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Out of the shadows.
KING OF THE CASTLE

Stephen King’s ominous “Castle Rock” is Hulu’s entry for show of the summer

By Adam Epstein

The latest trailer for Hulu’s psychological thriller series Castle Rock is a lesson in drawing an audience in: startling, enigmatic imagery (a woman walking barefoot through the snow, a man sticking a revolver in his ear) and ample Easter eggs referencing the beloved works of horror maestro Stephen King (The ShiningThe Shawshank Redemption), all tied together by a disquieting voiceover from Emmy-winning actor Terry O’Quinn.

“We’re trapped in a cycle that stretches back centuries,” O’Quinn murmurs. “There’s blood in every backyard, inside every house.”

Set in the creepy (but fictional) Maine town in which many of King’s novels take place, Castle Rock has all the ingredients to make it the next bingeable TV thriller series—including top-notch talent both in front of and behind the camera. Hulu is undoubtedly hoping for a Stranger Things-esque sleeper hit this summer.

Though the Hulu series takes place in the world of King’s novels, and will reference characters, themes, and settings developed by the author, it will feature an entirely original story. Executive producer Sam Shaw has said that Castle Rock will be an anthology, with a new cast and story each season.

Swedish actor Bill Skarsgård, who won acclaim last year for his performance as the clown Pennywise in the film adaptation of King’s novel It, returns to the King cinematic universe in Castle Rock, playing an inmate of Shawshank prison. The Knick‘s Andre Holland plays a lawyer returning home to the cursed Maine hamlet after a long absence. Other cast members include Sissy Spacek (who played the telekinetic high school student in Brian De Palma’s 1974 adaptation of King’s Carrie), Melanie Lynskey (Togetherness), and Scott Glenn as Castle Rock sheriff Alan Pangborn, a character depicted in King’s novel The Dark Half.

The pedigrees of the production team are just as impressive. Directors include Nicole Kassell (The Leftovers), Michael Uppendahl (Mad Men), and Daniel Attias (The Americans, True Detective). Writers include Lila Byock and Tom Spezialy (both alums of The Leftovers) and Shaw and Dustin Thomason (executive producers of the underrated drama Manhattan, who both serve in the same capacity on Castle Rock). The series is also produced by the prolific film- and TV-maker J.J. Abrams, who directed Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

A connection with The Leftovers makes sense, as the show looks to be part of the “unexplained horror afflicts small town” genre. Castle Rock is already drawing comparisons to Twin Peaks as well.

Hot off the success of the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu is eager for another big drama to continue its momentum as it competes with Netflix for streaming supremacy. Castle Rock is a good bet to be that show for Hulu—especially as audiences increasingly flock to theaters or their couches to watch well-made thrillers.

Castle Rock debuts on Hulu on July 25.