than what you may have expected in the first episode, which was always kind of our intention as part of the interesting journey of this season.”
For Stevenson’s part, this season’s journey was an intensely practical one. “It felt very much like getting to go to film school again in that I was working with a crew who had so much more experience than I had,” she stated. Of course, working with a veteran actor of Rutger Hauer’s caliber was no small occasion either.
“He’s such a giving performer,” Stevenson said of the veteran actor. “He has this beautiful mind that goes off into the outer limits of creativity, then he brings it back to set for you… I don’t think Channel Zero would be what it was without him because he really brought the tone to life.”
Hauer’s presence is undoubtedly a huge draw. But to make a tale of cannibalism, mental illness, and class struggle work it takes more than just the legendary star of Blade Runner and Ladyhawke. The third season of Channel Zero has been remarkable for the diversity in its cast of characters, which include two mentally ill sisters working alongside an elderly woman and a young African American police officer to take down a supernaturally charged, evil version of a stereotypical 1950’s white family with a taste for human blood.
“It was very exciting for me,” says Stevenson. “I’m female and it was really fun getting to work with two women (Olivia Luccardi and Holland Roden who play sisters Alice and Zoe Woods, respectively) in such a complex, in-depth way and to get to explore female characters over the course of 45 days. There is a bit of cultural commentary in there… For me [the characters] felt natural against a patriarchal 1950’s Caucasian family… It felt like a more diverse cast than you’d normally see.”
Antosca, meanwhile is looking forward to the future of Channel Zero, with a selection of Creepypastas he’d like to use, should rights be obtainable, but also with ideas of how to subtly weave the various seasons of the show together with small callbacks and call forwards. A big one was already seen in season two when the Candle Cove hallway of season one made an appearance. But that wasn’t all.
“There are some very small connections in No End House that call forward to Butcher’s Block. There are some things in the fourth season that will call back to previous seasons.”
But the showrunner isn’t afraid to address the underlying question that such statements will inevitably raise.
“Is there a Channel Zero universe?” he challenges. “At least in my mind, there is!”
The finale of Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block airs March 14th on SyFy. Previous episodes can be streamed at Syfy.com.