The first teaser for Hulu's "Castle Rock," from J.J. Abrams and Stephen King dropped last week and it has fans speculating about what familiar characters will show up. It's described as a psychological horror anthology series that will weave together characters and themes from Stephen King's massive body of work throughout the years. "Castle Rock" is a fictional Maine town that appears in many King books and will be the primary setting of the show.
In the books, everything King writes takes place in one big universe with characters often referencing events in other books or short stories. It's unlikely that any of the stories in "Castle Rock" will be direct adaptations, but rather will borrow characters, themes and monsters for original stories. Here are 15 stories we think would be perfect for the show!
Pennywise is the terrifying clown from Stephen King's "IT" or, as you may know him better, the reason everyone you know is kind of afraid of clowns. What he really is, though, is the personification of fear. In the novel, IT is a centuries-old demonic entity that takes on whatever form that its victims fear most, typically targeting young children. A group of young kids terrorized by "IT" eventually escape the town alive, but have to come back as adults to finally defeat the monster of their childhoods.
The teaser for "Castle Rock" references several characters in the book including Pennywise the clown itself, so it's a safe bet that we'll see something related to IT in the show. The novel is mostly set in the fictional town of Derry, but makes reference to Castle Rock as a nearby town. For the series, there's no reason Pennywise couldn't make a stop over in Castle Rock to terrorize some local children with their worst fears.
14 NEEDFUL THINGS
"Needful Things" was another story referenced in the teaser specifically by name, and the book was actually set in "Castle Rock." This novel was about a mysterious antique shop called "Needful Things" that opens up in town, owned and operated by a charming elderly named Leland Gaunt, who always has just what his customer wants. However, in exchange for the items, he sows discord and violence among the townspeople by exploiting their private grudges and even convincing people to give up their souls.
This is a prime candidate for the series, not only because it's mentioned by name in the teaser, but also because it's all about supernatural terror in a small town and the terrible consequences of exploiting human emotions. Both of these elements are classic hallmarks of Stephen King's horror and would fit perfectly into either a single episode or a slow-burning season-long arc, and cursed items have the potential to carry the story anywhere they want it to go.
13 SALEM'S LOT
"Salem's Lot" is a novel about a writer named Ben Mears returning to his childhood home, a small Maine town called "Jerusalem's Lot," only to discover that the town is being terrorized by vampires. The vampire infestation originated from a mysterious businessman named Kurt Barlow, who has recently moved into town and purchased the same house that Mears has returned to town to write about.
The great thing about "Salem's Lot" is that, even though the original is obviously not set in Castle Rock, the real story is about an ancient vampire who travels around and infects people in small towns. Kurt Barlow could arrive in Castle Rock during a different time period, or it could just be one of the stray vampires from Jerusalem's Lot who comes in and starts turning people. Either way, vampires are a classic horror monster and they've been sorely unrepresented in pop culture in recent years. "Castle Rock" could change all that and make them the terrifying monsters they used to be.
"Cujo" is the story of a loveable family pet St. Bernard who gets bitten by a bat with rabies and does what you would expect a rabid St. Bernard to do in a Stephen King story: he kills several people and traps a mother and her young son in their broken down car. There's nothing particularly supernatural in the story, which is part of what makes it all the more terrifying. It's just a dog with rabies, the same kind you could encounter walking down your street.
This story would work perfectly for a horror anthology series because it could happen anywhere, at any time, with no warning. It would work well as a single episode where a rabid dog killed multiple people, or as a multi-episode arc where someone is trapped in their car with the rabid dog waiting outside. "Castle Rock" will surely have its share of supernatural horror, but if they want to really capture King, they have to be able to make the everyday terrifying as well.
11 THE DARK HALF
"The Dark Half" is another King story about a young writer from Maine, and another whose title and characters appear several times in the teaser trailer. It was based on Stephen King's own use of the pseudonym Richard Bachman, which he had used to write and publish seven novels. In the novel, the author retires his pseudonym after he's discovered, but he soon finds out that the pseudonym doesn't want to go into retirement, and worse, he's "not a very nice man."
Frankly, it would be shocking if "Castle Rock" didn't feature at least one young male writer as it's as much of a trope in King's novels as things that are scary. For most of his books that feature a writer, however, it's usually just to portray their day job, to help flesh out the character and how they think, rather than anything essential concerning the narrative. Meanwhile in "The Dark Half," it's specifically integral to the story. If they were going to include a writer character on the show, the only way to make it really serve a purpose would be to have some kind of adaptation of "The Dark Half" where the character's other half became a dangerous entity.
Many of Stephen King's stories feature elements of an interconnected multiverse and the thin veils between dimensions that can sometimes be broken through. "N." is a story about a man with OCD who encounters one of these thin veils between worlds and the psychologist who believes these are delusions brought on by the patient's mental illness and refers to him only as "N" in his notes.
N tells his psychologist that there is a circle of eight stones in a field in Maine and that the walls of reality start to break down when people only see seven. Therefore, he goes to the field and counts the stones over and over to keep the walls strong and stop the monster on the other side from getting out. "Castle Rock" is almost guaranteed to play with the idea of walls between realities, as it's essential to the King universe. Having the characters stumble upon a circle of eight (or was it seven) stones would be a great nod to the written works and could potentially open up lots of possibilities for future stories involving King's multiverse.
9 THE SUN DOG
For his 15th birthday, all Kevin wants is a Polaroid Sun camera that prints out the pictures right after you take them. When he gets it, he notices that any time he takes a picture, the image that prints out is of a mysterious street with a white fence and a black dog in the distance. The more pictures he takes, the closer the black dog gets to the front of the picture. Kevin becomes more and more sure that eventually, the demonic dog will get to the front of the picture, and that it will try to get out.
The idea of a monster breaking through into our world from a cursed Polaroid camera fits perfectly with the concept of cursed items from a "Needful Things" shop, as well as evil creatures from another universe breaking through the veil as in "N." If that weren't enough, "The Sun Dog" is one of the nine King stories actually set in Castle Rock. Even if they don't use a Polaroid camera specifically, the same concept could be done with a cell phone, mirror, or oil painting that falls into the hands of an innocent young boy.
A young minister and his wife move into town and they're both quickly accepted and loved by the townspeople. During a youth group meeting, he shows the kids his experiments with electricity to cure various ailments and illnesses. When the young minister's wife and son die, he denounces God in a sermon and is banished from town. From that point on, he becomes obsessed with bringing the dead back to life by using electricity and he spends most of his life traveling the country doing his electrical experiments. However, the people he "cures" develop strange and sometimes deadly side effects.
"Castle Rock" needs more than just supernatural creatures and demons to really capture Stephen King's universe. Some of the most frightening stories that King tells are just about normal people and the terrible ends that they can be driven to from intense grief and hubris. The series could bring in a character stricken with grief just like the minister, who just takes things too far with horrible consequences. That's where real terror comes from.
7 THE DEAD ZONE
In "The Dead Zone," a man named Johnny is injured in a car accident and goes into a coma for nearly five years. When he wakes up, he realizes that he has gained the ability to glimpse into a person's future just by coming into physical contact with them. He goes on to use this ability to help the local police force catch a serial killer who's been preying on the town, and eventually shakes the hand of a corrupt politician who he realizes will go on to start World War III.
"The Dead Zone" is such an open concept that it spawned a tv series that lasted six seasons. The writers for "Castle Rock" could take it in any direction they wanted, whether they take the serial killer angle or just the psychic ability that allows a character to glimpse into people's futures. Psychic abilities of some kind or another appear many times in the King universe, so we'll likely get some kind of callback to "The Dead Zone."
6 RIDING THE BULLET
In "Riding the Bullet" a young man without a working car decides to hitchhike home to see his dying mother. Along the way, he passes a cemetery and notices the grave of George Staub. Of course, the next person who picks him up is George Staub with noticeable stitches around his neck where his head was sewed back on. Staub tells the young man that he has to choose whether he or his mother will take the death ride with George. In a moment of fear, he says, "Take her. Take my mother."
The core concept of this story that would adapt well the screen in "Castle Rock" is the idea of the mysterious dead man who makes you choose between yourself and someone you love. The supernatural entity that takes you on a wild ride that you can only escape from with the ultimate sacrifice. The most interesting part of the concept is that the young man didn't do anything to bring this on himself. No deals with the devil or dabbling in the supernatural. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
5 MR GRAY
"Mr. Gray" was the malicious alien entity from "Dreamcatcher," and another alien who went by the name Duddits. When a group of childhood friends meet up at a cabin to reminisce about the old days, they find themselves in the midst of an alien invasion. When one of their number has his mind invaded by the evil Mr. Gray, he begins plotting the deaths of the others and ultimately his takeover of the world.
Stephen King has stated many times that he's not a big fan of his book, "Dreamcatcher," but the idea of an alien invasion led by a malicious, mind-invading alien that can secretly infiltrate a group of people could serve as a single episode or a season-long arc easily, with things only being figured out when it's too late to do anything about it. As in the novel, the characters would be forced to go to another alien for help, maybe even the legendary Duddits.
4 THE BOOGEYMAN
"The Boogeyman" is a story of a man who, one-by-one, begins to find his children dead in their beds after saying that they saw a mysterious man in their closets. He goes to his psychologist and explains the story of each child waking up in the night and describing the man in the closet. One night, he wakes up to hear his last child screaming and he runs into to find the closet door open and an inhuman monster holding his son by the neck.
"The Boogeyman" was a children's tale long before Stephen King got a hold of it, but no one makes it more terrifying. For "Castle Rock," it would be an easy way to have a mysterious string of child deaths in the town with no clear way of knowing what's going on. The children always cry, "Boogeyman," but could that just be a manifestation of Pennywise from "IT," or perhaps even something more?
3 DOCTOR SLEEP
Remember Danny Torrance, the little boy from "The Shining?" Psychic powers and REDRUM? Well, "Doctor Sleep" is the sequel that fans waited 36 years to read. Danny Torrance is all grown up and, when the alcoholism and drugs aren't numbing his psychic abilities, he's using them to ease the pain of the sick and dying. When a little girl with similar abilities becomes the target of a gang of quasi-immortals who feed on the life force of psychics, he takes it upon himself to protect her.
This story could be adapted in a number of different ways. They could go so far as to have Danny Torrance using his powers to help the people of Castle Rock, with references or flashbacks to Danny's childhood trauma with an alcoholic father who tried to murder him in a haunted hotel, or they could just have a character who has a little bit of the "Shining" in them.
2 PET SEMATARY
In "Pet Sematary," a man named Louis moves with his family into a new house next a local pet cemetery, where local children have buried their deceased pets for years. When the family cat is hit by a car, Louis' neighbor leads him past the pet cemetery to "the real cemetery," an ancient burial ground once used by the Micmac Indians, where the things buried there come back to life. However, they don't return the same as they were before.
When people are buried in the Micmac burial ground, they come back almost human, but with a murderous lust for blood. The inclusion of an ancient Native American burial ground that brings people back to life as murderous zombies is basically a no-brainer for a show like "Castle Rock." They could kill off any of the cast toward the end of a season and then have them return as a murderous zombie.
1 THE DARK TOWER
"The Dark Tower" is Stephen King's Magnum Opus. In some way or another, nearly every story he's written is somehow tied to the fantasy world of Roland the Gunslinger. Most of the books in the "Dark Tower" series concern Roland's travels through the different dimensions that make up King's body of work, including meeting King himself. Villains of the series like the Crimson King and Randall Flagg (called Walter or "the Man in Black" in this series) appear as antagonists or behind-the-scenes puppet masters in other King stories, and they're some of the most evil beings in the universe, so it would be a shame if they didn't pass through "Castle Rock."
Even if the villains don't show up for a long time though, references to the tower that serves as a "linchpin of existence" should be mentioned or hinted at throughout. With a "Dark Tower" tv series slated for 2018, it also opens up the possibility of legitimate crossovers between characters in each show to really create a unified Stephen King Cinematic Universe.
Which of Stephen King's works do you want to see adapted for "Castle Rock?" Sound off in the comics below!