The Darwin Awards, Shit My Dad Says… The worlds of TV and film are littered with ideas that worked on the Internet but couldn’t make the transition to the screen, either big or small. However, Nick Antosca, whose CV includes a stint working at the wonderful, but sadly cancelled Hannibal series, seems to have found a way to make it work with Channel Zero.
The show, which airs on Syfy and is headed to DVD in the form of its first series on Monday the 30th of October, takes a simple internet idea – the creepypasta horror stories and urban legend-style tales littering the darker parts of the online world, horror forums and the likes, created by fans, for fans – and turned it into a hit programme that actually works.
What’s more, it’s also helped revive another much maligned and dormant format, the horror anthology, too. Each six episode series focusses on one such tale, giving Channel Zero itself that old-fashioned anthology feel.
The stories are the horror community’s equivalent of fan fiction, strange tales created to amuse other similar obsessives, and have mushroomed.
“It’s such a cool idea” says producer Nick Antosca.
“These horror stories and urban legends. Some of them really struck a nerve with people and then they go viral. What a great horror resource that is.”
Initially he read them for his own gratification.
“I came across them as a fan, many years ago. They've proliferated around the Internet for a long time.”
Among the first he read was Candle Cove, which ended up becoming the first series of the show. Each series contains half a dozen episodes, with the second done and Antosca now working on the third and fourth outings.
“I’d probably read Candle Cove a few years before some of the others, things like The Slender Man, so I was familiar with the world,” he explains.
And then came the lightbulb moment.
“When I first heard the rights were available to adapt, already a fan, it immediately seemed like a good idea.”
The idea of an anthology, telling the different creepypasta stories under the banner of Channel Zero was equally appealing.
“I wanted to do an anthology,” he said. “It’s gone in and out of fashion, and was out of fashion a few years ago. I thought nobody was interested, but then True Detective happened, then Fargo happened, then American Horror Story happened and it became a franchise… And so we did this at a really good time as a pitch. A number of networks made offers, but Syfy understood it the best, it also seemed like the most likely one to get made.”
Both Antosca and Syfy are pleased with the results, so much so that more have been commissioned, with even more in the pipeline.
“I’m very happy with how the show has turned out, particularly because we were able to do two seasons back to back. We’ve demonstrated our proof of concept and we’ve honoured the original stories.”
So where is he now?
“We’ve just finished shooting the third instalment, we’ve just started editing it, and the fourth we’re writing. It’s a conveyor belt of nightmares, it’s like spinning plates. It’s not easy, but hey, it’s not working in a coalmine. It’s what I love to do.”
He praises Syfy for its support and forward thinking in backing and supporting the show, as he explains:
“The opportunity to basically be doing three long form horror movies at the same time is a dream come true for any creator, screenwriter or producer. Each season you get to tell a new story, use a different style, it’s really cool. We’re using a single director for an entire season, wanted it to be a showcase for emerging directors, SyFy has been an incredible partner. They’ve had to take a chance in a lot of different ways. The idea came from creepypasta, which in itself is weird. And they’ve been great in terms of letting us do artistically experiments show especially in terms of letting us hire indie directors with no TV experience. It’s really artistically unorthodox.”
Luckily, the creepypasta and horror communities have welcomed the concept.
“The vast majority of responses have been positive,” he says. “We knew some people would be upset about how they were adapted, but it’s a cool thing for the creepypasta and horror communities. It's very important for me to honour the spirit of the original stories. I think I bring something new to it, it’s not a literal adaptation. Creatively, that’s not as exciting – my favourite adaptations in film are the ones that substantially elaborate on the books. The creepypasta community doesn’t need Channel Zero. It’s an original thing, it’s already out there. If anything, Channel Zero is like fan fiction of creepypasta.”
So what’s next? Hopefully more of these stories. “I read new creepypasta stories when I can,” he concludes, “I keep a list, try and track down the authors. I always want to credit the original authors.”
Channel Zero: Season One Candle Cove is released on DVD and Blu-ray 30th October 2017