Creepypasta has been around almost since the beginning of the Internet. They are a "genre" of horror stories that are often based around a single image or video, and are most closely linked to urban legends. The most infamous creepypasta is probably Slender Man, a story of a tall, suited, faceless figure who terrorizes people and children, threatening to steal them into his world. The general public became aware of Slender Man after a pair of tweens stabbed a classmate to death in service of Slender Man.
Channel Zero is an ode to creepypasta, without any actual murder. It's second season, subtitled No-End House, is about a haunted house that pops up randomly around the world and offers six floors, each more terrifying than the last. But when visitors think they have escaped the house, it follows them into their real life... or have they even left the house at all?
We spoke with Nick Antosca, the creator of Channel Zero, about why No-End House is so terrifying.
Tell me about the creepypasta that inspired No-End House.
The "No-End House" creepypasta is by Brian Russell. It's one of the most popular creepypastas out there. There's fanfiction, there are sequels, there are fan-made video games for it. From the very beginning, when Channel Zero was green-lit for two seasons, "No-End House" was at the top of my list for stories I wanted to adapt. "No-End House" had everything that we look for in a creepypasta, which is first, a great, core horror concept, then the suggestion of a larger world, filled with dread. So there is a big canvas for us to create more story on. The story of "No-End House" has great possibilities for horror. It's a great world to build from. I think of every season as an expansion of the original story. Every season is the nightmare you have after reading the original creepypasta. Brian's story was just a great foundation.
Sometimes it is hard to source creepypastas to an original author. Did you have any problem attributing No-End House to a creator?
No. Both Candle Cove [the first-season story] and No-End House had clear authors. If we wanted to adapt a story where we didn't know who the author was, I don't know what the procedure would be for that. Maybe we couldn't do it.
At the beginning, I made a list of creepypastas that I loved. Some of them had identifiable authors, some of them didn't. "No-End House" was at the top. Brian Russell actually lives in L.A., I've met him many times, he's a really nice guy. He actually works as a script coordinator on The Exorcist TV show. So he's part of the TV writing community. He's been super-cool about the show. We kept him in the loop. He and I introduced a screening of the pilot at Comic Con this summer. So we try as much as possible to keep the creepypasta authors part of the process. We don't just pluck stories off the internet and adapt them. We find the creators, we pay them, we give them credit on-screen. It's very important to us to acknowledge the origins of the story.
Before watching the first episode, I thought that each level of the house would be a whole episode. But in the first episode, they go through the house and are seemingly done with it by episode's end. Can you preview what the rest of the season will be?
What attracted me most to Brian's story was the idea that you get out of the house, you think you're okay, then you begin to realize that what you perceive to be reality is still the last room of the house. Just like with Candle Cove, we incorporated most of the original story into the first episode, then we go from there. The rooms of the house had to be terrifying, but the scariest thing to me is that you can't trust your reality. That your environment is pulling your most traumatic memories out of your head and using them against you. So in episode two, we start to explore what we call "house world," which is the reality that is created by the house - or may be created by the house - and is highly dangerous. And seductive.
Does the season have a definitive ending?
I would say it has a very definitive ending. The story of the season is really about Margot, this young woman, and her relationship with her dead father and her best friend. Those stories have a complete arc.
Can you talk about working with John Carroll Lynch?
He shows up in the last minute of the pilot. When we hired him, I told him, "Trust me, you only appear in the last scene of this, but let me talk you through the arc of the character, all the way through." Obviously he is a huge part of the show and the season. He was an amazing guy to work with. I had been a fan of his for many years, from Fargo to Zodiac. It was the hardest role to cast because he has to be scary, he has to be sympathetic, he has to be fatherly, he has to be oddly childlike in some episodes....
We needed somebody who could do all that stuff, and John just seemed like the obvious choice. It turned out that he was coming to our show directly off of directing his first film, Lucky. He had a really interesting perspective and was really valuable to have on set. He was such a pro, and such a great mentor to our cast. The rest of our cast is much younger, and they are much earlier in their careers. That was really valuable. They are amazing too. All of them, since they shot Channel Zero, have gotten roles in other shows. Having John there, he was really the "captain" of this cast. It was just a really great season, really great chemistry.
Your career has largely been in the horror genre. What is it about that genre that you feel drawn to?
I think horror allows you to tell elemental stories. The best horror stories are stories about family and relationships. Rosemary's Baby is about a woman being betrayed by her husband. The Shining is about an abusive father. The Exorcist is about losing control of your adolescent daughter. Horror to me provides an incredibly vivid tool for exploring powerful human experiences.
Are there any other creepypastas that you have an eye on for upcoming seasons?
Yes, absolutely! We've been ordered for season three and four. We've already shot season three, so we have the creepypastas for those. I can't reveal what they are yet. I have a long list of other creepypastas that, in a dream world, I would be able to adapt as well.
Do you feel like people know what the term "creepypasta" is, or do you find yourself explaining it a lot?
A lot of people know, but this show is not just for people who know what creepypasta is. You don't have to have heard of these stories to watch the show and be creeped out by it. Ideally, our audience is composed of both. People who like to be scared, people who like character stories, people who appreciate unusual artistic films... I think the show appeals to a wide section. I hope it honors the spirit of the original creepypastas, which we love, and makes fans of those happy.
Channel Zero: No-End House premieres tonight on SYFY.