TV REVIEW: There's always room at the NO-END HOUSE!
I never saw season one of SY-FY’s original series, Channel Zero. For that matter, I had never heard of the show until this week, but now I’m fascinated by the six-episode anthology series. The premises of this horror series is in the style of TV shows like Fargo and American Horror Story, each season is a self-contained story line with characters created to inhabit that season’s universe. This season the story is Channel Zero: No-End House.
Series creator Nick Antosca based this season on a short-story called "The No-End House" by Brian Russell, a dark tale about a man who is trapped in a house where he sees dark reflections of himself. No-End House, the TV show, follows a pair of friends, Margot, played by Amy Forsyth. and her best friend Jules, played by Australian-born actress Aisha Dee when they are lured into the No-End House and must find a way to escape.
Spoiler alert: This review is very spoilery, so don't proceed if you don't want to know details of the show!
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Episode one: This isn’t real: As the story opens, we learn that Margot’s father, played by John Carroll Lynch, died the year before and Margot has been unable to move beyond that. Jules returns home from her first year of college and as the two are sitting around talking they get a strange video on their phones for something called “The No-End House.” Writing it off as a prank, Jules takes Margot out for a night on the town where the meet Seth, played by Jeff Ward. Seth askes the women if they’ve heard of the No-End House.
Seth, who seems very knowledgeable on the subject, explains that No-End House is basically part traveling carnival haunted house and part urban myth. People who enter the house go through six rooms, each scarier than the last. Most people get so freaked however, they leave before getting to room six, but supposedly those who have made it to room six, have never returned. When the address of where the house will next appear pops up on Margot’s TV, the group decides to go see it.
When they arrive, there is already a crowd of people waiting to get inside. Margot, Jules, and Seth fall into a group with a man named Mike Painter, played by Paul Schneider. Mike seems more dressed to go on a long hike and not like someone there to see a high-end fun house. On his left forearm is a series of words are cut into his skin that reads “THIS IS NOT REAL!”
The group goes through the first four rooms together, but then they are each separated by a revolving door right before room five. Inside room five, Margot ends up in a room that looks like her living room at home. Sitting on the sofa is what looks like a life-sized crude representation of her father. Margot heads out the exit door, deciding she doesn’t want to see room six. Outside, she finds Jules already waiting for her.
But when they decide to go home, they find that Jules’ car won’t start and they can’t get a cell signal. Margot tells Jules that her father didn’t die from an allergic reaction to his medication, but committed suicide instead. After walking home, they arrive at Margot’s house only to find her father, John, making breakfast.
Episode Two: Nice Neighborhood: After getting over the initial shock of finding John, Jules tries to convince Margot that they must leave. But Margot wants to stay and learn how this is possible. Jules heads off on her own.
Meanwhile, Mike has found his wife and we learn that Mike and his wife had once gone into the house, but somehow Mike escaped and he has been trying to find his way back to rescue his wife ever since.The only problem is, Mike’s wife doesn’t know who he is.
Jules discovers a large egg-shaped balloon and feels compelled to touch it, even though she is afraid of it.
After spending a day of getting used to having her dead father back, Margot goes to bed. As she sleeps, John walks into her room and touches her head. Down in the basement, the body of Margot’s mother appears in a small pool of blood. John goes into the basement and begins to eat Margot’s mother.
Episode Three: Beware the Cannibals: Margot gets away from her father and then finds Seth and Jules before joining up again with Mike. Mike explains about how his wife was trapped in the house and that they are all now in room six. Mike also explains that the people they are meeting inside the room are in fact a type of cannibal that can take the memories of their victims and make those memories flesh before eating the memories.
Mike then tells them that he knows how to get out of the house. Seth asks Mike about his wife and Mike says that he believes that she will start to remember once she is free of the house.
Episode Four: The Reflection: Mike explains that the only way home is back through the house on their side of room six. Mike starts to lead them to the house, even as the cannibals follow them. Once the group makes it onto a grassy field that leads to some woods, the cannibals stop, something about the field makes the cannibals afraid. All except John, who follows.
The only way out is through a corn maze, inside of which, several cannibals are trapped because the people whose memories they were feeding on, have escaped. The cannibals will continue to exist as long as their ‘persons’ are still alive. It’s at this point that Seth reveals to Margot that he isn’t a cannibal, but lives inside the house ever since a tragic event in his own life.
Margot tells the others then stops Mike from beating the crap out of Seth, because Mike thinks Seth is spying on them for the house. Seth tries to convince Margot to stay and he can show her how to survive in the house, but she refuses.
After getting through the corn maze, the group finds the house. Mike tells them to go on, because he’s going to stay behind and burn the house down. Mike doesn’t get a chance, he is killed by John, who then lumbers after the girls and follows them into the real world.
Episode Five: Damages (Previously titled ‘Home’.) After returning to the real world, Jules and Margot trying to figure what happens next. Both have large holes in their memories. Margot can barely remember her mother and Jules has lost all memories of her family. Soon however, John catches up with them, followed by Seth who saves the girls before John can feed on anymore of Margot’s memories.
They then must decide what to do about the cannibal. Margot and Seth decide to take him back to the No-End House. Unable to shake her fears of the house and the egg-like thing inside, Jules slips away. But when she realizes she can’t let Margot face the danger alone, she goes after them. Margot, Seth and John enter the house once more and the house vanishes once Jules arrives to go with them.
Episode Six: The Hollowed-Out Girl. (Originally titled, 'Piece by Piece') It’s been some months since Margot reentered the house. She has settled into a routine of feeding John a few of her memories each day and living a life of domestic tranquility with Seth. Meanwhile, Jules has taken up Mike’s mantle as ‘House Hunter’. When she learns that the house is Quebec, Canada, Jules heads there and finds Seth standing in line.
Seth leads Jules through the house where he shows her what happened to his cannibals, he keeps them trapped in a cage so they can’t get to him. The house made cannibals that were an idealized version of his family in the real world, but he now keeps them locked in a cage after feeding them all of his bad memories of his life in the real world. Jules demands to see Margot, but instead Seth traps her in a basement with the egg-shaped thing. Jules manages to kill the egg-shape cannibal and then discovers Seth’s secret.
After Margot expresses a desire to keep the house from feeding on more people, Seth expresses concern to John. John is indifferent about the house, because once it hollows Margot out, he will cease to exist anyway.
This show was really fun to watch. Forsyth and Dee make a great combination. Their chemistry is so good, I could actually believe that they really were lifelong friends. John Carrol Lynch, who has played everything from serial killers to loving fathers is amazing in this role. I think he’s good in anything you put him in, but this time he really brings his 'A' game, by creating an emotional realism that makes the viewer really feel for him. Jeff Ward is also a very charismatic villain just like he was when he played Charles Manson in the Lifetime Movie Manson’s Women, which told the story of how Manson seduced young women into his cult. Seth plays that part again, but in a subtler way. Seth is like a grown-up Peter Pan who has grown-up needs but never really grows beyond his boyish ways of doing things to get what he wants.
The cinematography itself really fits into the world of No-End House. Director Stephen Piet uses a dreamy filter combined with wide shots to capture the environment to room six and make it an active character throughout the series. One can’t help but think of the original film version of The Shinning as they watch No-End House.
Piet might be channeling Stanley Kubrick or David Lynch while making this show. But unlike Lynch, Piet doesn’t have that lazy story-telling style that forces the audience to fill in the blanks the way Lynch seems to on Twin Peaks. Rather, he shows you the weirdness and then tries to explain it without slowing down the show.
All and all, this show is an A+. SY-FY has already greenlit season three and I’m already looking forward to the next series.