Channel Zero Is Smarter and More Subversive than Stranger Things
Channel Zero is a horror show where each six-episode season is inspired by a different creepypasta—basically an urban legend distributed online. Season 2 is based on a popular one called “No-End House,” but according to science fiction author Zach Chapman the source material is pretty weak.
“I was like, wow, people should just go buy a curated anthology like The Year’s Best, because it was some of the worst writing I’ve ever read,” Chapman says in Episode 282 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “It made me think that I wouldn’t want to read any creepypasta after that.”
But the TV version of “No-End House” expands greatly on its source material, and whereas the original story features a haunted house full of fairly conventional horrors, the show has a much more complex and ambiguous haunted house that is often strangely alluring. That’s a change that fantasy author Erin Lindsey thinks is definitely for the best.
“The type of horror I really enjoy is much more that sort of slow-burn, implied-more-than-seen, messing-with-your-head kind of horror,” she says, “as opposed to a lot of loud noises and monsters leaping out from around corners.”
Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley agrees, noting that “No-End House” deals with some of the same heady themes as science fiction classics like Solaris. “This is not schlocky horror or campy horror,” he says. “It’s much more philosophical, existential, slightly science-fictional horror, and I really like that.”
Horror author Grady Hendrix says that “No-End House” is not only smart, it’s also subversive, especially compared to safely conventional fare like Stranger Things. “It’s so much more radically, politically, and psychologically interesting than anything Stranger Things has ever said in its entire two seasons,” he says.
Listen to the complete interview with Zach Chapman, Erin Lindsey, and Grady Hendrix in Episode 282 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Grady Hendrix on creepypasta:
“They’re urban legends, they’re made-up little stories. And it’s getting more and more self-conscious now. … People are trying to use it for their big break, they’re trying to use it to promote their novels, and certainly Channel Zero is giving them the hope that they’ll get picked up and be an episode on Channel Zero. It’s getting a little more synthetic, and getting a lot more self-consciously artistic, whereas I think before there was a real naive quality to it. It often wasn’t the best writers, and often some of them were so absolutely bad they were almost Ed Woodsian. And some of them were really unnerving, because you didn’t know how unbalanced the person writing it was.”
Erin Lindsey on Sleep No More:
“It’s a piece of performance art that is very loosely based on Macbeth, and they’ve renovated what they claim is an old hotel—although I’m not sure that’s true—but it’s basically done in a Victorian style, and there are a bunch of different rooms in the house, and it’s got this very creepy vibe. … You’re free to touch anything you want to touch, or move around, or if you’re a jackass like me you just go into the candy store and load up your pockets—you can rifle through drawers or whatever. So this house kind of reminded me of that Sleep No More vibe, where you go from one room to the other, and your first reaction is, ‘OK, what am I looking at?’ and you have to try to figure out what you’re looking at.”
Grady Hendrix on subtext:
“This is a show that says: If you stay home, you’ve been suckered, you’ve been lied to, you will die. Yes, the fridge is full of eggs, yes, nothing ever changes, yes, it’s comfortable. But your best and only option is to burn it all down and run, and the people who are going to get you out are your friends, who are going to keep coming back until they have to drag you out by your hair, and the people who want you to stay are creeps who want to eat you alive—be it your parents, be it a boyfriend. … Staying home, staying where it’s safe, staying where everyone loves you and your mom’s your best friend and your dad’s so great and he makes you breakfast is just bullshit and a dead end, and you will wind up a husk.”
Grady Hendrix on horror:
“The way that people are playing with the world—infomercials and creepypasta and stuff you’re not sure is real or not, and the way they’re able to move between these things and bring in these mumblecore strains is really breathtaking, and it’s stuff that feels legit new. … I just sometimes see stuff like this and it makes me feel old and irrelevant and out of touch. Even though there’s execution things and things people don’t like and there are things that seem lumpy and awkward, it’s this reach toward new tropes, something besides zombies and vampires and whatever we’re still dry humping from 50 years ago.”
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