Castle Rock has been on my “Must Watch” list ever since HULU first premiered the trailer for its original series back in late October of 2017. Black protagonist? Horror/Thriller? Stephen King? SHAWSHANK? Count me in! I put it in my queue then forgot about it until about a week before its premiere date.
Castle Rock is set in Stephen King’s iconic fictional town in Main and is the home of some of King’s most famous works such as Cujo, Needful Things, and The Dead Zone among others. The HULU original series, tells the story of Henry Deaver, played by André Holland who is called back to his hometown when a mysterious young man found locked in an abandoned block in Shawshank prison utters his name and nothing else. This event follows the prison warden committing suicide in one of the most gruesome ways I’ve seen in a while.
Henry sets out to help the boy but is haunted by his own past with the town of Castle Rock. The opening image of the show gives us the backstory that Henry went missing for 11 days when he was a child only to be discovered in the woods with no memory of what happened to him. This is made worse by the fact that he is blamed for his adoptive father’s death during Henry’s disappearance.
Beyond that, the town is filled with all the things that make a great Stephen King story. A dying town filled with secrets, bizarre kids who govern themselves, psychics, and of course the boy in the cage.
The nameless boy found in the abandoned cell block is played by Bill Skarsgard and though he has very few lines, he is one of the most intriguing parts of the series. There’s definitely something supernatural going on with him and it’s implied that he’s the Devil though I hope the explanation isn’t that simple. So far, he’s induced hallucinations in a prison guard, caused rapid and fatal cancer growths in a cellmate, and as of the last episode, he’s at the root of a mass shooting in the prison, all without leaving his cell.
Sorry Andy Dufresne, but I think this kid is Shawshank’s newest Most Interesting Prisoner.
My thoughts so far:
I’ve been a Stephen King fan for as long as I can remember. I don’t remember the first Stephen King adapted movie I ever saw, but I would wager that it was either Carrie or Christine and Sleepwalkers is one of the reasons I have my beloved cat, Bailey.
During my first night alone in my apartment in college, I foolishly read “The Man in the Black Suit.” I don’t know what the fuck I was thinking. I ended up sleeping with all the lights on and a knife under my pillow for fear that the man with serrated teeth would chase me through the house and make fun of me for “peeing lemonade.” I love that story, but I never read it again. King is one of the few authors that truly scared me to my core. I’m hoping it’ll happen again with Castle Rock and so far, this nameless boy is giving me some Man in the Black Suit vibes.
Though I’ve been seeing a lot of praise for the new King inspired series, one of the criticisms I’ve seen about Castle Rock is that the creators are trying to jam in too many King references and polluting the story.
I don’t know if people are being nitpicky or if critics really feel that way, but I have to disagree. I see it like this:
If you’re a super King fan and see all the Easter eggs then you’ll appreciate and enjoy the abundance of nostalgia. If you only know a few King classics then you’ll probably see a few nods to works here and there and feel cool for recognizing them. If you’ve never seen or read a King story then none of it matters to you and you’re just enjoying a well done (so far) supernatural mystery. No harm, no foul.
I fall into the middle category above. I’ve read quite a few King works (mostly his short stories) I’ve watched even more of them, but even so, the man is so prolific that I’m nowhere near reading all of them. I like the way King references are fitting into Castle Rock so far. Nothing feels too forced yet. Nothing has interrupted my attention to the story at hand. In fact, I think it’s making me pay closer attention because I don’t want to miss any Easter eggs. It’s like a weekly scavenger hunt.
More stuff that I like:
- I absolutely LOVE that Sissy Spacek has a role in the movie. I’m sure all Carrie fans agree.
2. Bill Skarsgard.
I used to think that Bill Skarsgard was just the goofy looking youngest brother of the Skarsgard clan, but his acting in this show has been nothing short of brilliant. Like I said, the boy doesn’t have many lines so Skarsgard is relying on facial expressions and body language. His movements are creepy. His posture evokes sympathy, but his eyes… his eyes illicit unease. That’s a lot to accomplish all without saying much.
Also, maybe it’s my attraction to tall men with dark dispositions, but I’m starting to think Bill is kinda hot.
3. The supernatural stuff.
One thing that I really hate with some horror and fantasy stories is when it seems as if there is a mystical or supernatural element in the story only to find out that there is a perfectly reasonable, scientific, or psychological explanation for things. The Exorcism of Emily Rose did this, and I will never forgive it for wasting my goddamned time.
I want ghosts! I want demons! Bring on the ancient curses and werewolves! If there’s a girl with powers, I’m all in.
So far, the resident psychic on the show, Molly Strand, played by Melanie Lynskey is the only confirmed supernatural force on the show. All the stuff with the boy is only implied and can possibly be explained away later on though I’m hoping not.
Even so, there’s a psychic here and if you’ve read or seen The Dead Zone, Rose Red, or The Shining, that usually means something magical and sinister is afoot.
That scene with those masked kids holding a trial in episode 3 was downright disturbing and everything I want in a show. MORE. OF. THIS.
Stuff I’m on the fence about:
- This is super personal and also nitpicky, but the actor who plays Henry Deaver looks a lot like my dad. Like a better-looking version. He has the same eternal five o’clock shadow, the same shape eyes, same skin tone, same nose, even his mouth is similar. If André Holland was just a few inches taller and a little fatter, I would swear my father had given up his life of scamming and picked up acting. My dad’s an incredible liar so I’m sure he could pull it off. He’d win an Oscar in no time. Or steal and pawn it.
Anyway, every time I see Henry onscreen I can’t get over the resemblance. It’s a little unsettling. I wish the actor would just fucking shave or get a haircut and I’m sure that would take care of the problem, but I think the show is going for that haggard look for Henry, so I doubt it.
Anyway, this unintentional and totally random problem makes me suspicious of Henry’s character even though I doubt that I’m supposed to be. I think he’s guilty of something and not what the town is accusing him of. I think he’s lying about something. I’m just not sure what it is or if it’s because of the character or my own strange Daddy issues.
That’s it, though. That’s my only qualm. The main character looks like my stupid dad.
Other than that, I think the show is brilliant. The atmosphere is dark and ominous, the acting is incredible, and though the last episode started out slow, it ended with a huge BANG.
If you love Stephen King, or supernatural thrillers, or towns with curses, or haunting prisons or tall creepy men that are hiding dark secrets, Castle Rock is for you.
Check out the trailer here:
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