And so we begin another season of Channel Zero. This one is (very loosely) based on the creepypasta "Search and Rescue Woods". You can read the entire thing here. (Warning: It's long.)

According to creator Nick Antosca, Butcher's Block only uses the concept of stairs in the middle of the woods leading to nowhere. It has nothing to do with SAR rangers or Goatmen. At least not yet.

Let's recap. Alice Woods (Olivia Luccardi) and her sister Zoe (Holland Roden) are moving to the city of Garret, because Alice wants to work there as a social worker and because they're trying to get away from their mother. Who I think is named Nora, and had a mental episode. Apparently mental problems run in the family, because Zoe has issues as well. And maybe Alice. They move into the rooms at a house run by a landlady, Louise Lipsector (Krisha Fairchild), who used to be a reporter, is big on taxidermy, and is writing a back about disappearances in the area including her brother.


The area? It's the title or chapter or whatever of our season: "Butcher's Block". It's a socioeconomic sinkhole because workers at the nearby Peach's Meat meat-packing plant lived there. When Peach's Meat folded, the workers were left with nothing. So a block where butchers lived, i.e. Butcher's Block.

Alice is social-working for the area. Her and her supervisor Nathan visit a house to help Tanya Marcus deal with the CPS coming to take away Tanya's daughter Izzy because Izzy was injured splaying in the nearby abandoned Medallion Park. Izzy wears a red robe that she got from someone called "Smart Mouth", according to the tag on the robe.


While they're there, Alice and Nathan get locked in Izzy's room. By the time they get out, they discover that Tanya and Izzy have disappeared without a trace. The local police officer, Luke Vanczyk (Brandon Scott), figures that Tanya up and disappeared with Izzy on her own rather than lose her daughter to the CPS.

Alice doesn't believe that, and goes back that night to the Marcus house with Zoe. Things get a bit confusing here. Alice goes in the backyard and then somehow gets to Medallion Park. She finds what appears to be Izzy's crude playhouse, and a guy calling himself Joseph (Rutger Hauer!) wanders by and introduces himself. He talks about how he used to have a house where the playground now is, and then strolls off.


Zoe sees a small figure in a red robe, assumes that it's Izzy, and the figure runs off into the park. When Zoe follows it, she comes to a staircase to nowhere in the middle of the field. The figure, Smart Mouth, has the face of a distorted porcelain doll. Smart Mouth prepares to beat Zoe to death with a meat tenderizer, but a skinned human being with no face--presumably the "Faceless God" mentioned in the end credits--shows up and leads Smart Mouth up the stairs and through the door. Zoe, who as I mentioned has mental issues, wonders if she hallucinated the whole thing.


The next day, Zoe decides to head out of town. She goes to the bus stop and Joseph introduces himself. At the same time, Alice talks to Louise and Louise thinks that the Peach family is responsible for all of the disappearances. She blames the family patriarch, Joseph Peach... and Louise has a photo of him. He looks like Rutger Hauer, although Louise points out that he'd be 130 years old if he was still alive. Ruh-roh!


Mixed in with this is an opening scene with Nathan describing an urban legend of the staircase and Smart Mouth using a meat tenderizer to kill one half of a teen couple walking through the woods. And Alice chatting with Nora over the phone, since Nora is in a mental hospital and wants to know where her daughters moved to. Alice hangs up on her rather than give the information. There's also a rubber-gloved Scissor Woman who confronts the sisters when they arrive and says that she has bandages. Later she "cuts them off" and her ungloved hands are either bloody, or cut and bloody. It's hard to tell.


So we've got a wacky semi-immortal meat-packing family patriarch, one or maybe two sisters who doubt their sanity, red-robed dwarves, a Faceless God, and mysterious staircases to nowhere. Just another day at Channel Zero, I guess.

Various reviewers have described Channel Zero and Butcher's Block as "arthouse horror". I won't bore people with what I've said about Channel Zero in the past. If this is your cup of tea, more power to you. I guess "arthouse horror" isn't mine. At least, not entirely. Butcher's Block has the same things going for it that the last two chapters, Candle Cove and No-End House, had. Not particularly likeable or even distinctive characters. A relatively big name star (John Carroll Lynch in No-End House, Rutger Hauer here). Dreamy camera shots. Weird characters like Scissor Woman who make enigmatic statements and don't seem to have discernible motives. Lots of silence. Lots of grotesque images, including faceless figures with no skin.


Confusing parts to me was that there isn't much sense of geography. It's not clear where the Marcus house is in relation to Medallion Park, or where Medallion Park is in relation to. And it's hard to tell Alice and Zoe apart. Alice looks a bit like a young Linda Hamilton. Zoe has bright red lipstick on earlier in the episode. And smokes a lot. But when they're running separately through the woods in semi-darkness, it's hard to distinguish between the two.

On the good side, Rutger Hauer always brings a touch of class to anything he's in. The imagery is creepy, with red-robed dwarves running around. As the movies Don't Look Now and Phantasm show, you can't go wrong with creepy robed dwarves.


And as the creepypasta established, the idea of a staircase just... appearing in the middle of a forest, leading up to nowhere, is creepy and weird. It looks like Acosta & Co. are going to explain the concept, at least as it applies to Butcher's Block. Then again, the creative team never really "explains" anything beyond the basics. There's a staircase, and a Faceless God, and it's tied to the Peach clan and Joseph in particular. Got it.

So Butcher's Block is more of the same. If you liked the first two chapters, you'll like this. If not, you won't. But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. What do you think?

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Butcher's Block airs on Wednesdays on SyFy, at 10/9 central, and will run for six episodes. TVCom currently doesn't have the new season listed because... well, it's TVCom. And a subsidiary of TVGuide, which also doesn't have it listed. It's a new "chapter", so DVR settings for the previous chapters probably won't pick it up. Program for the new chapter accordingly.
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Feb 10, 2018
Hmm what do I think? Not my cup of tea but I do appreciate your review. Thanks!
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