For the last three seasons, Channel Zero has been quietly becoming the horror anthology of choice for people burned out or not interested in the campy, empty spectacle of American Horror Story. Adapting internet “Creepypasta” stories, each season has featured entirely new casts, locations and horrors. Last season’s “No-End House” was a disappointing slog of a follow-up to the surreal and disturbing Candle Cove but Butcher’s Block is a fantastic entry to the series that is the culmination of what both previous seasons tried to do.
Based on Kerry Hammond’s “Search and Rescue Woods” (although this is the loosest adaptation so far for Channel Zero, only taking a single element for the original), Butcher’s Block follows Alice and Zoe Woods (Olivia Luccardi and Holland Roden), who move to a new city for a fresh start following a recent tragedy. Alice has recently graduated from college and has gotten a job as a social worker but that job puts her and Zoe in the path of the mysterious Joseph Peach (Rutger Hauer), whose family used to essentially own the city with their meat factory before they disappeared. Compared to last season, which, granted, was about overcoming and dealing with grief and death, where the cast felt they were on Ambien, everyone here is so much more engaging and interesting to watch (for a good example, compare Jeff Ward on No-End House as Seth to his current gig as the smartass comic relief Deke on Agents of SHIELD). Rutger Hauer is obviously fantastic and he gives an incredible performance that is not campy or hammy in the least. He sells the hell out of the every scene, even when he’s talking to a giant man made of meat, and it just elevates the season in general. Luccardi and Roden are both great as well, with Luccardi in particular really selling Alice’s desperation and fear about her family’s history of mental illness and how it seems to be manifesting in her, which Joseph Peach claims he can cure but at a horrific price. The rest of the supporting cast is mostly great as well and they get to lean into the ridiculous insanity like Andres Apergis as the psychotic Robert Peach, Angela Narth as Robert’s sinisterly sweet and pregnant wife Evelina and Krisha Fairchild as Alice and Zoe’s sassy landlady Louise, who has her own history with the Peach family.
Candle Cove set the tone for Channel Zero with it’s creepy and disturbing imagery, from a boy made out of teeth to a terrifying full size version of the skeleton pirate from the titular children’s show, all of it with the same gorgeous cinematography that showrunner Nick Antosca brought from Hannibal. No-End House was definitely lacking in that department, with only one really good and creepy idea wherein the creatures of the season literally ate memories, but Butcher’s Block is all in on insane, gory, disturbing scenarios and creatures. There’s the aforementioned man made of meat, various physical manifestations of the disease brewing inside Alice, the Peach family’s army of deformed dwarves, the “crops” that the Peach family grows around their home and so much more. That’s all without mentioning the cannibalism, which the Peach family heartily engages in and seems to tie into their mysterious powers and a strange being they worship as their god. You’re never sure what you are going to see next and it keeps you glued to the screen, even if at times you may want to look away.
If you were disappointed with the second season (which we seem to be in the minority about), Butcher’s Block is an excellent, weird, disturbing return to what made Channel Zero such a breath of fresh air compared to the AHS. Hopefully the momentum continues into season 4, which is going to be based on the Creepypasta, “I Found a Hidden Door in My Cellar”.