Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block
Episode Four “Alice In Slaughterland”
Written by Harley Peyton
Directed by Arkasha Stevenson
[All images courtesy Alan Fraser/Syfy]
As with previous episodes of the Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block Party, I recommend you visit Father Son Holy Gore for full, in-depth recaps of each episode (then check out other great recaps at FSHG).
Now let’s take a deep dive into the symbolism and references I noticed in the delectable, disturbing fourth episode of Season Three, “Alice in Slaughterland.” Episode recaps and observations for Seasons One and Two can be found at SciFi4Me.com, and my observations for Episodes One through Three can be found here.
* Channel Zero is not the first to employ a variation on the title of Lewis Carroll’s 1865 masterwork Alice In Wonderland. In the horror/fantasy genre, some recent book titles include Alice In Zombieland (2011) by Lewis Carrol and Nicholas Cook, Alice In Zombieland (Book 1 of The White Rabbit Chronicles) by Gena Showalter (2012), and Alice by Christina Henry (2015). I haven’t had a chance to read the Showalter series yet, but recommend Cook’s version, with its fantastic John Tenniel-inspired illustrations, and Henry’s depiction of an Alice abandoned and forgotten in an insane asylum.
*Our Cannibals Are Different Through the first three episodes, the Texas Chain Saw Massacre style “Cannibalism as a Political Metaphor” has dominated Butcher’s Block like the Peach family dominates the town of Garrett. In Episode Four, “All in the Family Cannibalism” seen in movies like Raw (2016) and both versions of We Are What We Are (MX 2010, US 2013) becomes an equally strong theme. The situational/survival cannibalism variant (the 1972 The Andes Mountain Crash/Alive, The Donner Party, Ravenous/Albert Packer) is has not made an appearance yet, and probably won’t through the final three episodes.
“Wait a minute!” I can almost hear you saying, “Are you telling me there are sub-sub-genres within the Cannibalism sub-genre of the Horror genre?” Yes, there are.
*The “pay attention to this & here’s a flashback so you know it’s important” shot of a dismembered hand on a plate of meat at the end of Episode Two reminded me of that unforgettable finger atop plate of fries in The Hitcher (Dir. Robert Harmon 1986 & starring Rutger Hauer). Thanks, Butcher’s Block – I shouldn’t be eating French Fries anyway!
*Joseph Peach (Rutger Hauer) fancies himself a serene gentleman farmer, quietly tending his human garden. Quite a contrast to Farmer Vincent in Motel Hell (1980 Dir. Kevin Connor), who can’t keep his garden of still-alive victims under control.
*The so-dark-it’s a black hole comedy of Louise (Krisha Fairchild) & Luke (Brandon Scott) disposing of the body ends with one head in a bowling bag – very similar to Eight Heads in a Duffel Bag (1997 Dir. Tom Schulman).
*The auto-cannibalism and self-harm of Zoe Woods (Holland Roden) have roots in reality; a fictional example can be found in the Stephen King short story “Survivor Type” (from his 1985 collection Skeleton Crew).
Now for the Religious Stuff
(which is stuffed in this episode like a holiday Turducken).
*Alice (Olivia Luccardi) to Zoe as Alpha and Omega? This could be a reference to Revelation 1:8 – “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
*According to Luke’s dad, Joseph Peach promised Deputy Chief Vancyk (Tyrone Benskin) he could acheive everything his heart desired – for a price. He may have a “landlord,” but here Joseph Peach acts as Satan, a la the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4:8-9 “Next, taking him to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. And he said to him, I will give you all these, if you fall at my feet and do me homage.”
*If Luke had paid more attention to the picture behind him in the hallway at Dad’s House, he might’ve noticed HOW VERY MUCH it looks like Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. It’s very appropriate that Butcher’s Block is airing during the Lenten season; the first reading at 2/25 Mass for the 2nd Sunday of Lent featured this reading.
*Edie Peach (Diana Bentley) has some of the best lines foreshadowing and referring to sacrifice and rebirth.
*In Episode Three Edie assures Zoe, “There’s a place for you at our table, and there is a room for you in our home,” and in this episode she remarks,“The House is a lot bigger on the inside than it looks.” Both lines recall John 14:2 “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.”
*Another Edie-ism at lunch keys into the overarching theme of this episode and Butcher’s Block as a whole. “It’s like every day is Easter around here, you know?” With Aldous Peach as a possible betrayer, the Peach family lunch (and their later wine sharing) may be their “Last Supper,” resembling the following passage from the Gospel of Luke.
14 When the hour came, he took his place at table with the apostles. 15 He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover* with you before I suffer, 16 for, I tell you, I shall not eat it [again] until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” 17 Then he took a cup,* gave thanks, and said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; 18 for I tell you [that] from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.“
A few after-dinner musings –
*Robert Peach’s (Andreas Apergis) hospital murder music in “All You Ghost Mice”? Mozart Piano Sonata No. 11.
*Is Alice traversing an endless field of Goldenrod?
*In end of episode, the portrait of two sisters alone changes into one of the sisters with the rest of the Peach family.
*Louise Linspector is missing a portion of her right index finger.
*While Joseph describes the house as “Our little plantation at the top of the food chain.” But Joseph Peach and the Gardner (Julian Richings) both note that their landlord/boss “… is a bit of a prick.” Later at lunch it’s noted that “the rent is almost due.” The Pestilent God doesn’t strike me as the most forgiving of property owners.
*Alice meets three people on the way to the House (Joseph Peach, The Gardnder and Izzy) before encountering three doors.
*Louise Linspector, master of the morbid quip. “I’ve got a dead Peach in my basement and he ‘aint gonna keep.”
*Connection between S2/S3 – eating something in the underworld? Alice drinks the wine, Zoe has not eaten any food in the underworld “upstairs” – only her own flesh.
*Forgot to note the last episode’s memorable nod to the Checking In to the Creepy, Soon-to-be-Closed Hospital of Death trope featured in such horror movies as The Void (Dir. Jeremy Gillespie, Steven Kostanski, 2016), and Infection (Dir. Masayuki Ochiai, 2004)
*Due to his bloody death in Episode Three, we bid a sad farewell for to adorably earnest social worker Nathan (Aaron Merke, aka Red Baseball Cap Guy in Season Two’s “This Is Not Real.” He joins Season One’s Deputy Adorkable (Bruce Novakowski) and J.D. (S2) (Seamus Patterson) in the Channel Zero Hall of Memorable Supporting Characters We Lost Too Soon Due to Plot Requirements.
*Kidney Parfait and Ear Wafer, anyone?