Hulu’s Castle Rock, while based in Stephen King’s fictional town, is distinctly creepy and great in its own right. Despite the setting, the storyline isn’t from any of King’s works. And while the show certainly has many easter eggs connecting to various parts of King’s universe, it’s a completely new story, though just as horrific. Dustin Thomason and Sam Shaw embrace everything we know and love about Stephen King, but it doesn’t feel like a cheap copy. With Stephen King’s blessing, the creators have full permission to grab aspects of his work and twist it into something new.
It Ties Into King’s Universe Beautifully
While it is set in the town of Castle Rock, the big mystery forms inside Shawshank State Penitentiary, a place well-known to both hardcore Stephen King fans and people who might not be into any of his other work. Many people believe Shawshank Redemption to be one of the best movies of all time. It currently stands at number one on IMDb’s list of top rated movies. But while that movie is purely a drama, Castle Rock drags the prison firmly into King’s world of science fiction/horror.
There’s many references to his other works, such as a newspaper article that reads, “Rabid Dog Tears Through Town” (as in Cujo), or a character named Jackie Torrance, like the Torrances of The Shining. As of right now, Jane Levy, who plays Jackie, says that her character is related to them in some way. But it’s unclear if its familial or not. King’s short story The Body is also set in Castle Rock.
The show also features one of King’s original characters, Sheriff Alan Pangborn (played by Scott Glenn). He’s the protagonist of Stephen King’s book Needful Things. As the sheriff of Castle Rock, he works to stop Leland Gaunt, a being who manipulates people through the objects in his shop. In Hulu’s show he’s an old man, and no longer sheriff. The rest of the characters in the show are all new, but they fit well into the creepy town of Castle Rock.
The Cast Is Amazing
How did they manage to get all these talented people together on one project? I’m sure Stephen King and J.J. Abrams working together is quite the draw. The show has actors new and old, with many being long-time fixtures of horror/sci-fi television and film. Sissy Spacek, of Carrie fame, may be the biggest star for King fans. Then there’s Scott Glenn, most recently in Daredevil and The Leftovers, and Terry O’Quinn, famous for Lost, which was created by J.J. Abrams.
The show stars André Holland and Bill Skarsgård at the front. Holland got a lot of recognition recently for playing Kevin in Moonlight. He’s also had his share of horror with American Horror Story: Roanoke. Skarsgård is unrecognizable as Pennywise in last year’s It, and he will reprise the role for It: Chapter Two, which is just beginning production. Other known actors featured include Melanie Lynskey and Jane Levy, the latter having starred in the 2013 remake of Evil Dead.
The Plot Pulls You In
In Castle Rock, while exploring ruined hall F of Shawshank State Penitentiary, a guard finds a young man in a cage, referred to only as “The Kid” (Bill Skarsgård). It’s unclear how long he’s been down there. The prison closed the cell block 30 years ago after a fire. The Kid is strange and silent, and they have no record of him anywhere. The only thing he says to them is the name “Henry Deaver.” Deaver is a lawyer who grew up in the town before moving away (André Holland).
The prison wants to make the whole situation disappear, but the morally sound prison guard Zalewski (Noel Fisher) secretly calls Deaver. He tells him about The Kid, asking for his help. The show then begins the long game of connecting all the different characters introduced, frequently through flashbacks. Much like Derry, Castle Rock is a town filled with mystery and death, and living there brings trouble. So when Henry Deaver comes back to his hometown, bad history is brought up, and new horrors soon start.
The show is an anthology series, like American Horror Story or The Sinner. The mystery of Deaver and The Kid will be wrapped up by the end of the first season, and another story will feature in Season 2. It will be set in the same town but with a new cast of characters. For Season 1, Hulu has just released the first three episodes this week. The rest of the episodes will release weekly on Wednesdays.
(Featured Image: Hulu)