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One among the best horror series to stream for horror series fans that mustn’t fall into oblivion is Castle Rock. It’s a psychological horror and horror/suspense thriller series spanning two seasons.
It was produced by (and it’s currently streaming on) Hulu. If you’re a Stephen King fan you know that Castle Rock is the main one of the fictional locations in the Stephen King multiverse.
If you’re a Stephen King fan and you still have not watched it, let me tell you from the get-go: you’re not missing much.
Castle Rock’s Plot
The main plot is about a penal lawyer returning to the town of his childhood, Castle Rock, after receiving a call from a Shawshank Prison inmate.
This prison inmate is a “kid” who has been in custody for many years and didn’t age like a normal person he may or may not be… the devil.
A few secondary plots mesh into the main storyline. They all come together by the end of the first season, though.
I loved both Sissy Spacek and Bill Skarsgard’s roles as Ruth Deaver and The Kid respectively. Sissy Spacek does a great job of portraying an old lady suffering from the slow mental degeneration brought about by Alzheimer’s.
Bill Skarsgard is a delight to watch in this series. It was very shocking to me to see the character he plays because I watched Castle Rock season one back to back with Hemlock Grove season one.
Bill’s characters in both series are like day and night, and it was a shock to compare how well he gets into the different characters he gets to play. Comparing both I felt he made them seem like two different persons.
I’d say that the mise-en-scene and mise-en-shot of this series is spot on. One of its highlights and one of the reasons I liked it.
I believe the cinematography of this series is certainly better than its script. At least that’s the impression it gave me. The script is slow and doesn’t feel horror the whole time, it has a high content of drama, too.
I think that all in all, the story told in Castle Rock season one is a rather slow-burn one. If you are one of those impatient watchers be warned, this horror series will take some patience to get to the good parts.
The visual and special effects aren’t abundant or memorable. I dare say that it lacks a lot in these two aspects.
Is Castle Rock Entertaining?
I think the entertainment value of Castle Rock is very low. Unless you consider the whole setting a gigantic horror dark ride as I did. Seeing it that way kept me interested in the locations. But even if you do, it’s Castle Rock! And I think this series didn’t nail it.
What I was waiting for didn’t materialize. What was that?
Don’t ask me because I can’t put it into words. It took me great efforts of the imagination to experience a sliver of what I expected from this series.
Okay, okay, I’ll try to put it in words. Maybe I was expecting this horror series was going to be a more obvious, over-the-top mashup of Castle Rock (the town) narratives and characters and it’s nothing like that. It’s intertextual, yes, but you may need to be more of a Stephen King geek for the intertext to be noticeable and have any meaning or aesthetic effect.
I think that as a mystery/thriller series Castle Rock is more than okay. As a horror series that hypes itself as a metaversal junction of the Steveverse, it fails to deliver on its promise. No Teddies Duchamps or Gordies Lachances here, keep walking, please.
Castle Rock’s poster kind of annoyed me too. To see “Castle Rock: From Stephen King and J.J. Abrahms” was kind of anti-climatic, don’t ask me why.
Maybe because I already pigeonholed J.J. as a director of (or otherwise involved in) a different kind of show? Maybe.
Not Really Stephen King, but I Liked It
In this review of Castle Rock, up to now, by my statements above, you might think that I didn’t like the series, but that is far from true.
You may hate me about what I’ll say next, but to be honest with you the values of Castle Rock S1 I loved to ponder about while I was watching this horror series aren’t something commonplace. Those values are something that I think may have sank deep into other peoples psyches and souls like it did in mine.
I say, don’t hate me, because I want to make clear I’m not implying that I am above you in psychic development. It’s only that I studied things related to that topic for years and the things I learned have their weight. Especially when you watch a psychic character like Molly Strand.
With a background like that, a psychic character awakens a different set of expectations in the watcher.
So yes, the thing I enjoyed the most was the story’s psychic side, and that was surprising.
As I already expressed in this review, I expected to like this series for a lot of other reasons, and it failed to deliver in that regard.
What I ended up liking about this horror series is how it made me wonder all the time if a power like Molly’s would be possible to have for a human being. How would having that power feel, good or completely maddening?
I went into it looking for, I don’t know, maybe relief the excitement stories with the town of Castle Rock as setting always caused me but I didn’t find any of that.
Still, the psychological dimension of the story is quite fascinating, at least for someone who has a high percentage of psychic in himself, like I do.
Of course to make a psychic power something marketable as a story it has to be something extreme, like Molly Strand’s power.
If you believe in psychic powers a thing like Molly Strand’s experiences is possible but, like I said, it’s more of an extreme, virtually unattainable power for earthlings to attain. It’s something reserved for chosen or extremely holy and favored-by-God persons.
Takeaways from this Horror Series
On the social commentary department, it’s significant that Molly is an ex-addict.
Still, I don’t think this horror series goes beyond the commentary, since I don’t remember it as approaching the drug addiction subject to give a moral message. It is just a fact that helps you understand Molly Strand’s personality a little bit more.
I think, but I’m not sure, the moral message of Castle Rock is about elderly people, like Ruth Deaver, who become dependent on others due to their diseases.
What if the people tasked with providing for those elderly people aren’t sound of mind enough themselves?
It’s superfluous to say that this is compulsory watching for any committed Stephen King fan. Fans of either his audiovisual or fiction media.
In any case, if you feel underwhelmed or disappointed after watching it you can remember that it’s not actually a Stephen King item. Just lower your expectations remembering that it’s only a story that is based on characters and settings he invented.
Media Attributions: Hulu.com
© Bholenath Valsan 2023 — Castle Rock Review – Horror Series