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'Castle Rock' Review: Not the kind of thriller for those who aren't well-versed with Stephen King

Fans of Stephen King may enjoy the crossovers of the characters from the multiverse, but for those who aren't well versed with the author have other shows to attend
UPDATED FEB 12, 2020
Bill Skarsgard (Source: Getty Images)
Bill Skarsgard (Source: Getty Images)

Moment Stephen King and J J Abrams announced the making of a psychological thriller 'Castle Rock,' expectations soared high. As Stephen King's imaginary bedevilled town of Castle Rock in Maine got translated on-screen, it wasn't half as impressive as we imagined or saw in the trailer. Reason? Some stories aren't meant to visually come alive. Stephen King's in particular (Sorry). Even if you have not read enough of his books, one of his lesser-knowns such as 'Rage' and 'Rose Madder' can easily suffice to assure the reader that he is a brilliant writer, who can easily grasp the reader into a narrative of the supernatural dark world.

Let's take Castle Rock, for instance, the town first built by King in 1979 novel 'The Dead Zone' has appeared as the central setting in many of his other works including the latest ones such as 'Doctor Sleep and 'Revival' portraying a sparsely populated town as the nexus for paranormal and metaphysical events. Given the reputation, this is a perfect backdrop for unfathomable evil to unfurl and a stellar setting for a TV series. The kind where gore meets the wicked, created by none other than the master of horror. 

But, instead, we have the protagonist, Henry Deaver, an attorney who had left Castle Rock only to return back because of a phantom phone call to save an unnamed young man, found detained in a secret chamber within Castle Rock's infamous prison- the Shawshank State Prison. Upon Deaver's arrival, his forgotten past precedes him as other characters recall Deaver's infamous incident that caused his father, a well-revered pastor, to die. 

The series opens with a cop in hunt of a missing child during the freezing temperature of the town, as low as negative 15-degree Celsius. The child has been missing for 11 days and many believe that the child is dead likely because no man can survive such a scathing cold for a day, forget 11 days. But the child is discovered, no one knows how he survived, not even the kid, who seems to have his memory erased. 

Turns out, the missing child is Henry Deaver and he is ostracized by the community following the mysterious death of his father. Added to that, Henry was the adopted black child in a white-washed community. Years later, he has moved on from his past and is now serving as a death row lawyer in Texas, but he has never succeeded in winning any trial and all his clients have been sentenced to death. When the mysterious, non-communicative man is found in the hidden caged chamber, the only word he utters is "Henry Deaver."

The Shawshank prison is determined to keep this discovery a secret. But an insider gives a call to Henry Deaver and harkens him to come to Castle Rock. Meanwhile, the mysterious man, who doesn't speak a word is hinted to be the devil. After four episodes, the darkness in him is evident and we are not giving away the spoilers.

Then there are other characters, a drug addict girl-next-door, who has a major crush on Deaver, till date. Then there are apparent happy couples killing themselves and children of the town playing a weird creepy game by donning ghastly animal masks. 

The bottom line is that the silent town of Castle Rock, built atop the ancient burial ground, is just poisoned at its root. It's a source of evil that attracts evil. However, this isn't something new to know and the series doesn't tell us anything enlightening, except for one dialogue that is readily scary; a discovery that devil isn't a metaphor, "it is a boy."

The opening narration of the second episode sets the theme of 'Castle Rock': “People just think that we’re one of those dead towns they heard about. A run of bad luck, worse judgment, broken promises. We know differently, don’t we? It’s not luck. It’s a plan. And not God’s either. Remember the dog? The strangler? Sure, you do. What about all the others that didn’t make the headlines…”

The highlight of the show, however, is the exceptional acting of Bill Skarsgard, and it has to be, since his dialogues are kept at the minimum, but there's not much to complain out there. He persuaded us that he is devil boy, even more effectively than his last year’s “It” adaptation as Pennywise. There are other casts from King's earlier adaptations including Sissy Spacek, Melanie Lynskey and Terry O’Quinn.

If you're a fan of King, then you are going to love the crossovers of the characters from King's multiverse of novels and stories while enjoying the original plot. But for those who aren't well versed with King, will find the series lacking in a lot of ways. There are so many horrors and psychological thrillers available today, why would you commit to one where there's hardly anything terrifying?

Cast: Andre Holland, Bill Skarsgard, Melanie Lynskey, Scott Glenn, Sissy Spacek, Jane Levy, Terry O'Quinn

Premieres Wednesday, July 25 on Hulu