Nick Antosca Talks Tuning In to Channel Zero

“Channel Zero” is a new anthology series telling the creepy stories of “Candle Cove.” In the first season, the return of a kids’ TV show from the 1980s coincides with the disappearance of a young child. We caught up with “Channel Zero” creator, Nick Antosca, and here’s what he had to say about what horror fans can expect from the new show and what makes it stand out from the rest.

Dread Central: Is it fair to say that “Channel Zero: Candle Cove” will appeal to fans of nostalgia horror shows, like “Stranger Things”?

Nick Antosca: A little bit, yeah. One of the great things about Chris’ story is that it taps into the childhood fears and memories that are familiar to anybody who grew up in a certain generation which is like this show that you saw as a child that nobody else quite remembers but if they do they remember it a bit differently and nobody remembers where it came from. It presented itself as friendly but if you dig a little deeper you’d find something very sinister underneath, and we all have that kind of thing.

DC: For the senior horror fans out there… What is a “creepypasta”?

NA: A creepypasta is basically urban legends for the digital age. They’re very, very short stories written by people on the internet and posted and they’re all usually first person and they present themselves as real stories, as something that somebody saw or experienced or heard of and the best ones tend to go viral, like Candle Cove or The No-End House which our second season is based on. A really good one is kind of like concentrated nightmare fuel. They’re very short, they’re suggestive, and they’re built around a great horror concept and they tend to suggest larger, mysterious threating forces at work in the world and some of them remind me of my favorite literary short stories like Thomas Legotti, his story “The Clown Puppet” is kind of an example of the vibe that some of creepypasta stories have although the writing is very different. But I had been a fan of Candle Cove for a long time, I read it a few years, I proposed doing an anthology story with a different story each season, because there are so many of these stories and there are enough great ones that you could have an anthology season run for a long time and have a different one each season. So each season is six episodes, the adaptation of one creepypasta and because the original stories are pretty short, and in the case of Candle Cove it’s not even traditionally structured, it’s written in the form of message board posts. Our job is to preserve the ideas and what we love about the original stories and the sense of dread that they have and expand and build on that to explore the themes under the surface and to build character arcs.

DC: Having worked on NBC’s “Hannibal,” MTV’s “Teen Wolf,” and the feature film The Forest, you’re no stranger to horror on both television and the big screen… Tell us how the two mediums compare for you creatively.

NA: It really, really depends on the specific project and the people you’re doing it for. For example, the features I worked on like The Forest or the Friday the 13th script, those are assignment jobs from the studio, so it’s not like ok, I’m going to explore the limits of my imagination. It’s clear what they want and you’re going to deliver it. In terms of adapting something like “Candle Cove” there was way, way more freedom and oddly enough it’s similar to what I saw on “Hannibal,” where there is source material that is very, very strong but the adaptation takes it in different directions but still respects and preserves the original but brings a new and very distinctive voice to it. So what I learned on “Hannibal” about adaptation I brought to “Channel Zero” and SyFy was very supportive and encouraging in letting us explore the ideas and letting us tell the story we wanted to tell. When you’re adapting a story that’s a couple pages long and written in the form of message board posts you have to bring a lot of original stuff to it so for each season of “Channel Zero” it should feel like a nightmare that the season is based on. We have a lot of blank canvas to fill so the adaptation is not meant to be like oh this is the definitive explanation of what “Candle Cove” is, and this is “Candle Cove.” This is our nightmare we had after reading Kris Straub’s story and I felt like both in terms of what the material allowed for and the environment we were in, there was a ton of freedom and it was very exciting.

DC: Will horror on TV ever overtake the cinematic legacy of the genre?

NA: I think the future of horror on TV depends on cinematic innovation. I think the days of talking heads on TV are over and audiences want to see things that they’ve never seen before and have a distinctive cinematic voice. I write very visually and the scripts have shocks in them and complex visual descriptions but one thing that we’re doing on “Channel Zero” more than any other show is doing, for each season we’re going to have an entire season directed by one director, a different director each season and it’s somebody who has a very distinctive and strong cinematic voice. For me it’s an opportunity to work with directors I like who’ve never done TV before who otherwise wouldn’t be doing TV who I think of as collaborative auteurs. For example, in the first season we have Craig William MacNeill who directed a phenomenal film called The Boy and this is not the living doll puppet film that came out earlier this year. It was a very beautiful film, the kind of psychological horror that I lover where there’s a sense of dread and menace and growing fear rather than jumps scares and Craig has such a distinctive visual voice that I wanted to have somebody like that come in and so we brought him and his DP, Noah Greenberg from The Boy, to do the entire season of “Candle Cove” which we shot like a film and we’ll do that every season so really for the directors coming in it’s like making a six-hour movie.

DC: Lastly, I see your name is still online as the writer of the new upcoming Friday the 13th movie, so… what’s going on with that?

NA: Yeah, I’m not doing Friday the 13th anymore. I did a draft and David Bruckner and I had a really exciting version. You know, sometimes these jobs are just like paycheck jobs and they do a re-write or whatever, but Friday the 13th was one of the more creatively exciting experiences of my screenwriting career. Then there was a regime change at Paramount right when we turned it in, so they’re doing something totally different now. I think they just leave those credits on IMDb or whatever till the actual thing comes out but as far as I know they’re not using my script. Both David and I fought very strongly against certain plot concepts, we really didn’t want to tell a story about Jason’s father and my understanding is that’s what they’re doing now. They have a great screenwriter for this version and I’ll go see it, I’m excited for it but I’m not involved in it.

The “Candle Cove” installment of the network’s “Channel Zero” anthology series stars Paul Schneider, Fiona Shaw, Shaun Benson, Natalie Brown, and Luisa D’Oliveira.

“Channel Zero: Candle Cove” will have six episodes. Craig William Macneill (The Boy) directs; Nick Antosca wrote the script for the pilot and serves as executive producer alongside Max Landis. Harley Peyton is a writer and co-executive producer, and Don Mancini also serves as a writer and supervising producer.

About “Channel Zero: Candle Cove”:
Based on Kris Straub’s popular “creepypasta” (user-generated horror stories that are published and passed around the Internet), “Candle Cove” centers on one man’s obsessive recollections of a mysterious children’s television program from the 1980s and his ever-growing suspicions about the role it might have played in a series of nightmarish and deadly events from his childhood. 

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