Channel Zero – Season 2, Episode 5: “The Damage”

Syfy’s Channel Zero
Season 2, Episode 5: “The Damage”
Directed by Steven Piet
Written by Harley Peyton & Lisa Long

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Exit” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Hollow Girl” – click here
Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 11.23.14 AMMargot (Amy Forsyth) and Jules (Aisha Dee) drive away from the No-End House, seemingly free from its haunting horrors. They’re out again. However, they’ve got no idea that John (John Carroll Lynch) escaped with them. On top of it all, the house was feeding on their memories, they barely have any left.
Speaking of John, he’s out lurking around someone’s backyard, waving to the little girls. A concerned dad comes out to confront him, so John goes on his way. A cannibal, feeding off the memories of others, out in the real world.
When they head back to Margot’s place, the girls are both freaked out. Their memories all slipping away. Margot calls her mom (Corrine), they get to talking: mom reveals dad’s death by allergy, his actual suicide, helped them in a dire financial team, allowing them to keep the house. A terrifying sacrifice to save his family.
Im sure he did it for us
Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 11.28.04 AMKnowing the truth doesn’t set Margot free, she’s weighed down by it. She doesn’t want to keep carrying the burden of knowing. Jules talks about the previous summer, after John’s death. She hated seeing Margot “getting attacked by a beast” mentally, in brutal pain; she admits to running away from it, her friend. Meanwhile, just outside, dad is lurking, and he’s very, very hungry. Ravenous, in fact.
Out of nowhere, Seth (Jeff Ward) arrives, warning Jules: “Hes in the house.” Dear ole dad slips in while Margot sleeps. He’s feeding again, draining those memories while she rests. Memories of her old dog. And soon enough, a black puddle on the floor opens up, birthing an eerie looking thing. One which John starts tearing apart to eat. Seth cracks him over the head. They’re all worried about him being out in the real world.
Dad wants a family again. Margot doesn’t want to be fed upon anymore. They’re not sure what to do with this… creation. They’re not free from the No-End House if it follows them out into the world. She asks him to go into the basement until they can figure it all out.
But papa ain’t happy. And he’ll just get hungrier.
Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 11.36.37 AMSeth tells Margot the only sure way to get John back into the No-End House is if she leads him. Fuck that. Neither she or Jules is willing to go back there. It could mean getting trapped inside, all over again. If the house disappears for another year, dad is left in the real world, and who knows what’ll happen then. So, they might have to “kill him.” A cruel twist of fate: losing your dad to suicide, then having to kill him, too. We also hear more of Seth, discussing his life back at the house; those people caged in the suburb were his family, he couldn’t hurt them and he locked them away for protection.
Poor Jules isn’t well, either. That fleshy orb knows where she’s gone, she made a connection with it. She’s starting to slip between reality and the world of No-End House. Can she actually ever escape? Or is the house a part of her, and the rest of them, now?
Upstairs, Seth and Margot allow John to eat more of the memory dog. He digs in, feeding. A disgusting scene. They sit and wait to see how it goes. She wants to see what her memories “feel like,” so dad lets her hold the dog’s head. He talks about their past, camping, happier memories. This is when John begins succumbing to the medication Seth put in his food. He must die again, as his daughter watches the death. In a way, it’s like a grim healing process. Because she only saw the aftermath before his suicide, now she sees the other side. They’ve got to get John back to the house before it’s gone, as well. Doesn’t help things when mom gets home in the middle of it all, and John is still alive. He gets up and starts throwing everyone around, chasing after his daughter.
Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 11.48.56 AMJohn starts feeding off Margot’s memories again, as Seth grabs him off her. But this only leads dad to nearly jamming his finger through the guy’s head. Finally, Margot pleads with him, agreeing to go back to No-End House with him. And poor ole mom, she has no idea what’s been going on, waking up from being knocked out by her formerly living husband.
Now, Margot, Seth, and John head back to No-End House.
Across town, Jules is still trying to figure out her own life, the memories all faded and the real world blending with that of the house. She’s nearly driven mad, and she starts running down the street. But when she gets to where No-End House recently appeared to the others, it isn’t there anymore.
Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 12.04.59 PMScreen Shot 2017-10-19 at 12.07.06 PMA favourite of mine, this episode really digs into all the disturbing memory stuff. Can’t wait for the finale. Not sure how it’ll end. But that’s what makes Channel Zero so damn good! “The Hollow Girl” is next.

Advertisements

Channel Zero – No End House, Episode 4: “The Exit”

Syfy’s Channel Zero
Season 2, Episode 4: “The Exit”
Directed by Steven Piet
Written by Nick Antosca & Katie Gruel

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Beware the Cannibals” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Damage” – click here
IMG_0316Margot (Amy Forsyth) and Seth (Jeff Ward) wake the next day, after becoming intimate. Dylan (Sebastian Pigott) is still trying to show Lacey (Jess Salgueiro) the truth about what’s happening, that they’re actually married; however, that’s just us going on what he’s said, it isn’t necessarily true. Although currently his word, the strangeness of the No-End House, these are all we have to go on.
Of course it gets a bit nasty because she’s “not remembering anything” and she’s attacked him with his own knife. And out in the middle of the nearby neighbourhood is still that cul-de-sac, a group of people stuck inside. Everybody else is strange, like they’re all lost. Of course, they are, in various ways. “Theyre part of the house,” Dylan tells them, and they’re not keen on the group’s trying to leave. A parade of people follow behind them as they go.
Naturally, one of them is John (John Carroll Lynch), who’s looking paler, more awful than ever. He heads further after them while the rest of the neighbourhood stays behind.
IMG_0317On their way, in a field, the group finds a decimated man lying on the ground. He’s one of the cannibals, unable to feed and wasting away. JD (Seamus Patterson) questions Seth, as to why he hasn’t said anything about his peeling skin; the former threatens to expose the latter if he does say a word. Because something fishy’s going on, either way. Regardless if Seth is one of the doubles.
Soon they come across a corn maze. Within are people calling out, all kinds of them. They stop outside for the night and light a fire. Seth tells Margot he’s not who she believes him to be; “someone who doesnt belong.” He claims he lives in this place, or that he came there before and that living there can “be beautiful.” Meanwhile, Dylan ties JD to Lacey as he goes to check out noises in the dark. Then a woman comes from out of the darkness, digging her fingers into Lacey’s eye sockets before walking back into nowhere. This is when an angry, grief-stricken Dylan sees the withering skin on JD’s arm.
Dylan stabs him, telling the others to keep away. “Hes not real,” Seth says. So Dylan lights the cannibal JD on fire while they all run into the maze. Yet Margot tells them all that Seth lives there, that he can’t come. But now they’re all divided, so many eerie things culminating at once. Not to mention surrounding them in the corn maze is a sea of lost voices, calling out to their loved ones.
IMG_0319IMG_0320Soon they’re all lost themselves. Margot can’t find Jules (Aisha Dee) anymore. Then she comes across one of those black pools, a person materialising out of it. She stumbles onto her friend touching another big, fleshy orb. She takes Jules away from it; simultaneously, we see the person sinking back into that black pool of blood-like substance.
Just as they get away, dad shows up to plead with Margot. He needs a taste. To tide him over, y’know. He needs something on which to subsist, a cannibal, a junkie. He tells his daughter to flee before anything bad happens, so she does, with Jules in tow.
John: “Im only a reflection that lived in you
The remaining trio come to the No-End House. Where Dylan says they have to go on alone. He wants to burn the place to the ground. Inside they find more of the masks, only this time a bit different; each of their faces is a mask with a cracked open head, one hand hauling a dark face out from within, a visual metaphor of what we’ve been seeing already. They go further, into Room 2. The place goes dark, when the light returns a black pool expands across the floor almost like it’s alive, chasing them both, spreading in arm-like streams. Jules attempts jumping across to Margot. They manage to get out as the pool takes over the whole room.
Outside, Dylan’s not so lucky. John finds him, sinking a knife in his guts and ripping his throat open. Leaving him to die in the grass, as dad heads on towards his daughter.


Margot and Jules hear more of the Russian, an old teacher of theirs; the old woman writes DON’T GO over and over across a chalkboard. Except it isn’t an old woman, it’s the creepy man from the hallway, from Margot’s earlier visit. He tries hauling her away, but Jules pulls her back to the next room with her.
This takes them into the gruesome sounds of John’s death by allergy, a mask of his swollen face in front of the girls. He chokes and coughs and sucks for air. A nasty experience. Finally, they make it to Room 5. “We got this,” Jules assures her friend. In there is a bloated, ghostly version of John, in a living room but with a bathtub. He runs his hands through the water, silent. Afterwards he lurches for a hug.
But the girls escape, out into the open air. They don’t see the white flowers anymore, instead a normal dandelion. Dudes are out front trying to get in, so Margot and Jules tell them the house is “finished eating.” They head back to normal life, in a normal neighbourhood. As if none of it ever happened.
Problem is, John’s escaped, as well. He has come back to the world. That can’t be good.
IMG_0326Oh, this is probably my favourite episode now! Wow. Just incredible how Channel Zero consistently ups its game. And here I was concerned there was no way they’d be able to do better than Season 1. Pfft. Amazing.
“The Damage” is up to bat next week.

Channel Zero – No-End House, Episode 2: “Nice Neighborhood”

Syfy’s Channel Zero
Season 2, Episode 2: “Nice Neighborhood”
Directed by Steven Piet
Written by Harley Peyton & Mallory Westfall

* For a recap & review of the Season 2 premiere, “This Isn’t Real” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Beware the Cannibals” – click here
Pic 1We open on Jules (Aisha Dee) having a weird dream, underwater in a bathtub. She seems scared. But she wakes up on the couch to a normal day, though she’s visibly unsettled, at least a little. She and her family talk about Margot (Amy Forsyth). She’s acting strange. Cut to her crying in her car, trying to compose herself. Then she’s at Margot’s house that morning.
Flash forward further to when they came out of the No-End House. They discuss what happened in the rooms after they separated. Jules went into Room 5 where there sat a large orb on the floor. She touched it, the thing lit up, sounding like voices were coming from inside.
When she goes to Margot’s place later in the morning, she finds her friend and her previously dead father John (John Carroll Lynch) making breakfast. Like he’d never ever died. So, where do the girls go from here? That’d be one hell of a head trip.
Pic 1ASeth (Jeff Ward) and J.D. (Seamus Patterson) meet up outside, in the daytime, talking about their experiences inside. They don’t see the girls there, obviously. Poor J.D. is tripped out bad, having seen the masked man in a second room, where he removed it to reveal another mask underneath, worried about seeing his own face in one of the masks. He’s headed home while Seth wants to make sure the girls are fine.
Im not waiting around, thats what theyve got Uber for.”
What, to get away from haunted houses?”
John doesn’t remember dying, even if Margot’s been without her dad for a year. There’s also a sense of everything having been affected, from Margot’s perspective. Right down to too many eggs in the fridge. She and Jules try not to let their heads explode. Whereas John can’t taste anything. Ah, things are already getting dicey.
Then there’s our Mysterious Drifter (Sebastian Pigott), trying to find a way out. His story’s an enigma, as is the place where this town exists; or is he existing in some other timeline, in another place? He meets a woman, one he knows. Afterwards, he blows her brains out, and a guy bringing his garbage to the curb doesn’t even notice.
Meanwhile, Seth is in a strange place, too. He comes to a cul-de-sac, where an island at the middle is blocked off with an iron fence all the way around. Within it are people who know him. Seems like coming out of the No-End House was, for everyone, entering another parallel universe. Is it ONE universe? Or various universes, for each of them? J.D. sees himself through a window, a girl with him as they close the curtains, then the other him opens the door to let him in.
At the Sleator home, Margt heads upstairs. When she looks outside, she sees the same two cyclists riding by twice. Like a loop. Downstairs, John tells Jules: “Im not supposed to be here.” He does have a gap in his memory. He also has doubts about Jules’ love for her close friend, an upsetting conversation for her.
Pic 2Jules shows Margot that instead of marigolds in her backyard, there are white orchids. No-End House somehow alters space and time. “What if this is Room 6?” Jules wonders. Couldn’t be, right? “This is not your home, and that is not your dad,” she tells her friend, echoing the Talking Heads in a much creepier sense. After that Margot reveals she knows her father committed suicide, after he had an allergic reaction previously then took more of the same stuff again before he died. However, none of it matters now. She believes he’s alive. He’s there, physically. She can’t seem to deny it. And the whole thing’s tearing the two best friends apart, bringing up the recent past with a lot of angry sadness.
The drifter is on the intersection of Ash and Oakley, the brief glimpses we saw in the first episode. He’s looking for the girl, Lacey (Jess Salgueiro), whom we witnessed running from another man. We also know the drifter’s in that same place, with the white orchids. He finds Lacey in one of the houses, but she says she’s home, that she doesn’t know him. He tells her this house, the neighbourhood is “not in our reality, we dont belong here.” That they went into No-End House together, she didn’t get out. He’s her husband.
Jules finds Seth again. The No-End House is gone, not where it was when they went inside. At home, J.D. sits with himself, the girl, they have a drink. The other him explains a few things, or at least discusses them. Says he’s made of J.D’s own memories, what him HIM. The subconscious cobbled together from bits and pieces. At the same time Margot’s hanging with dad, going from present to past as her own memories shape what she sees, too.
In another part of town, Jules and Seth hole up in a house for sale. When she wanders upstairs, she comes across the orb again. Like her dream. She touches it, the light appears, the voice-like sounds. Something inside moves to her hand, like there’s a person trapped.
Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 2.02.30 PMJ.D. ponders whether his double is there to help. But things get nasty, real quick. The other him cracks his head with a bottle. Continually whacking until there’s nothing left, just blood flicking everywhere. Yikes. What happens when a real person dies in the No-End House universe? Does it mean real death?
While Margot sleeps, dad seems to be sucking the memories out of her brain. Thoughts of her mom Corrine (Kim Huffman), specifically. They fill his mind. Simultaneously, a black, blood-like pool seeps from a crack in the floor of the basement. John is growing another version of Corrine out of his daughter’s memory. She’s birthed from the bloody pool out of the concrete. John goes down and tears off one of her arms. Before eating some of the meat. Abstract life becomes real, only to be consumed by an unreal man. Hideous, haunting.
Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 2.16.18 PMNow give us “Beware the Cannibals” before I scream!

Secret Rural Lives: Uncle John the Protector

Uncle John. 2015. Directed by Steven Piet. Screenplay by Erik Crary & Piet.
Starring John Ashton, Alex Moffat, Jenna Lyng, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Cynthia Baker, Andy Cameron, Adria Dawn, Tim Decker, Don Forston, Janet Gilmme, Gary Houston Matt Kozlowski, & Ashleigh LaThrop. Uncle John Productions.
Not Rated. 113 minutes.
Crime/Drama/Mystery/Thriller

★★★★★
POSTER
Digital editing technician, cinematographer and first time director Steven Piet has really done a fascinating job with the double-plotted Uncle John – a true slow burning mystery with doses of both the thriller genre, as well as, surprisingly enough, some romance. Strangely, these two pieces of the puzzle weave together into what becomes a veritable creepy thrill ride, mysterious and murky. With high praise from one of my favourite directors, David Lynch (he says it stuck with him days after watching), this was a film I knew needed to be seen.
But not only is this a smoldering mystery-thriller with some romance mixed in, Uncle John has a psychological angle, a strange unsettling feeling almost from the beginning. Piet and cinematographer Mike Bove create a natural looking movie that has an undercurrent of tension running through every last frame. Added to that, Adam Robl and Shawn Sutta bring a beautiful score to the table, which gives certain scenes a dreamy, lighter-than-air feeling. All the pieces mould together into a near perfect pastiche of paranoia, rural life, secrets, and plenty emotion.
IMG_3371
In a little rural town, John (John Ashton) is a very well-liked older man whose carpentry skills are much appreciated. Except when we first meet John, he’s just killed a man named Dutch (Laurent Soucie). Dutch was a terrible, mean sort of fella. Nobody in town went untouched by his trouble. But nobody would suspect John of murdering the man. That is, nobody except for Dutch’s crazy, drunk brother Danny (Ronnie Gene Blevins); he seems to believe John, or someone close to him, has done the deed. As time goes by, Danny becomes more and more convinced it was John, and only John.
Meanwhile, in Chicago, John’s nephew Ben (Alex Moffat), whom he raised after his mother died/father split, works at a 3D design company. He meets a co-worker named Kate (Jenna Lyng) and falls for her. Only she isn’t keen on dating co-workers.
One day, after an impromptu trip back to the country for Ben’s favourite donuts, he and Kate show up to see Uncle John. With so much going on in John’s head and around him, trying to keep out of hot water for the murder of Dutch, the trip becomes something more than any of them could’ve expected. And with Danny lurking around, it’s only a matter of time before something tragic will happen.
IMG_3370IMG_3372
The bridging of a romantic subplot with the main plot of the murder, which precipitates a thriller, is incredibly interesting. When the film starts out you imagine it’s going to take on the trappings of any other mysterious thriller. However, woven between everything is this plot involving Uncle John’s nephew, who happens to meet a lovely woman at his office and starts falling for her. This converges with John’s predicament – the murder we witness at the outset of the story – and everything becomes connected, in a violently tragic sense. Some reviews have lambasted Piet’s film as taking too long for the double plots to join up, but I found the slow build-up works incredibly well. The plots play out at a steady pace, taking their time to open up and bloom. Then finally, they merge to make things even more thrilling than before.
Particularly, I’m a fan of movies that don’t have to throw everything out at you through expository dialogue. Whereas the romance plot with Ben and Kate is fairly straightforward, the plot involving John, Dutch, their history and the murder all comes out in cryptic portions, casually through conversation everything gets revealed. Even the romantic scenes with Ben and Kate are subtle, as it isn’t the typical ‘two people immediately fall in bed together’ sort of relationship; it takes on the form of a true-to-life situation instead of the wildly unrealistic dating in so many movies. So it’s nice to see writing that isn’t so typical and cliche in that sense, plus the main chunk of the film’s mystery-thriller aspects are subdued and their impact is much more profound than if things were laid out on the table plainly.
Note: the last few minutes of the film have a wonderfully written parallel between John and the people in Kate’s family whom she describes as crazy, which is some of the best writing in any finale of any movie I’ve seen in a long time. Just so well-written that it’s undeniably awesome.
IMG_3373IMG_3374
Best of all are the actors involved. All four of the main characters we spend time with are performed to perfection. Both Alex Moffat as Ben and Jenna Lyng as Kate provide the necessary chemistry for their onscreen relationship, as they’re co-workers and friends but obviously something more will likely come out of it – even if we don’t see their complete story by the end of the film, you can imagine them developing a strong, lasting relationship together. The way they speak to one another, especially on the part of Ben who has the strongest feelings, we gain such an emotional connection to them. So much so that once things get real thrilling and tense in the final half hour everything feels massively heightened.
Furthermore, Ronnie Gene Blevins as Danny is quietly menacing, a troubled man with a paranoid mind, but really not all that paranoid – mostly, he’s a suspicious character. And rightfully so. Although, the complexities of the situation involving his brother and John make it difficult to fully side with him in any way. Blevins is a solid actor, and he was the perfect choice for the role of Danny. He brings that quiet nature to the character and it makes him more threatening, right up to the point where we realize exactly what he’s up to.
Finally, John Ashton gives a thoughtful, subdued performance as the titular John. From the first time we see him there is a nervous tension about his neck, which obviously stems from those initial scenes where he kills Dutch, gets rid of the body and so on. These quiet performances, like that of Blevins as well, they help the story and the subplots get into our head in such a visceral way. John’s pensive behaviour is extremely watchable, as his face almost emotes everything we need to know about the character. The looks off to one side where he’s running through every scenario in his head, trying to make sure he’ll make it out of suspicion, and the way he stares off at his darkened barn, Ashton draws us towards the character he plays and keeps us interested at every turn.


An absolute 5-star film. The directorial choices by Piet and the cinematography of Bove are an excellent pairing, as even in the most mundane of scenes we’re caught on their hooks, they draw us along through the motions and around the next corner it always seems as if there’ll be something devastating. So that eventually, once the devastation rears its head, the way it crashes into the viewer makes for a bigger splash. I was never entirely sure how the film would end, which is great because I kept on guessing. Even more, the guessing lingers with you, as the outcome of the events in the finale aren’t clear to us, so anything could happen in this story after the credits finish rolling. But the juxtaposition of two vastly different actions in the last 15 minutes is so heavy, so beautiful in a twisted sense, that it rocked my world. Absolutely one of the greatest films of 2015. Currently, as of this writing, it’s on Netflix Canada. Check it out while you still can, and stick with it all the way. The reward is beyond worth the time.