"It" star Bill Skarsgard will be seen in "Castle Rock," another project from the Stephen King universe, on Hulu starting Wednesday. File Photo by Serena Xu-Ning/UPI | License Photo
July 24 (UPI) -- Hulu's new series Castle Rock is both an Easter egg-strewn extravaganza for hardcore fans of Stephen King's creepy canon, as well as solid suspense entertainment for the uninitiated.
Executive produced by J.J. Abrams, the 10-part drama is based on an original story set in the fictional Maine town where many of King's horror stories take place.
Those familiar with his macabre tales and the movies they inspired will get a kick out of the familiar people, places and events casually mentioned by new characters or glimpsed in prominently placed newspaper clippings or signs throughout the show.
Among the works referenced in early episodes of Castle Rock are the short stories "The Body" and "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption," and the books The Shining, The Green Mile, Gerald's Game, The Dark Half, Cujo and Needful Things.
Adding to the fun is the casting of Bill Skarsgård, Sissy Spacek and Melanie Lynskey, who starred in the King-inspired films It and Carrie and the miniseries Red Rose respectively. The ensemble also includes King multiverse newbies André Holland, Jane Levy and Scott Glenn.
The Castle Rock series focuses on a mysterious young man (played by Skarsgård) who is discovered in a cage beneath Shawshank State Penitentiary after the warden's suicide. Prison staff don't know why he is there or what to do with him and all he will say is "Henry Deaver."
Deaver (played by Holland) is a former local who hasn't been home for years and now defends prisoners appealing death sentences. He returns to help the young man and reconnects with his adoptive mother Ruth (played by Spacek), a former college professor who is suffering from dementia and living with the retired Sheriff Alan Pangborn (played by Glenn.)
Lynskey is Molly Strand, Castle Rock's eager real estate agent, who has had an inexplicable connection to Henry since they were kids. Levy plays a taxi driver and amateur historian who delights in her town's dark past. Her name is Jackie Torrance. Jack Nicholson's iconic madman in The Shining is named Jack Torrance.
The show appears to have King's blessing. He shared the official trailer for it with his nearly 5 million followers earlier this month, along with the message: "Want to visit my little town? CASTLE ROCK premieres on Hulu 7/25. Check out this excellent advance taste:
Manhattan collaborators Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason serve as writer-producers on the project.
"He's a writer who returns to the scene of the crime," Shaw said of King at a San Diego Comic-Con panel discussion Saturday.
"Literally, in the case of Castle Rock. He has been raining disasters down on this town for 40 years or whatever it's been to the extent you wonder who the (expletive) still lives in this town in 2018, which was an interesting question to us. But there are these motifs and ideas and images and relationships," he continued.
"He, obviously, loves prisons and crime and punishment and Death Row. Loves stories about how the traumas of childhood inform the trajectory of an adult life. And clowns. Who doesn't love clowns? So, we spent a lot of time in the writers' room just in analytic mode, trying to figure out precisely what it is that makes a Stephen King story a Stephen King story to reverse-engineer our own."
"He really combines horror with humor and I think you guys do that with Castle Rock," Spacek told the showrunners.
Thomason also had an idea about what makes King's work so special -- well-developed protagonists and villains.
"Character is really at the heart of it in all of the books," he said. "He invented character horror. He really brought to it a new genre."
Castle Rock premieres Wednesday on Hulu.