Castle Rock Trailer Breakdown: All The Stephen King References And Easter Eggs You Might Have Missed

The Stephen King boom is continuing onward with Castle Rock, an upcoming Hulu series set within the universe of all-things-King. The show won't debut until 2018, but a recent NYCC panel produced the show's first trailer with actual footage, teasing a moody, incredibly well-cast series that looks like it's practically drowning in dread. If you weren't already excited for this series, this teaser trailer should do the work. So let's get into it. Read on for our Castle Rock trailer breakdown.

Castle Rock is one of the many fictional Maine towns author Stephen King has created in his long career. King, a life-long resident of the state, has set the bulk of his novels and short stories in his home turf, and a large number of those happen to center in and around Castle Rock. Location-wise, Castle Rock is located somewhere in the real-life Oxford County, although in King's work it's referred to as Castle County, and includes other towns like Castle Lake and Castle View. King novels like Cujo, The Dead ZoneThe Dark Half and Needful Things are all set in Castle Rock, while the town is also mentioned in nearly two-dozen other King works.

With all that in mind, there's one key thing to remember about Hulu's new series: we don't really know much about it. Even at the NYCC panel, the cast on hand gave away very little. What we know is that the series is set within the world of Stephen King's books, and will even feature several characters from several of King's short stories and novels, although which characters is still a guarded secret. Here's the official synopsis:

A psychological-horror series set in the Stephen King multiverse, Castle Rock combines the mythological scale and intimate character storytelling of King's best-loved works, weaving an epic saga of darkness and light, played out on a few square miles of Maine woodland. The fictional Maine town of Castle Rock has figured prominently in King's literary career: Cujo, The Dark Half, IT and Needful Things, as well as novella The Body and numerous short stories such as Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption are either set there or contain references to Castle Rock. Castle Rock is an original suspense/thriller — a first-of-its-kind reimagining that explores the themes and worlds uniting the entire King canon, while brushing up against some of his most iconic and beloved stories.

The Castle Rock trailer does what most good trailers should do – it teases and entices without giving too much away. It also looks suitably creepy, and holy crap, what a cast this thing has. My only qualm here is that the show won't be out in time for this Halloween, which would've been perfect. Now let's take a trip to Castle Rock and see what we can learn.

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The trailer opens with an overhead shot of a street at night. It looks more industrial and city-like than the small-town feel that Castle Rock gives off in King's stories, but it is appropriately ominous. Here we are, instantly on the night side of things. The setting is desolate and quiet; perhaps too quiet. Who knows what darkness is lurking within all that darkness?

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Here we have our first glimpse (albeit from behind) of Andre Holland (Moonlight) as attorney Henry Deaver, apparently the sole-witness to someone's execution by lethal injection. Holland's character has been described as a "death row attorney," so he's likely witnessing the execution of one of his clients. King has dealt with capital punishment before – his serialized novel The Green Mile was set on death row, and a recent story entitled The Bad Little Kid featured a lawyer interviewing a man due to be executed for a murder he blames on supernatural forces. Henry Deaver isn't a character from any other King work I'm familiar with, but he's apparently going to be our main character, and with an excellent actor like Holland playing the part, that's pretty damn exciting.

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Speaking of Holland, the next shot we get of him in the trailer is from the front, as the camera slowly zooms around him as he looks out at something we can't see. He's also standing in front of a boarded-up building, which might hint at Castle Rock in decline. King's novel Needful Things was originally listed as "the last Castle Rock story," and ended with a large portion of the town being destroyed. Towns in decline or nearing their sudden destruction is a running theme of King's – his novel It is filled with moments regarding the doom of fictional town Derry.

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The next shot involves water trickling down a set of old stairs. This could be blood, but it's flowing a bit too quickly for that, so I'm guessing it's water. This again could be another call-back to It, which involves two major floods, one in the past that sets the story in motion, one in the present at the end of the book that nearly destroys the town.

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Perhaps I'm drawing too many connections between Castle Rock and It, but this next shot of someone removing a weathered MISSING CHILD poster throws off serious It vibes. There were even several prominent "missing child" posters featured in the new film adaptation. The shot here is too quick for us to get a sense of just who this missing child is, but the fact that poster has been packed away in a box and looks clearly warped suggests this is something from the past that will come back to haunt the present of the show.

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Melanie Lynskey (who appeared in another King adaptation, the miniseries Rose Red) makes her first and only appearance in the next shot, looking foreboding and goth as hell. Lynskey is a phenomenal actress, so just her presence alone elevates this entire thing. She's playing Molly Strand, a real estate agent with a rare medical condition. Molly's real estate business is apparently struggling, what with all the spooky goings-on in Castle Rock. "I don't know how many murder houses she's sold," Lynskey said at the NYCC panel.

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The tempo of the trailer begins to pick up speed now, with imagery coming faster. One reveal comes on top of another, cutting quickly from a cop peeking into the trunk as snow falls – which gives off a bit of a Fargo vibe – to a dusty old piano being played to Holland entering a ruined room where possibly the same piano is seen, having crashed through the ceiling into a kitchen. The one theme that keeps reoccurring here seems to be time and decay, be it in the form of that abandoned building Holland's character was standing in front of or this dilapidated home he's now inside.

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For you young folks reading this, this object here is what we used to call a VHS tape. They used to play movies. Wild, right? They weren't normally on fire, though, like this tape here. The tape is aflame atop a tree stump as someone stands just off-camera watching it burn. The question that arises here is: what's on that tape? Perhaps it's an old copy of Stephen King's directorial debut Maximum Overdrive, and the person who owns it has just had enough of that crap.

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Here a boy stands in front of one of those familiar King tropes: the ominous looking house. From the color of his hoodie and pants, it's clear that this young man is the one who was burning the mysterious VHS tape in the previous shot. Is this Holland's character Henry Deaver as a child, or someone unrelated? If it is supposed to be a younger Deaver, that would certainly explain why he has such an archaic object as a VHS tape, which would've been a whole lot more common when Holland was young.

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Spooky basements are common in Stephen King works, but this shot is the first bit in the Castle Rock trailer to give me pause. We see a threatening figure in a non-descript mask lurking in the shadows, and sure, that's creepy. But it's not very "Stephen King," if you know what I mean. King doesn't write about masked killers; that's the stuff of slasher movies. King's monsters are either supernatural, or worse, seemingly every-day ordinary people who only wear metaphorical masks, not literal ones.

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More death and decay on display. A shot of a hearse gives way to a coffin being vacuumed sealed at a graveyard as if it were some leftovers being stored away for later. After conducting a bit of cheerful research, I've found this is not a really common practice. In fact, a highly sealed coffin can lead to some rather disgusting results. Any funeral director selling this process is likely just trying to scam mourners out of some more money, and Mark Harris, author of the book Grave Harris, warns that this form of sealing will actually increase decomposition rather than stall it, "turning soft body parts to mush and bloating the corpse with foul-smelling gas...Inside the sealed casket, the result is a funereal version of the decay that's found in swamp bottoms and the bowels of unturned compost piles."

Sounds pleasant! I doubt any of this will even enter into the series itself, and more than likely this method was uses to just create some memorable imagery.

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Pennywise lives! Bill Skarsgård, who recently turned in a memorable performance as Pennywise the Clown in the King adaptation It, also appears in Castle Rock, albeit as a different character. The first shot of him in the trailer is eerie and unsettling, which seems to be something Skarsgård does well. Skarsgård is playing a death row client of Holland's Henry Deaver. The actor told the NYCC panel he was hesitant to take the role in Castle Rock since he had just done another King adaptation, but the script convinced him to sign up.

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I know I keep bringing up It, which is set in a completely different town, but again we have imagery here that invokes that other King adaptation. This is likely intentional – It was a box office smash, and the producers of Castle Rock, including J.J. Abrams, probably have no qualms about cashing-in on that success. Again, though, we have hints of darkness lurking beneath, a common theme in King's work.

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"I was afraid I might never have the opportunity to do something this twisted again," actress Sissy Spacek said during the Castle Rock NYCC panel. "It's kind of an homage to Stephen King — and I owe Stephen King a lot." Spacek is of course referring to her now-iconic role as the tormented telepath in Brian De Palma's adaptation of King's debut novel Carrie. Spacek is playing Holland's adopted mother in Castle Rock, and here's hoping this show gives her a lot more to do than Bloodline, which also had her playing a maternal character. But that character mostly hung around waiting for the plotline to involve her in someway. Do better by Ms. Spacek, Castle Rock, I beg of you. Spacek's character is a retired professor who has memories of Castle Rock's dark past.

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Two consecutive shots of characters up on high. One is a team mascot inexplicable standing on a roof waving at a little girl, which is just all kinds of creepy. The next is a woman jumping off a bridge. The sepia-toned nature of the bridge-jumper gives one the sense that this is a flashback to some time in the past. Several characters commit suicide by jumping off the same bridge in the King short story N., which deals with Lovecraftian forces. No King story I'm aware of deals with creepy team mascots, though.

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The woman falling from the bridge gives way to another character falling: Jane Levy (Don't Breathe) falling back onto a bed. Levy plays Jackie, the death-obsessed self-proclaimed historian of Castle Rock, aka exactly the type of person I would've had a crush on back in high school. There's yet another connection to It here: in King's novel, the character of Mike Hanlon becomes the self-proclaimed historian of Derry, gathering together all the town's dark and disturbing history into a journal.

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Another quick series of shots follow  – the young boy we saw earlier shining a desk lamp at something in the dark; a pile of greasy tools. The most striking moment, though, is this: a sheep dog cheerfully digging up a corpse (or at the very least, a severed head). Have I mentioned that death and decay seem to be the prevalent themes of this trailer?

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We may not know exactly how many original King characters will show up in Castle Rock, but we do at least have confirmation on one: Sheriff Alan Pangborn, played by Scott Glenn. Pangborn was a prominent supporting character in The Dark Half, where he investigated the case of Thad Beaumont, an author whose pseudonym came to murderous life; and a main character in Needful Things, where a demonic presence set up shop in Castle Rock. In King's novels, Pangborn is a widower still haunted by the car accident death of his wife and son. The character has appeared in King adaptations before: Michael Rooker played him in the film version of The Dark Half, while Ed Harris took on the role in the Needful Things movie.

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"Bill Skarsgård peeking out of rectangular holes" is apparently the new running motif in King adaptations. Just as Skarsgård peered out from the drain as Pennywise in It, here he peers out from a slot in his prison cell. Not a lot of context here, save for the fact that Skarsgård has really creepy eyes and knows how to use them.

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A quick succession of shots: Holland's character spray painting on some glass; a car going off a bridge; a dog looking mean. The spray painting bit can't help but remind one of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, which featured the now-iconic moment where Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) finds "LET'S ROCK" spray painted on a windshield. The barking dog may instantly make someone think of Cujo, King's most novel about a rabid, killer dog which was also set in the town of Castle Rock. Take note, though: Cujo the dog was a St. Bernard; this is a Rottweiler. They're completely different breeds, so don't get your doggos wrong.

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As the trailer nears its end, things pick up considerably, growing more and more intense: Spacek with a box cutter, Skarsgård approaching a fire, two characters in the woods, one with a gun pointed at his head. There's also someone in a bathtub and a dead neo-nazi laid out on a morgue slab. Things are clearly very tense in Castle Rock, and while there's not enough material here to get a clear sense of what's going on, we can draw a few conclusions. For instance, this reveals that Skarsgård's character, locked away on death row, gets out at one point. He appears to be still in his prison garb, which hints at a possible escape. As for the man pointing the gun in the foggy woods, that could be Glenn's Alan Pangborn, who is ex-law enforcement and would therefore logically have a pistol.

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A cut to black, and a character (I'm 95% certain it's Skarsgård) gives voice to the audience by asking, "You have no idea what's going on here, do you?" This quickly cuts to a car – likely the same car we saw going off a bridge a few seconds ago – slowly sinking into a body of water. A bumper sticker on the car reads SHAWSHANK DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS. Shawshank is, of course, the prison from The Shawshank Redemption, the film based on King's short story Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. Shawshank must be the prison where Skarsgård awaits his fate on death row.

Overall, this is a solid, creepy trailer. I personally would like to know just a little bit more about the series, and I hope that with J.J. Abrams working on the project it doesn't adhere too strictly to his "mystery box" method. Nonetheless, as a die-hard Stephen King fan, I can't wait to see this thing.

Castle Rock debuts on Hulu in 2018.