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“There are other worlds than these” is one of the more memorable lines from The Gunslinger, the first novel in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. And it’s something the film adaptation takes to heart.
King has referred to his series of eight fantasy books as his magnum opus and has used The Dark Tower to tie together many of his other seemingly unrelated works. In the novel, the Dark Tower itself is a gateway between many of King’s works. So naturally, with the film adaptation, there are plenty of references to his other stories scattered throughout.
Here are 10 of the King Easter eggs littered throughout The Dark Tower, which stars Idris Elba as the gunslinger Roland and Matthew McConaughey as the man in black. (Screengrabs via this handy trailer.)
Early in the film, Jake (Tom Taylor) is forced into therapy because of all the visions he’s having. You know, the whole battle for good vs. evil spanning multiple dimensions of space and time visions. When his therapists tries to explain to him that his visions are just dreams, there’s a small earthquake (actually caused by the Man in Black’s attacks on the tower). As the desk moves, we see a shaking picture frame featuring an image of the Overlook Hotel from The Shining. Apparently the therapist has some connection to the events from there. After all, all work and no play makes a therapist a dull boy.
Some people are also speculating a shot of two twins (who are prisoners of the Man in Black and seen early in the film outside The Dark Tower) are a reference to the Grady Twins from The Shining.
A big set piece in the film features an old, rundown amusement park. Roland has no idea what the old amusement park rides are, from a time before Mid-World moved on. In a wide shot, we see a big sign that says “Pennywise” with a clown hand and balloons. This is the name and trademark of the evil clown in It that moviegoers will once again see in September, when a new adaptation will hit theaters.
The Man In Black is seen here with a copy of “Misery’s Child,” which is the name of Paul Sheldon’s (James Caan) romance novel that Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) had become so consumed with in the King novel and 1990 film about a woman who kidnaps an author so he can write stories for her.
The Shawshank Redemption
In one shot, we see Idris Elba’s gunslinger opening a door with an iconic poster of Rita Hayworth. This is the same poster that Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins in the 1994 movie) uses to cleverly hide the hole he made in his cell to tunnel out of the prison.
Numbers are significant in King’s works, and his short story about a haunted hotel room gets a little reference in the film. The Gunslinger and Jake travel through portals throughout the film, that are numbered (the first one being numbered 19-19 — the number 19 is key to the Dark Tower books, with Roland and his group seeing it often for not totally clear reasons). Later, to travel to from Mid-World to Keystone Earth, Jake and The Gunslinger travel through a portal labeled 14-08.
Children of the Corn
In one shot, we can see Jake wandering through a corn field, after the Man in Black’s attack on the friendly village has left it in flames. The cornfield imagery is a clear reference to Stephen King’s 1977 short story about a creepy town whose children are involved in a killer cult.
The New York on Keystone Earth feels like our world … but given the fact that it’s also inhabited by monsters with fake human faces and who kidnap children, it also feels like a world where King’s horrors could take place. Here, we see the a St. Bernard being walked down the street, the same breed as the killer dog Cujo, the subject of the 1981 novel about a rabid killer dog.
The eponymous killer of King’s 2014 detective novel Mr. Mercedes uses a similar evil smiley face as his killing token, leaving it at every crime. The Man in Black seemingly takes a little from many of the villains of King’s novels — with him painting a smiley face on Jake’s room after killing the boy’s mother.
Stephen King’s 1983 novel about a killer 1958 Plymouth Fury can be seen referenced here, only in toy form in Jake’s bedroom.
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