No Concessions: Hulu’s #CastleRock returns for pre-Misery scares

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Wednesday Hulu dropped season two of Castle Rock – the horror anthology series inspired by Stephen King’s novel universe. Each season revolves around King’s mythos of upstate New England. This season stars Lizzy Caplan as Misery‘s titular murderous nurse, Annie Wilkes.

In this present-day prequel, Wilkes is a young mother working as a temp nurse, traveling across country. But behind her crooked smile is a psychotic woman fleeing a fatal past; one that catches up to her upon settling in this disturbed town.

Within the first three hours, we’re aware of Wilkes’ mental unbalance and what it leads to when unchecked (she balances her psychotic tendencies with a 3-med cocktail). Caplan is brilliant as the good-nurtured, overprotective addict whose motherly love is reminiscent of Carrie‘s zealot matriarch. She’ll do anything to protect her daughter, Joy (Elise Fischer). But this protection is more of a charade to hide buried truths.

When someone threatens to unearth these truths, Annie resorts to her trusted friend violence. This once choice leads to a downward spiral of her sanity, and awakens an evil that is legend among Castle Rock citizens.

Along with Annie we meet a cast of characters gripping with troubled pasts. Tim Robbins is Pop Merrill, an ailing father to two sets of adult children: blood nephews Chris (Matthew Alan) and Ace (Paul Sparks); and, foster Somalian siblings Abdi (Barkad Abdi) and Nadia (Yusra Warsama). Years of grudges transform into jealousy, and jealousy begets violence as this blended family’s secrets threaten their livelihood.

King enthusiasts will enjoy the presence of prominent narratives from other books. Remnants of season one are sprinkled throughout (prisoners returning to Shawshank; a body with no head), as well as other Easter eggs. The most noticeable is the Marsten House, which overlooks both Jerusalem and Salem’s Lot – separate towns near Castle Rock. Its murderous history plays a major part in the story, compounding Annie’s psychological dismay.

Standout performances so far go to Caplan and Sparks – who appears to be a main villain. While the family woes are a bit predictable, there is a freshness with the addition of the Somalian characters, and the tension between their community and that of the white New Englanders. We rarely see characters of this ethnicity highlighted in everyday roles, especially in horror films.

Being I did not survive all of season one, I am highly impressed with the show so far. I’ll be awaiting the fourth entry and its subsequent episodes every Wednesday on Hulu.

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