I’ve said this before, but I think it’s worth reiterating that we’re living in a golden age of horror on television. Although some skeptics argue that shows like The Walking Dead and American Horror Story do more harm than good to the genre, look no further than SyFy’s criminally underrated Channel Zero as an example of scary stories done right on the small screen.
Nick Antosca‘s Creepypasta-based anthology series has been on the air since 2016, and four short but sweet seasons later, the show has yet to provide us with a bad time. This October, however, SyFy did things a little differently with The Dream Door, teasing us with the first episode and then releasing all the others at once on their streaming service a few weeks later (although they also broadcast the remaining episodes one at a time in the days leading up to Halloween).
While I enjoy the anticipation that usually came with waiting for new episodes, viewers can rest easy as it’s safe to say that The Dream Door‘s tightly crafted narrative actually benefits from binge-watching, and this is easily some of the best horror-related media that we’ve seen all year.
This season, based on Charlotte Bywater‘s Hidden Door, follows Jillian and Tom Hodgson, a newlywed couple played by Maria Sten and Brandon Scott that has just moved back into Tom’s childhood home. While both are initially happy with their new lives together, it soon becomes apparent that their relationship is plagued by terrible secrets. When a mysterious door materializes in their basement, things take a turn for the worst as Jillian is forced to face her childhood fears all over again.
A few unexplained murders and one nightmarish contortionist clown later, and we’re treated to one of the best seasons of Channel Zero so far, with the Hodgsons learning how easy it is for emotional baggage to (quite literally) kill a relationship.
While the earlier episodes are strange enough to make you question whether or not the writers have an end-game planned out at all, the show miraculously manages to tie up nearly all loose ends by the final episodes without ever over-explaining the supernatural elements of the story. In fact, The Dream Door somehow becomes even more fascinating as the mysteries behind the earlier episodes are slowly revealed, and it’s actually a shame that we don’t delve further into the mythology.
There are a few plot threads that feel rather undercooked (especially Barbara Crampton‘s woefully underused character), but the overall experience is entertaining and emotional enough to make up for these weaker elements. It’s also worth noting that despite the unusual subject matter and a preference for scenes set during daytime, scares are still plentiful this time around (most of which are due to Twisty Troy‘s incredible performance as Pretzel Jack), thought the script never loses track of the human element that drives the story either.
From the very beginning, every season of Channel Zero has boasted jaw-dropping cinematography, and The Dream Door is no exception. Unusual camera angles and movements not only set the mood for some unexpected scares, but also help to energize some of E. L. Katz‘s surprisingly intense and gory chase sequences in later episodes. The atmospheric yet vibrant soundtrack is also a plus, only adding to an already memorable package.
With this fourth season, Channel Zero continues to be one of SyFy’s best offerings, and I can only hope that even more horror fans will watch it so we can bless our television sets with frequent doses of creepypasta-based goodness. It may not be perfect, with a few twists that don’t quite land, but The Dream Door is consistently imaginative, managing to blend madly creative storytelling with eerily relatable relationship dynamics without ever devolving into a pretentious mess. This, coupled with great performances (Steven Robertson is one of several standouts as the Hodgson’s seemingly friendly neighbor Ian) and some of the best practical effects of the year, make this a must watch for any horror fan.
Channel Zero: The Dream Door is available now on SyFy’s streaming service!