Spoiler warning for anyone who hasn't yet caught up with the most current episodes of Hulu's Castle Rock. Evil things are creeping down below.
More so than any live-action Stephen King film or TV show that came before it, Hulu's stellar thriller Castle Rock is a buffet of easter eggs from the prolific author's bibliography and subsequent adaptations. And with the first three episodes going live, to be followed by another batch of spooky, connection-filled installments, there's no better time to head up to Maine to note all of the horror-soaked references that Castle Rock has to offer. Strap tight into the Plymouth Fury, and let's go through the giant list of callbacks.
Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption
Shawshank Prison has shown up in plenty of Stephen King works, from IT to Dolores Claiborne to Under the Dome. (And even the King-free comic book show The Flash.) It was most prominently featured, obviously, in the novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, and then made the jump to live-action for Frank Darabont's highly acclaimed 1994 feature The Shawshank Redemption.
When Ann Cusack arrives at Shawshank as the new warden Porter, one guard brings up the bullet hole in the office wall, which is a reference to the film's suicide of Samuel Norton, the corrupted warden played by Bob Gunton.
As Terry O'Quinn's Warden Dale Lacy is on his way to his own lake-bound suicide -- which almost serves as its own "Shawshank wardens who kill themselves" connection -- he is listening to Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, and it's precisely the section that Tim Robbins' Andy Dufresne plays over the Shawshank speakers in the film.
The Green Mile
While perhaps not a super-specific nod to Mr. Jingles, the age-defying rodent featured in Stephen King's 1996 novel The Green Mile, Castle Rock does introduce a mouse making its way around the prison. But rather than serving as anyone's best friend, the way Mr. Jingles was for Del Delacroix, this mouse met a rather quick and non-celebratory ending. (The early King short story Codename: Mousetrap might also technically be at play here.)
Andre Holland's Henry Deaver visits the home of the late Dale Lacy, and upon digging through his office, finds a folder full of newspaper clippings that describe familiar events from Stephen King's novels. First up, Henry sees a story with the headline "Shopkeeper Missing After Oddity Store Fire," which is definitely referring to the devilish Leland Gaunt, as played in the TV movie by Max von Sydow. His name is even marked off in red pen, while "Missing" is underlined in the headline.
In Castle Rock, Scott Glenn portrays former sheriff Alan Pangborn, who has a sizable role in the Needful Things novel and TV movie, where he was played by Ed Harris. Alan also appeared in the novel The Dark Half and the short story The Sun Dog, and got namechecked in Bag of Bones and Gerald's Game. Though this version doesn't seem to share the same family tragedies as the one first created by Stephen King, Alan still serves as the most recognizable name in the show, and those tragedies may get introduced later.
Castle Rock uses its second episode to bring up the Mellow Tiger bar, which made in appearance in Needful Things as the setting for a deadly confrontation between two locals. Keep your eyes peeled.
At one point in Episode 3, Melanie Lynskey's Molly Strand is describing her town-revitalizing plans, and she mentions erecting a gazebo in the middle of Castle Rock. There actually used to be a gazebo in that general spot, before the explosion at the conclusion of Needful Things destroyed it. The gazebo also made for one of the more memorable and ghastly moments in the 1983 film The Dead Zone.
In the newspaper clippings that Henry Deaver finds in Dale Lacy's office, there is a story that is headlined "Rabid Dog Tears Through Town," which obviously touches upon the events of the 1981 novel Cujo, in which the titular St. Bernard terrorizes the Trenton family, among several other Castle Rock residents. A smaller headline nearby amusingly talks about rabies vaccines being at an all-time high.
During his narration in Episode 2, Dale Lacy throws Cujo another indirect reference by simply saying "Remember the dog?" when talking about the town's sordid history. There's only one dog worth remembering in Castle Rock, and it's not because he was such a good dog. Not in the slightest.
In one of the more initially opaque references in Castle Rock, Jane Levy's character is revealed as Jackie Torrance, which is intentionally close to Jack Torrance, the ax-wielding antagonist in the seminal 1977 novel The Shining. No direct links are brought up for us to chew on, but considering Jackie took part in group therapy to deal with substance abuse issues, I think that's a close enough connection to the alcohol dependance of the novel's doomed caretaker.
Head to the next page to find tons more Stephen King references found in Castle Rock.
The Body (Stand By Me)
For a third newspaper clipping reference, Henry Deaver sees a story that goes by the headline "Anonymous Tip Led To Boy's Body," which is in direct reference to the Stephen King novella "The Body," which was adapted into Rob Reiner's 1986 film Stand By Me. The body in question belonged to that of 12-year-old Ray Brower.
Dale Lacy's narration also gave a pretty obvious shout-out to the late Ray Brower when he brought up "finding a boy's body by the railroad tracks." Stand By Me fans will remember those railroad tracks making for quite a harrowing scene, and Castle Rock should definitely bring in a tracks-related sequence to keep the flow going. (The Sometimes They Come Back made-for-TV movie adaptation had its inciting incident take place inside a spooky train tunnel.)
Henry arrives home in Episode 2 to find Alan in the backyard, digging up a stray dog that had previously been hit and killed by a truck, all because Sissy Spacek's Ruth Deaver thinks the dog is still alive. This is basically the first half of Pet Sematary, in which toddler Gage Creed is killed by a speeding truck, before his father tries to bring him back to life via Micmac burial grounds.
For a less obvious easter egg, Molly's childhood bedroom features a poster for The Ramones, one of Stephen King's favorite bands. The Ramones memorably crafted the song "Pet Sematary" specifically for the 1989 film, which also features their track "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker."
The events in Castle Rock jump between present events in 2018 and past events in 1991. Fans will notice there are 27 years between those time periods, which is precisely the window of time that Pennywise hibernates between feedings in the 1986 novel IT.
While not a gigantic tie-in altogether, Castle Rock makes use of missing posters to signify the period when Henry went unaccounted for as a teen. And those were the same kinds of posters used to identify the various children that had fallen prey to IT's Pennywise. The 2017 film also featured a memorable scene in which Finn Wolfhard's Richie dealt with the horror of finding a missing poster with his own image on it.
At one point, Henry brings up the eatery Nan's Luncheonette, which is a location that makes appearances in IT and The Sun Dog. Considering the latter actually takes place in Castle Rock, while IT is in Derry, this is probably more of a Sun Dog reference. But since this show's Bill Skarsgård also starred in IT, that work is getting the recognition here.
The Dead Zone
In Dale Lacy's Episode 2 narration, just after bringing up "the dog," he mentions "The Strangler," which is in reference to deputy sheriff Frank Dodd, the Castle Rock rape-strangler in The Dead Zone who was being pursued by Johnny Smith and Sheriff George Bannerman, who was unaware how close the killer was. Maybe that theme will play into Castle Rock a bit.
Molly has strange psychic powers that appear to be at their strongest when Henry Deaver is around. Because she's unable to control them, the mental links appear to be more of a curse than a gift, which makes it comparable to Johnny Smith's abilities in The Dead Zone. Other novels also showcase psychic powers of that variety, sometimes referred to as "shining," in novels like The Shining, its sequel Doctor Sleep, The Stand and the Dark Tower series.
Children of the Corn
Episode 3 features a haunting scene that isn't actually a concrete connection to the 1977 short story "Children of the Corn" or its 1984 film adaptation. But when Molly stumbles upon a bizarro courtroom scene being acted out by humorless children wearing papier-mâché masks, the seriousness of the faux case being presented, coupled with the way the kids' menacing presence, instantly brought back memories of the stoically evil youths walking the corn fields in Gatlin, Nebraska.
Cycle of the Werewolf (Silver Bullet)
In Episode 3, Molly had another nightmarish experience (in the form of an actual nightmare) that took place in a church where the parishoners and the priest freakily have their faces covered in bandages. The location and focus on normal people changing are very much in line with a scene from It's very similar to the scene depicted in the 1985 film Silver Bullet (which co-starred Terry O'Quinn), in which Everett McGill's Reverend Lowe had a dream about a church full of parishoners turning into werewolves. Even the two priests' lines begging for mercy were the same.
The Man in the Black Suit
Castle Rock utilizes the local newspaper dubbed the Castle Rock Call, which made its first official appearance in the 1994 short story "The Man in the Black Suit," which later became part of the 2002 short story collection Everything's Eventual. In the story, the main character Gary, who was haunted for life by an early encounter with the titular threat, ended up writing a column for the Call titled "Long Ago and Far Away."
Episode 2 of Castle Rock introduces the Yarn Mill, which was a textile mill that first showed up unnamed in the Night Shift short story "Graveyard Shift." But for the 1990 film adaptation, it was specified as a yarn mill and filmed at the historic Bartlett mill in Maine. It was renamed as Bachman Mill for the film, which was in tribute to Richard Bachman, Stephen King's pen name through the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Storm of the Century
When talking about Henry going missing back in 1991, Jackie talks about the mega snowstorm happening at the time, calling it some "Guinness Book shit." King fans are certainly aware of the TV movie Storm of the Century, which was based on an original screenplay from the author, rather than a novel. Published and televised in 1999, Storm of the Century is about the biggest whopper of a snowstorm to ever hit Maine, and while the timeline may need to get fudged in order to work properly, it only makes sense.
Bill Skarsgård's The Kid is reading Lord of the Flies inside his cell, and while that novel clearly wasn't written by King, it is his favorite book, and features the actual "Castle Rock" that inspired the now-iconic setting.
The slogan for Molly's real estate company is "Live like a King!" So yeah...
Castle Rock is full of religious elements, from the Bible verses to the pastor to the Cycle scene. No surprise, since both the good and bad sides of religion play heavily across Stephen King's career, starting immediately with the fanatical behavior of Margaret White, mother of Carrie. More recently, the novel Revival, which centers on a minister and mixes its godliness with the wonders of science.
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Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.