Butcher’s Block (director Arkasha Stevenson), the third installment of SYFY Channel’s anthology mini-series CHANNEL ZERO (based on the creepypasta urban legends), was the most disturbing one yet. It was uneven in many ways, but visually arresting and ambitious.
Alice (Olivia Luccardi) and her schizophrenic sister Zoe (Holland Roden) move to an unnamed rundown city, where Alice takes a job as a social worker. Her first case is in an especially impoverished neighborhood called Butcher’s Block, a graffiti-filled area surrounded by a defunct meat packing warehouse and an overgrown park. The area, a is known for strange after-dark phenomena (in the form of marble staircases that lead nowhere), mysterious disappearances and poor, if not outright corrupt police activity. Alice’s first day shadowing an older Child Protective Services officer in Butcher’s Block ends in the apparently violent abduction of her clients—a mother and a child. Meanwhile, Zoe has a hard time adjusting to her drug regimen. Through her eyes, we see the whole story of the sisters; they both left a broken home, due to their mother’s severe mental illness, which Zoe has inherited. Both sisters discover the awful secret at the center of the park—that the people of Butcher’s Block are prey to the sinister, cannibalistic Peach clan who once owned the abandoned meat packing company.
Butcher’s Block weaves together several thematic disparate strands–about family ties, heredity. It has deliberately complex characters, some of whom have hidden depths and grow (or regress) in the course of the show. Best of all, it is delightfully weird and extremely unsettling. Cannibalism and self-mutilation are only the tip of the iceberg in this show. I loved the different mixtures of horror on display. There’s Lynchian dark surrealism, a nod to Dario Argento lurid aesthetic, and a dash of cosmic horror. By no means is Butcher’s Block perfect. There are times when it slips into “the stupid plot,” and the mood whiplash is severe. But it’s an admirable entry into what I’d call “arthouse horror,” and besides, it passes the Bedchel test with flying colors.