By Courtney V
Last fall, Syfy premiered one of the creepiest shows on TV – Channel Zero: Candle Cove. In its second season, the story moves in a different direction in Channel Zero: No-End House, inspired by Brian Russell’s “creepypasta” tale. A young woman named Margot Sleator (Amy Forysth) and her best friend Jules (Aisha Dee) visit the No-End House, a bizarre house of horrors that consists of a series of increasingly disturbing rooms. When Margot returns home, she realizes everything has changed. EP Nick Antosca talked recently about what fans can look forward to this season.
Channel Zero: No-End House premieres Wednesday, November 20th at 10-11 p.m. ET on Syfy.
So how was it approaching this second season? Because obviously you have got a new story, you are going in a new direction. I assume you probably got a bigger budget too. So how was the experience and kind of how are you looking to separate the second season from the first?
Well first of all, we did not have a bigger budget. [Laughs] But if anything it was more challenging because there were more things that cost money in this season. But part of the reason that we hire really innovative, young indie filmmakers is because they are resourceful; they can work with very small budgets. And in approaching No-End House right after doing Candle Cove we want every season to be a different flavor of horror. So every season should be a full meal on its own. Season 1 Candle Cove was kind of our Stephen King season a little bit. No-End House I think of as a little bit more John Carpenter. It is almost like a John Carpenter version of Solaris. The upcoming third installment is going to be more Argento for example. So I love all different kinds of horror. And one of the great things about doing an anthology series like this is we can let influences from different kinds of horror come into different seasons. We wanted to have each season be really distinguished from the last while kind of honoring the spirit of like – we don’t do jump scares we do dread.
Are you dropping any Easter eggs in that people can look for that kind of link them all together or are they just completely independent?
Yes there are some small Easter eggs in each season. And there are thematic connections as well.
How do you expand upon the really simplistic kind of haunted house Creepypasta story of No-End House into something that is very philosophical, emotional?
So when we look for a Creepypasta to adapt, we look for ones that have a really simple, strong, horror concept. You know haunted house, haunted TV show. But then they suggest a larger world and a larger mythology that we can build off of and in events. What really attracted me to Brian Russell’s story, No-End House, was the idea that once they get of the house what they perceive to be reality is really the last room of the house. And the idea that when you look around your environment, your home, you have this creeping suspicion that it is not right. It is not your home. It is not real. And that to me felt like a cool analogy for the experience of being a young person who is struggling with things in your life, which is where the main character came from. That seed, that twist in Brian’s story felt like the canvas to build something bigger on. And we think of every season of Channel Zero as like the nightmare that you have after you read the original Creepypasta. So we need a great starting place and then room to expand. And stuff like the haunted TV show, the haunted house, these are horror genre troughs and when you have familiar troughs it gives you the opportunity to subvert them, take them further, explore them. So that’s what I hope that we have done in the two current installments of Channel Zero and will do in the future. No-End House kind of starts as a haunted house story and it becomes an existential horror story.
There’s a character in No-End House, Seth, who’s a bit of a wild card. What is up with him and why is he not surprised by some of the things that are happening?
I will not answer with spoilers but I will say that the character is played by Jeff Ward who I cast because he has a particular ability to be both charming and creepy. For example, I think he played Charles Manson on some other show. It was very important for the role of Seth to be a bit ambiguous I will just say that. You are right to notice that he has a complicated reaction to the stuff that he encountered in No-End House.
The young actress who plays the young version of the primary character in No-End House and then plays the daughter.
Yes exactly. Are your using actors that you guys enjoy working with? Or is there a connection between the characters within the story?
Well again being a little cagey. I would say the answer is yes to both. There is a subtle interconnectedness to the world of different installments of Channel Zero. I think that would become more overt were we to get a significant number future seasons which you can never count on. But that said, we cast locally out of Winnipeg where we shoot and Abigail Pniowsky is a wonderful young actress. Obviously she was super important to the first install to Candle Cove. She is great. We wanted to work with her again. She is in Arrival. She is in other TV shows. She is like a really, really good young actress.
Why orchids? As the flower of choice to make it seem a little weird.
I have always found orchids to be a little strange and sinister, and there is a particular reason why we chose orchids. You will see why in Episode 4.
What were some of your influences of the style and how to handle such an emotional story for a main character?
The influences honestly originally come more from literature more than film. I started as a novelist and particularly authors like Peter Straub, Thomas Ligotti, Brian Evenson really influenced me. Shirley Jackson. I think Shirley Jackson, Thomas Ligotti are particular influences on No-End House because they are philosophical and existential horror – character based horror. Once we had the scripts written and we are thinking about it, you know, purely cinematically. Carpenter is a big influence. You know Stephen who directed every episode is influenced by Paul Thomas Anderson, David Lynch. You know we hire every season one director to do the entire season. I always wanted the show to be a showcase for a really talented director every season who would put their stamp on it. So once we have the scripts written, I know roughly like the cinematic zone that we are in and I have a clear idea of what I want the show to be. But then I want to hire a director with a vision who brings their own stuff to it and sees what we are going for but takes it further. Every season I am looking for a collaborate author to make their mark on the show. My hope is for the show to be kind of an incubator for the next generation of indie horror talent.
Can you talk about the friendship between Margo and Jules this season?
Yes I mean Margo is the protagonist of the season and in terms of her journey we wanted to focus on three elements of a young person’s life and experiences three key relationships. One with a parent, one with a best friend, one with a romantic interest. And ultimately – I mean the story, her journey is about how she deals with each of those relationships. Two of them are toxic in some way and one of them isn’t. In a way it is a story about her choosing which relationship is most important to her.
Can you talk about what horror literary influences you have for Channel Zero and otherwise?
Yes as I mentioned before I started as a novelist and for many years exclusively wrote fiction, short stories, and novels. When I was very young I started reading – actually the first book I ever read was Bunnicula. Even as a small child I was horror oriented. But obviously Stephen King was a big influence. Thomas Ligotti, the short story writer who I mentioned earlier has been a particular influence and Shirley Jackson as well. Thomas Ligotti’s stories are really existential philosophical horror. In particular his collection Teatro Grottesco. They are about a sense of dread in the world rather than something jumping out and eating you or somebody, you know, waiting in your closet and stabbing you. And it is the kind of dread that lingers with you after you read the story for days. And it feels like experiencing a nightmare. And that kind of dread is what I try to create in Channel Zero.
How do you approach writing horror in book form versus writing horror for television?
That is a really good question. I wouldn’t say philosophically the approach is different. You are speaking in a different language. The language of cinema is different from the language of literature. You have to think about images differently. I mean the connotation of a word is different from the suggestion of an image. I think when I am writing TV or film I draw directly from my nightmares when possible. It is kind of a purer translation because the language of nightmares is imagery. It is one thing that particularly draws me to TV and movies. I think it is easier to recreate the nightmare on screen.
With this particular Creepypasta, what is the draw to the No-End House for these individuals?
Well it is actually different in the story and in the show. In the story there is a cash prize and the guy needs money. We wanted to tell a slightly different story for our main character. We took away the financial need being the draw because it felt like if she or he was going to into this haunted house to win 500 bucks then that is a different story about who this person is. And somebody in tough financial straits. Then you are sort of telling a story about with the implications about the economy. It is just a different thing than the psychological horror that we wanted to tell. So in the show they are going for a good time. They are going for the reason that you or I go to an escape room or we go to sleep no more. Or people go to Halloween horror nights. Just to have fun thinking that there will be scary things inside the house. They will get a jolt of adrenaline, they will leave, they will be back to their safe lives as they just got off a roller coaster. But the scariest things are the things that are already inside your head. What they don’t know when they go into the house is that the deeper you go into the house, the deeper the house goes inside you. What it finds there it can use against you.
Is the No-End House selective of who it is letting out or not?
It is a very good question and the answer is yes. Certain people come out of the house and go back into the real world and certain people don’t. That is kind of a subtle thing in the season that we don’t underline too much. But it is something that we thought about and is part of the mythology of the house. Also as in the original story, if you freak out and you know book it out of the first room or the second room, if you go through the exit room early you just go back into the real world.
What can you tease about the third season of Channel Zero?
I am going to be very cagey with my answer here. We are going to give a definitive answer right after the finale of No-End House airs and tell you what the next season is going to be. I will say that there are some working titles out there. And I will say that it is drawn from a Creepypasta no sleep realm, a story that I particularly love. I will also say that the third season we experiment a little more. It is less directly drawn from a particular story so much as we took an element of one story we loved and expanded on it. But more detail to come about that. The third season is more heightened, more vivid, it is a little bit more Argento and Nicholas Rogue.