Castle Rock Season 1 Blu-ray Review

The best Stephen King adaptation to a tale he never wrote.

by Casimir Harlow
Movies & TV Review

5

Castle Rock Season 1 Blu-ray Review
SRP: £29.99

Castle Rock Season 1 Review

Stephen King's multiverse of works is combined into this creepy and atmospheric show that somehow balances rich mythology with character-driven conflict.

Stephen King is clearly the flavour of the moment, and after decades of average adaptations (Pet Sematary, Dreamcatcher, The Dark Tower, 1408) with only a few masterpieces (The Shining, Misery, It, Stand By Me, The Green Mile, Carrie), it appears that we are once again going full throttle through his immense body of work in the hopes of hitting a few more home runs. Undoubtedly we'll hit the 100 mark within the next decade or so, which must be some kind of record when it comes to the number of adaptations for a single author's works.

Castle Rock is something a little different though. It's not written by King, it's written about King or - more specifically - about the fictional town he more often than not sets his books in, pulling in references to countless King novels and the characters therein, and tying them up in a supernatural mystery that is itself clearly designed to ape King's style.

After the violent suicide of its troubled warden, the new guardians of Shawshank Penitentiary discover a young man who has reportedly been held captive - in a cage - deep within the bowels of the prison by the late warden. Nicknamed "Nic" (because he was kept in a cage), he has but one thing to say: the name of former local boy turned death row lawyer Henry Deaver, who promptly returns to his hometown (which he left after the town suspected him of having killed his own father) to unravel the mystery, and discovers a whole lot more, primarily involving his childhood friend Molly Strand, a psychic, and his troubled mother Ruth, who is now cared for by former Sheriff Alan Pangborn, a man who may or may not have had something to do with what happened to Henry's late father.

Castle Rock survives on atmospheric style and a Kingian sense of foreboding which permeates almost every scene, making the mundane malevolent

There's almost too much to absorb with Castle Rock, as if it were written for fans who literally read nothing but King's works as they grew up and engulfed themselves in the rich lore. Thankfully, much of it is incidental - meant as a tribute - so if you don't really pick up on the strange act of checking if a buried animal has mysteriously come back to life, or the familiarity of a name (Jackie Torrance), then the show knows to return to it if it's important.

Indeed, sometimes there's a feeling that the creators themselves don't even know what is important (it's telling that J.J. Abrams is involved, and you wonder whether he may have called his longtime collaborator Lindelof, for advice on how not to write endings), with the first few episodes content in just throwing every King reference you can imagine at you, and figuring out later if anything is worth revisiting. Nonetheless, Castle Rock survives on atmospheric style and a Kingian sense of foreboding which permeates almost every scene, making the mundane malevolent, and adding tension with little need to explain just why you feel this way.

It also relies heavily on a committed cast - Moonlight's Andre Holland (recently in Netflix's High Flying Bird) leads the charge as the troubled death row lawyer searching for answers both in the present and his past, whilst Melanie Lynskey (who made her dark debut in Heavenly Creatures) is equally troubled as the local psychic, and the latest portrayer of King's Pennywise The Clown (It), Bill Skarsgard, plays the kid from the cage, with many of the supporting actors across the season having previously appeared in a King film or TV adaptation. Heavyweight veterans Sissy Spacek (King's original Carrie) and Scott Glenn (Marvel's Daredevil) arguably stand out, with Spacek absolutely stealing the show towards the latter end of the first season's 10 episode run with a chapter all to herself exploring how her character tries desperately to hold on to reality as the claws of dementia tear through her mind. It's highlights like these that distinguish Castle Rock and bring it closer to King's better adaptations.

Castle Rock Season 1 Blu-ray Picture

Castle Rock Season 1 Blu-ray
Castle Rock comes to Region Free UK Blu-ray courtesy of Warner, who provide a 2-disc set to house the 10 episodes, marrying up in presentation to the preceding US release, and delivering the series with a largely impressive 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the series' original aspect ratio of 2.00:1 widescreen.

A largely excellent video presentation

The show certainly looks the part, and the rich textures and nuances of the titular town are explored with superb detail, both in the nooks and crevices of the town's trappings, and those of its inhabitants too. The colour scheme is tinged towards more sombre tones, with a hint of dark green-blue that gives it an identity, but skin tones remain true and exteriors look superior, wrapped up in the mysterious town that is far from enticing. Hardly an overly dark show, black levels still afford a rich and strong backbone to the proceedings and round out a largely excellent video presentation.

Castle Rock Season 1 Blu-ray Sound

Castle Rock Season 1 Blu-ray
Solid support

The accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track also provides solid - albeit here not exceptional - support, restricted mainly by the sound design, with the production keen on delivering simmering but unobtrusive unease, and seldom tearing your living room up with jump scares or outright terror (although a couple of scenes, particularly those where reality is distorted, do ratchet up the tension and use the surrounds to help elicit this response). Dialogue is delivered with prioritisation throughout - arguably the most important element of the proceedings - whilst the atmospheric effects are well-placed, and what score there is provides some welcome embellishment.

Castle Rock Season 1 Blu-ray Extras

Castle Rock Season 1 Blu-ray
A smattering of 10 mini-Featurettes cover every single episode, whilst a couple of slightly longer ones provide further background

Castle Rock Season 1 Blu-ray Verdict

8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Castle Rock Season 1 Blu-ray Review

Castle Rock Season 1 Blu-ray
King fans will find themselves right at home in the hub of the King multiverse that is Castle Rock

King's works have had more than their fair share of flawed adaptations, but Castle Rock is a bit different as it is actually designed to blend together references to all of them, swallowing up a bunch of familiar characters and ideas and spewing out a King-esque mystery that has all the potential to be the best King adaptation to a book he never wrote, so long as they figure out where the hell this particular mystery is going!

Warner's UK set puts all 10 episodes on two BD-50s and comes up trumps in the video and audio department, even offering a smattering of often episode-specific Featurettes to look behind the show. King fans will find themselves right at home in the hub of the King multiverse that is Castle Rock.

Scores

Movie

.
.
8

Picture Quality

.
9

Sound Quality

.
.
8

Extras

.
.
.
.
6

Overall

.
.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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