Channel Zero Butcher’s Block deals with some pretty weird monsters and a very strange family and at the same time it deals with a very serious mental illness that has a life changing impact. In this article these themes and creatures will be connected.
Zoe and Alice Woods
The story evolves around two sisters Alice and Zoe. They both have had a traumatic childhood due to the illness of their mother who suffers from schizophrenia. At age 26 Zoe was also diagnosed with this illness and now Alice is afraid she will too in time. For her it is not a question if, but when.
Alice has to take care of Zoe and while she studies to be a social worker she has found a job as such in a town called Garrett. At her first case a young girl Izzy disappears and it might have everything to do with the Peach family who lived in the neighborhood in the fifties. Zoe and Alice’s landlady Louise can tell her all about them and the missing persons, who have disappeared over the years.
The Peach family
The Peach family owned the meat factory and the slaughterhouse in Garrett and the neighborhood was called Butcher’s Block. But it wasn’t the only meat they dealt in. They were accused of performing occult rituals and Joseph’s two daughters were killed by a mob. They set their house in Medallion Park on fire and since then nobody has heard of the remaining Peach family.
Joseph Peach was the only son of Ruth and Warner Peach. He married Evelina and had two sons, Robert who married Edie, and Aldous, and a daughter Amelia. Robert and Edie had a disfigured child Smart Mouth.
Their whole lives evolves around meat. Making money with meat, eating meat, sacrificing meat and they even have a Meat Servant, a strange creature. They serve the Pestilent God who lives in Slaughterland which is accessible by a big white marble stairs that reaches into that other plane and is situated in Medallion Park. The Pestilent God lets them live there forever if they sacrifice a little girl or person every year. That is why there are so many missing persons, and now Izzy is abducted.
Zoe has visions and hallucinations about the Pestilent God and she is lured by Joseph to join the Peach family in Slaughterland. He even promises her to cure her from schizophrenia, all she has to do is join them and eat raw meat. When she finds out what the real price is, Izzy’s sacrifice, she does anything in her power to stop them.
But she’s not the only one who is lured by Joseph. Alice falls victim to his promises too. He promises her to cure her from her fear and that she will never suffer from schizophrenia. Her fear is so great that she gives in. Her fear of the unknown is bigger than the fear Zoe has of never being “normal” again. Zoe has accepted that it’s part of who she is, for it can’t be cured without a terrible price she’s doesn’t want to pay.
Fear as a monster
Alice in contrast sees schizophrenia as a big monster that will destroy her life and who she is. For her it’s just a matter of time. That’s why her monster is Scuttling Father Time, a creepy creature that pops up everywhere in different shapes but always with her own head enlarged. It’s coming after her and she doesn’t know how much time she has left. Joseph preys on that fear. She’s an easier victim than Zoe. For her falling prey to that awful illness is unbearable.
But the fear of dying, and so giving their lives to the Pestilent God, caused Robert and Edie having disfigured children who became monsters who lured and kidnapped innocent children for their sacrifices. Their offspring have become monsters in the flesh.
The Peaches deal with meat. It sustains them in many ways. It’s just another way to chew a sacrifice. But it’s also a symbol. Schizophrenia can feel like it eats away the real person. It devours ones personality, changing it. For Alice it feels like a tumor that can be cut away. And that’s also what Joseph is planning to do with Zoe, cut away the tumor/schizophrenia.
Zoe even does it to herself. She carves off a piece of herself and eats it. Like she’s eating away that part of her that doesn’t belong. Just like the illness ate away a piece of her. It’s all very carnal and symbolical, but very disturbing. It feels like eat or be eaten.
It’s what the Peaches did for years to live an eternal but strange life. Until Zoe finally makes amends with herself, her mother and schizophrenia. Accepting it as a part of her. It not only frees her, but also frees Izzy and devours the Peaches. She isn’t cured, she still doesn’t know who the real Zoe is, but just accepting it as a part of her, not who she is, gives her the strength to stand up to a carnal world.
L’enfer c’est les autres
The story has a very existential philosophical tone. It asks who you are, with or without an illness and who the real person behind that illness is or if that is the real person. It is handled on a very personal level where identity is intertwined with fear and mental illness and horror.
Schizophrenia itself is not the monster Alice thought it was. And it doesn’t make a person a monster either. It makes life harder and it feels unjust and can make you feel mistreated by life or others.
While the Peaches are trapped by their own deeds, living in their eternal heaven or hell, Alice places herself in that hell by feeling that she herself as the helpless victim, sustained by fear. In Slaughterland she is doomed to bare her deeds forever. Alice has become dependent of the Peach’s way of life to exist.
But Zoe takes control over her own life and thoughts about that life. Instead of letting others make her believe she is less of a person due to her illness, in spite of what people think of her, she now knows she is the one who decides her own actions and thoughts about herself. In fact the Peaches taught her to see herself differently, and this was the exact opposite of what they wanted to accomplish.
Others can hold up a mirror which saved Zoe and doomed Alice. We can stare at that mirror forever, get lost in in, dwell in it, or learn from it, accept it and move on, how hard it may be. It’s just an image, and a reflection of the real you, not the real you itself, if there is even such a real person.