Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block– Episode 4: “Alice in Slaughterland”
Starring: Holland Roden, Olivia Luccardi, Krisha Fairchild, Brandon Scott, Rutger Hauer, Julian Richings, Diana Bentley, Angela Narth, Bradley Sawatzky, and Quinton Boisclair
Written by: Harley Peyton
Directed by: Arkasha Stevenson
Review by Justin Partridge
”Let’s toast. To the family.”
Butcher’s Block starts to show its cards in its busy fourth episode, “Alice in Slaughterland.” Zoe has taken her seat at the Peach family dinner table, it is up to Alice to ascend the mysterious staircase and enter the Peach’s domain to save her. But, as the aptly macabre title suggests, that is easier said than done. Especially, when you’re being relentlessly stalked by the personification of your own mental illness through a seemingly endless field of flowers.
Though the episode’s trisected structure saps away some of the momentum, this season has enjoyed throughout its opening three episodes. “Alice in Slaughterland” keeps Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block on steady legs. Thanks to more powerful performances from its leading ladies, beautiful production design, and that ever-present sense of delicious dread that radiates from the screen as you watch.
Everybody has something to do this week on Channel Zero. Up in the Peach’s “Summer House,” Zoe (Holland Roden) is taking her first family lunch with the Peaches, played with unsettling civility by Diana Bentley, Angela Narth, Bradley Sawatzky. On the outside, Alice (Olivia Luccardi) heads down a creepy rabbit hole on her own. She’s barreling through a field of flowers (that are decidedly NOT real flowers). She shares scenes with the legendary Rutger Hauer and well-known character actor Julian Richings (Death from Supernatural!) and attempts to stay one step ahead of a new incarnation of her schizophrenia (one that looks an awful lot like Candle Cove’s Skin Taker puppet).
Meanwhile, back in the real world, Louise and Luke contend with Robert Peach. Luke killed him last week in a sudden act of defiance, but who just won’t seem to stay dead. That is… until Louise straight up cuts off his head with one of her gnarly looking taxidermy tools. Giving the episode and the season overall one of its most palpable “Fuck Yeah!” moments embodied by the unflappable Krisha Fairchild.
As a viewer, it is nice to see the entire cast getting juicy material to chew over. Material provided by series writer/producer Harley Peyton. Better still, episode four is yet another tremendous showcase of Arkasha Stevenson’s ability to generate tension, only to pop it like a bloody balloon once she gets the most out of the scene. Roden and Luccardi also deliver two more brava performances. They hold their own against the genre legend Hauer and supporting their own separate plots like true veterans. The pair continue to imbue the sisters with engaging empathy amid all the creepiness and casual cannibalism. It’s making the sisters feel like real people instead of just empty “Final Girls.”
All that said, however, “Alice in Slaughterland” is definitely the slowest episode of the season to date with a large part of that slowness emanating from the scenes of Alice attempting to reach the house. Peyton’s script starts to give up the goods in regards to the sister’s past. Presented again in rawly dramatic flashbacks, as well as dropping hints about the Peach Family’s deals with city officials. It entails why exactly they are obsessed with bringing Alice and Zoe into their midst, and an unseen “landlord” that makes their impossible plantation possible. The episode never fully gets up to the speed that the previous episodes did.
Think of “Alice in Slaughterland” as this season’s first (and hopefully only) “table-setting” episode. With only two more episodes left in this series, I am confident that episode four will be only a slight dip in quality as it prepares for its final course.
Verdict: Say It With Me Now, WATCH IT. The episode might not move as quickly as the previous ones. There is still nothing like Butcher’s Block on TV. Filled to bursting with immensely talented women, “Alice in Slaughterland” continues the show’s unflinching commitment to filtering trauma through the horror genre as well as its distinctive look, tone, and feel. Basically, if this is this season’s “worst” episode, then it is already one for the record books.
Until next time, fellow nightsisters. Be seeing you.