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“You have no idea what’s happening here, do you?”
The first official trailer for Hulu’s Castle Rock closes out with this question, and honestly — it’s a fair point! The upcoming anthology series, based on the works of Stephen King, is currently shrouded in secrecy, no doubt due in large part to the participation of infamous mystery-box builder J.J. Abrams as executive producer. Even after the trailer affords us little more than a minute in the gloomy New England town, very few conclusions as to what this series is actually about can be safely reached — which isn’t to say there aren’t some significant clues about tone and interconnecting stories to glean.
For the uninitiated: Castle Rock takes place in the titular fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine, home to a whole host of supernatural shenanigans. Castle Rock has been featured in numerous King stories over the years, including but not limited to The Dead Zone, Cujo and The Body, the novella that provided the basis for Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me. The Hulu series, bowing in 2018, stands to tie together many of the threads from these stories and beyond, while also unearthing brand-new horrors along the way.
Given its status as a hub in the deeply interconnected Stephen King universe (among the many reasons why devout Dark Tower fans were so displeased with this past summer’s decades-in-the-making film adaptation), Castle Rock already looks like it stands on the back of some classic King material. For instance:
• There are tons of familiar faces from past King adaptations featured in Castle Rock, with no greater example than Carrie herself: Sissy Spacek, starring as a woman named Ruth Deaver, who is the adoptive mother of Moonlight star André Holland’s character Henry Deaver, seen at multiple points in the trailer.
• Another familiar face for the King crowd: Melanie Lynskey, who stars as Molly Strand, described as “a woman with a rare medical condition who’s barely scraping by as a real estate agent in a town where every third property is the site of someone’s worst nightmare.” Not quite two decades ago, the actress was one of the stars of the Rose Red television adaptation, about a haunted mansion in Seattle. Will that haunted house aspect follow Lynskey’s new character, given that she’s a realtor?
• Perhaps the most intriguing King veteran on the board, if only because of recency bias: Bill Skarsgård, whom you might not recognize right away on sight, but you’re certainly aware of his creep factor if you were one of the countless moviegoers who braved It this summer. Skarsgård, of course, played the role of Pennywise the Clown. It does not look like he’s reprising that role here in Castle Rock, seen in an almost catatonic stage at two points in the trailer. If nothing else, then, at least the creepiness remains on full display, even if the drooling smirk and clown makeup are sitting this one out.
• Lost veteran Terry O’Quinn goes unseen in the trailer (unless he’s the Castle Rock mascot?), but he has King credentials of his own by way of 1985’s Silver Bullet. Nothing further to add here, except overall enthusiasm about the erstwhile John Locke getting his Castle Rock on.
• Fresh from his turn as a former law enforcement officer on The Leftovers, veteran actor Scott Glenn once again hops into another literary adaptation as another cop. Here’s at least one character with roots already firmly planted in the King catalogue: Alan Pangborn, a Castle Rock sheriff who has appeared in The Dark Half, The Sun Dog and Needful Things. What’s more, he’s been brought to life twice before, once by Michael Rooker and later by Ed Harris. The Alan Pangborn of Castle Rock is a few paces further down the path than Rooker and Harris’ long ago takes on the character, which makes one wonder what fresh new nightmares this man has weathered over the decades.
• There are countless references to past King works strewn about the Castle Rock trailer, including imagery that very much evokes It, such as views of a well from down below (perhaps a view from a place where everybody floats?) and dilapidated houses with curiously clothed boogeymen (let’s try not to dwell on that scary Michael Myers-looking lunatic) — not to mention the very participation of Skarsgård himself.
• It’s hard not to look at any animal in a King adaptation without Pet Sematary coming to mind, an occasion that arises twice in the trailer when one dog starts barking madly at the camera, following an earlier glimpse at a dog unearthing a poorly buried body.
• That said, the dog imagery is more pressingly evocative of Cujo, King’s devastating story about a deadly dog — a story that just so happens to take place in Castle Rock.
• King famously does not have as much love for Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining as other moviegoers, so any similarities in the Castle Rock trailer are likely accidental — such as the dark fluid flowing down a set of stairs, not unlike the blood pouring out of the elevator and throughout the Overlook Hotel. We also see a corpse’s leg half-hanging out of a bathtub, which brings to mind the unforgettably harrowing Shining bathroom scene.
• The bathroom scene also brings another King work to mind: Dreamcatcher, which features a vicious alien race termed “The Ripley,” and also termed “shit weasels,” due to the fact that they incubate inside of a human host and often burst out into the world via the host’s anus. Don’t count on seeing shit weasels in Castle Rock, even if the trailer gives off low-key shit weasel vibes.
• The Castle Rock trailer ends on its most exciting and provocative note possible: In the final shot, a vehicle sinks into a body of water, with a very loaded decal on the bumper: “Shawshank Department of Corrections,” also known as the prison facility at the heart of The Shawshank Redemption, officially confirmed as a key setting for the series. No, we probably won’t see Andy Dufresne in Castle Rock, but perhaps someone else will find freedom by “crawling through a river of shit” — or perhaps even a river of shit weasels, if we’re lucky.
Castle Rock is set to premiere in 2018 on Hulu.
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