Castle Rock attempts to blend the works of Stephen King’s stories. While doing so, they also pay homage to many of the films adaptations of his work.
Hulu’s Castle Rock is an ambitious television series that seeks to blend the various characters, ideas, and locations featured in Stephen King’s infinite canon of novels and stories into interwoven tales of trauma, mystery, and dread. This reflective and thoughtful series has, through its two-season run so far, effectively translated King’s tones and themes, mostly through its strong character development.
The stand-alone plots in each season have featured Andre Holland, Bill Skarsgard, Sissy Spacek, Lizzy Caplan, and Tim Robbins in memorable roles. The show shines a new light on many of King’s most beloved characters, paying homage to the television and movies that came before it while still remaining unique. For those fans of Castle Rock who seek more Stephen King-inspired cinema, here are 10 films whose content overlaps with the storylines in the series.
The Shining (1980)
In the first season of Castle Rock, which takes place in a fictional Maine town, one of the characters is a young writer named Jackie Torrance. It’s eventually revealed she is the niece of Jack Torrance, the infamous father from The Shining, brought to life by Jack Nicholson in Stanley Kubrick’s movie of the same name.
Jackie, with creative aspirations herself, actually changes her name from Diane to Jackie in homage to her late uncle. Even though Stephen King is not a fan of Kubrick’s adaptation, The Shining is a classic horror film every fan of the genre should see at least once.
In Season 2, Lizzy Caplan plays one of King’s most infamous villains: Annie Wilkes from Misery. While Wilkes’s character in Castle Rock doesn’t follow the exact same path as Wilkes in King’s novel, her general nature is left intact.
Annie, a mentally troubled nurse, ends up in Castle Rock after her car crashes. Before Caplan, Kathy Bates brought Wilkes to life in the tense, frantic film adaption of Misery, directed by Rob Reiner. James Caan plays writer Paul Sheldon, who is rescued by Wilkes after his car crashes on a snowy night. Sheldon soon releases Wilkes is an obsessed fan who has no plans to let him go anytime soon.
Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Shawshank Penitentiary is an important setting in both seasons of Castle Rock. It’s an old, outdated facility rocked by the suicide of its former warden, Dale Lacy, at the beginning of Season 1. It’s also the place where Lacy mysteriously holds the Kid, played by Bill Skarsgard, captive. Before the show, Shawshank became an archetypal fictional prison courtesy of the 1994 feature starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman.
Robbins also stars in Castle Rock Season 2, but the similarities between the film and the show end there. The show is full of nods to characters from the movie, but it takes an evocatively supernatural turn absent from its predecessor.
The Green Mile (1999)
This other prison film based on a King novel doesn’t take place at Shawshank, but it’s brimming with the visionary, mystical themes present in the show. Both The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption are directed by the same person: Frank Darabont. The Green Mile follows the lives of death row inmates at a prison in 1935.
A new inmate, a black man named John Coffey, turns out to have a supernatural ability to heal people. His quiet and withdrawn aura shadows the behaviors of the Kid in Season 1. In the show, a mouse scurries across the floor at Shawshank, hearkening a very similar scene in The Green Mile.
King seems fascinated with killer pets who like to taunt their owners, and vestiges of this pervade Season 1 of Castle Rock. Sissy Spacek gives a heartbreaking performance as Ruth Deaver, a lifetime resident grappling with dementia, and dogs are a major part of Ruth’s narrative.
When a bound St. Bernard barks at her during a ceremony in downtown Castle Rock, she gets an overwhelming urge to jump off. These fears about “man’s best friend” are taken to their extreme in the 1983 film Cujo, about a rabid St. Bernard that loses it on his owners after an encounter with a sick bat. Castle Rock also includes a direct nod to Cujo when Henry Deaver, played by Andre Holland, sees an old newspaper headline about a rabid dog.
Stand By Me (1986)
Rob Reiner’s cult classic Stand By Me is inspired by King’s short story “The Body.” A quartet of tween boys in 1959 set out an adventure to track down a dead body they’ve heard rumors about. This kind of buddy drama mirrors the relationship Annie Wilkes’s sister Joy, who Annie raises as her daughter, develops with her new teenage neighbors in Castle Rock.
Castle Rock is also full of subtle references to both “The Body” and Stand By Me. The story Warden Lacy tells in Season 1 about the high-school mascot who kills himself is from “The Body.” In Season 2, Tim Robbins’s character Pop goes to visit his brother at Shawshank. His brother shares the same name as the bully in Stand By Me, John Merrill, who is played by Keifer Sutherland.
Salem’s Lot (1979)
The television miniseries directed by well-known horror aficionado Tobe Hooper is an adaptation of King’s novel of the same name. In the miniseries and the book, a writer named Ben Mears returns to his hometown in Maine, only to find out everyone is turning into vampires.
Salem’s Lot is short for Jerusalem’s Lot, and in Season 2 of Castle Rock Annie Wilkes finds herself living in Marsten House, the setting for much of the action in the book and miniseries. The old mansion sits on top of a hill overlooking Jerusalem’s Lot. While Castle Rock doesn’t contain any vampires, yet, the allusions to Salem’s Lot are plentiful.
Pet Sematary (1989)
Pet Sematary is a creepy film about animals and, eventually, people, being brought back from the dead. In the first season of Castle Rock, Ruth Deaver’s trauma and loss are symbolized by the death of her favorite German Shephard. Ruth gets her partner, Alan, to bury the dog at the beginning of the series, and then asks him to dig him back up when she keeps hearing him bark in the distance, worried he might not be dead after all.
The scene where Alan digs up the dog, whose body lies tangled in a suitcase, is a stark reminder of the kinds of loss that infuse King’s universe. These themes are resurrected in Season 2 when characters start rising from the grave.
It: Chapter One (2017)
Aside from the fact that Bill Skarsgard is a terrifying and believable Pennywise in the latest It adaptations, Castle Rock’s mood and tone mimic the scary truths that lie below the surface in Derry, where It takes place.
Joy Wilkes’s adventures with her group of misfit teens in Season 2 of Castle Rock also echos what happens with the Losers Club in It. Both the recent, two-part big screen adaptation and the made-for-TV film starring Tim Curry as Pennywise are worthwhile attempts to bring King’s vision to viewing audiences.
Early in her career, Sissy Spacek made waves by playing the title character in Brian De Palma’s adaptation of King’s novel Carrie, about a shy, repressed high school student who comes to realize she has telekinetic powers. Things come to a bloody head for Carrie when her classmates pull a cruel prank on her at prom.
As Ruth Deaver, Spacek plays a much different character, but her face is still familiar to fans of King’s work. Much like Carrie is emotionally and physically quelled by her religious and disturbed mother, Ruth is also crushed by her marriage to the troubled Reverend Matthew Deaver.