“Castle Rock” is a foray into the demented universe of Stephen King’s numerous books and it sells quite well.
The series, created by Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason, stars Andre Holland as Henry Matthew Deaver, a criminal attorney and native of the town of Castle Rock, who returns to the town after a long time away. The film also features Stephen King alumna Sissy Spacek as Ruth Deaver, Henry’s mother who has an advanced case of Alzheimer’s disease. The town centers around the chaos that ensues in Castle Rock, Maine when the warden of Shawshank Prison kills himself and a secret prisoner the warden kept in a secret bunker is found.
The series totally reads as Stephen King even without the constant references to Stephen King’s stories. There are tasteful references to the famous stories of Stephen King’s like “Cujo” or “Children of the Corn,” and there are even some well-hidden references. One large reference is King’s concept of the “Shining,” or a mystical otherworldly force that allows supernatural things to occur. Much like King’s novels, the characters in the show are not vehemently aware of the true nature of events until it is too late.
In terms of pacing, the show does lack a little. Within the first few episodes, there are many untimely deaths of characters, especially characters who are beginning to seem important to the overall story. This could be a clever storytelling technique or it could be lazy direction. Either way, it comes off a little uncomfortable which is perfectly in line with Stephen King and his stories.
It should be noted that the show is not simply a parade of Stephen King references. It’s a fully formed story with its own characters and some are references to other King characters, but you’re not going to find any characters that are directly out of King’s stories.
The series sets itself apart by being just genuinely creepy. The episodes saunter on with not much leading as to where the story is going to go that particular episode, and it works to show the creepiness in psychological horror. It’s a penchant of Stephen King’s style that the show’s creators were clearly cognizant of. Of course having Stephen King on as an executive producer certainly helps.
The show certainly has its faults, though. There are some episodes where it feels like the writing team are trying to push the references to King’s stories on the audience. There is a sequence that clearly parallels “Children of the Corn” where a group of kids are running a murder trial in paper masks and shouting very adult things at another child who is “on trial.” The scene feels forced because it doesn’t have anything to do with “Children of the Corn” in all actuality. It’s just used as an aesthetic prop and is disconnected from the source material.
Ultimately, it’s a great show that deserves a binge before the second season premieres on Oct. 23. “Castle Rock” receives a B-minus rating.