Out of all the places I visited at this year's San Diego Comic-Con, the most memorable was the screening of the Channel Zero: No-End House premiere episode. The way the series has lingered in my mind makes me think that I haven't truly left the house since first seeing it... making me even more eager for the new season to premiere on the SYFY channel beginning Wednesday, September 20th. To help hold me over until then, I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Channel Zero showrunner Nick Antosca about the psychological scares of the suburban-set second season, and we've also been provided with an exclusive clip from No-End House to share with Daily Dead readers.
Congratulations on Candle Cove and the upcoming Channel Zero, Nick. Coming from the subtle, mind-melding psychological horror of Candle Cove, when you were planning the No-End House season in the writers’ room, were you trying to do something a little bit different while also staying in line with Channel Zero’s overall vibe? What was the mindset for creating the tone of season 2?
Nick Antosca: We have an overarching philosophy of psychological horror, dread, and suspense rather than jump scares or gratuitous jolts. That ideally is consistent from season to season, however, we want the execution to be different and we want the flavor and tone to be different. Part of that comes with hiring one director to do every episode each season so that the show becomes, as an anthology, a showcase for an exciting new director every season, which I’ve always wanted to see a show do, and I can’t think of any other show that’s done it.
Had True Detective after the first season continued to have an auteur each season, that would have been awesome, but for some reason they didn’t. I wanted to do that. I wanted to work with really exciting, new directors from the indie world whose work I was a fan of, whose vision I admired, and who might not otherwise be getting the chance to come and do a season of TV. So, I want the show to also be an incubator for the next generation of indie and horror talents.
Yeah, it reminds me of what Mick Garris was doing with Masters of Horror, but you’re giving directors like Craig William Macneill and Steven Piet an entire season to play with. They’re emerging, creative voices who are doing really unexpected things that people may be surprised to see on the SYFY channel.
Nick Antosca: You hear that there’s going to be a haunted puppet show on the SYFY channel based on something called a “creepypasta,” and you expect it to be campy. At best, you expect it be a Tales from the Crypt type of thing, and I grew up on Tales from the Crypt, I love it, but this is a different type of show. I felt that Craig was a perfect choice for season 1 because his movie [The Boy] is so restrained and so psychological. That’s his style and that’s really what we had in mind when we were in the writers’ room. We wrote specifically to that. We would write like, “One shot, pan over slowly to the Tooth Child and pan back,” and it melded perfectly with his style.
Every season we have a pretty clear vision of what we want the show to feel like and look like coming out of the writers’ room, and then I look for a director who is a collaborative auteur, somebody who will be excited about what we did in the scripts, but then will bring their own ideas to it and take it even further. It’s not the traditional showrunner/director relationship that you have in TV. I don’t micromanage the directors, I collaborate with them, and it’s a really exciting, crazy thing that we get to do this season after season and work with all of these interesting people.
And we get to work with artists, too, like Sarah Sitkin, who is a sculpture artist and installation artist. We brought her in to create the sculptures in No-End House and some of the other horror elements that you’ll see further into the season. And Guy Maddin, the indie filmmaker and installation artist, created the videos within the show, so when Margot goes into the No-End House and sees those weird, bluish videos in the triangle room, and when they get the weird teasers on their phones, Guy Maddin shot and created those elements. And then there’s Olivier De Sagazan, who in the first season plays The Skin-Taker, I really like to be able to bring in people like that to do cool stuff in TV, even if they’re not traditionally TV folks.
I love that this season has a suburban setting, which is a really cool contrast with the countryside setting of Candle Cove. It has a very John Carpenter-esque, It Follows-esque vibe to it. Taking the show into a different setting, were you trying to tap into some other types of horror?
Nick Antosca: Candle Cove is kind of like a Stephen King setting: small town, guy comes home and deals with childhood horror. No-End House is more of a Carpenter, lightly Spielbergian suburbs zone. In both places we’re playing with familiar horror tropes and hopefully also showing you some things that you haven’t seen before.
Putting it in the suburbs is even more creepy because it’s so unnatural. You expect an idyllic setting like that to be safe, but then you see some of the nightmarish imagery of the No-End House come into play.
Nick Antosca: That’s part of what excited me about Brian Russell’s story. The haunted house, creepy things in the room, that’s all awesome, but the thing that made me want to adapt the story is the idea at the end that when you’ve left the house and gone back home, suddenly you start to wonder if what you perceive to be reality is in fact the last room of the No-End House. This idea that you’re in a safe place, you’re in the suburbs, your home, and something’s not right. That’s what we play with throughout the season.
You also have this great story of a daughter [Amy Forsyth] grieving the loss of her father, played by John Carroll Lynch, and it’s such a tender, heartfelt story. When you were planning this season, was that always the focal point, the story of this daughter who loses her dad?
Nick Antosca: Yeah, it comes out of the process of turning this small story into a larger piece with more psychological horror. I thought about what the story spoke to in terms of themes, and the idea that you could leave this haunted house and be out in the real world, but feel trapped and powerless, and experiencing this kind of existential horror. It seemed to speak to the story of a young person trying to find who she is and struggling with her relationships and struggling to escape a deep, personal trauma. So Margot’s character grew out of the idea of, “Somebody goes into this house, and the deeper you go into the house, the deeper it goes into you, and what it finds there, it’s going to use against you.” So, we needed to find a character who had a rich psychological backstory.
Last season you introduced the Tooth Child, who I think as the years go on will be looked at as one of the coolest creatures so far of the 21st century. Are there any iconic creatures, design pieces, or characters that you have in store for viewers this season?
Nick Antosca: I don’t want to spoil where it’s going, but there’s a lot of creepy shit that they’re going to find in what I call “House World.” You can’t predict what will stick with people like the Tooth Child, but this season is based on what’s horrifying for the characters and what the world demands, so I certainly hope that the season resonates very strongly with viewers. There are some really powerful moments that people are going to remember.
Stay tuned to Daily Dead for more updates on the new season, and check here for our previous coverage of Channel Zero: No-End House.