Castle Rock – UHD Review

Take any house in this town. Hell, take mine. Every inch is stained with someone’s sin. - Recommended 4.5 Stars

As a kid Henry Deaver (André Holland as an adult and Caleel Harris as a kid) goes missing for 11 days, only to resurface shaken but alive in the company of local sheriff Alan Pangborn (Scott Glenn). In present day Henry is summoned to return to Castle Rock by a mysterious prisoner who is discovered in the bowels of Shawshank Prison. The Kid (Bill Skarsgard) seems to cause mayhem and murder in his presence to everyone but Henry, Pangborn and Henry’s dementia-addled Mother, Ruth (Sissy Spacek). Ruth and Pangborn have become an item in the years since Henry’s father’s death during the search for Henry, and it’s been widely speculated in town that Henry was the cause of his father’s downfall. Throughout the season the layers of mystery ebb and flow, ultimately to answer: Just who is the Kid and what is his relationship to Henry?

Castle Rock (2018–)
Released: 25 Jul 2018
Rated: TV-MA
Runtime: 60 min
Director: N/A
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Cast: André Holland, Melanie Lynskey, Bill Skarsgård, Jane Levy
Writer(s): Sam Shaw, Dustin Thomason
Plot: Based on the stories of Stephen King, the series will intertwine characters and themes from the fictional town of Castle Rock.
IMDB rating: 7.8
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH, French
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 500 Min.
Package Includes: UHD, Blu-ray, Digital Copy
Case Type: Keep Case with Cardboard box
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 01/08/2019
MSRP: $44.98

The Production: 4.5/5

For fans of both Stephen King and JJ Abrams, who executive produced, Castle Rock is like a greatest hits album with a few new twists thrown in. While King did not write the series, he consulted and the writers did a bang up job of reverse-engineering the King story flow and character beats. Every episode is chock full of hidden, and many not-so veiled, references to classic King characters, locales, theories and arcana. Wrap that all in a tightly wound Abrams signature Mystery Box, and what you end up with is 10 hours worth of tightly scripted TV that has just enough glimpses into a wider shared universe that will keep dragging you in.

I’m personally not on board for Hulu, so I jumped at the chance to review this set and found much to love, both as a fan of King and Abrams and from pure production value. The show runners did an amazing job of capturing both the look and FEEL of Castle Rock so often referenced in the King novels that you really can believe in it. And as a series the story really has a chance to take its time, give everyone plenty to do, allow for some major twists and turns, and bring you back to a spot where you can wonder just how the heck they will continue AND expand it for season 2.

One particular beauty of Castle Rock is that as a fan we know the people here without really knowing the story. There is no adapted source material but the characters have every bit of King influence you’d expect, and no references to King content is just thrown in for the sake of tingling that bone. I’ve seen some reference the show as fan-fiction and I don’t agree with that at all. Plenty of books take shared universes quite seriously and the show respects everything that the King universe considers sacred while adding something wholly new.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

Stellar. I’m uncertain what tech underlies the series capture but this disk set looked sharp, serious and detailed. Muted colors made up most of the new england fall and winter scenes, but when bursts of color are called for it brought them to life as well, in subtle but effective HDR. I saw very limited examples of edge ringing, mostly on dark silhouettes on snowy banks, and never saw a hint of noise. Few TV shows have ever looked better on my PJ.

Audio: 4.5/5

I’m taking a half point off because there is no Atmos level detail from height speakers, but the DTS-HDMA 5.1 tracks are active throughout the full circle of the room. Spooky elements crawl all around, with particularly well done bird flocks and dread inducing synth hits. Dialogue is crisp and well rendered. The music tracks are somber for the most part, with a number that raise goosebumps when called for. There are limited calls for bass action, but when they happen they are punchy and jump inducing. Deus ex machina for real on a couple of those big thuds! Solid all around.

Special Features: 3.5/5

Each episode is accompanied by a 3 minute recap from the two show runners that really helps explain the facets they felt important to highlight, and particular King and Abrams references and tones they want to call out. Worth watching them all!

There are two 20 minute featurettes, first being Castle Rock, blood on the page. This segment interviews the showrunners and writers about the influences and what it means to work in the King/Abrams wider universe.

Clockwork of horror focuses on the pacing of the series, and how the characters evolve throughout.

Thumbs up for both, especially for us King fans.

Overall: 4.5/5

I burned through this series quickly, devouring each episode and wanting simultaneously to unwrap the layers of mystery but also dreading revealing too much. I shouldn’t have worried, with Abrams touch just enough about the back story gets brought to light but more opportunities to see where the characters go from here, and what King influences and back stories will be intertwined next. Bring on Season 2!

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Published by

Sam Posten

editor,member

8 Comments

  1. Not I – big Stephen King fan, but just did not enjoy the show, with a couple exceptions. It felt like a massive chore to sit through, and I do not anticipate watching it again. And if I change my mind, it's still available in its entirety on Hulu.

    I don't really understand why any web-based show is being released on physical media. If I'm Hulu, having Castle Rock be exclusive to my service means that if someone wants to view the show, they have to pay me to see it. And it doesn't matter when they hear of the show; if it's always exclusive to my site, it'll always be fresh to people seeing it for the first time. It also means that if someone likes the show and wants to revisit it, they need to maintain a subscription or reactive a dormant one. That creates value for my service which doesn't diminish over time. Once it's out on disc, there's no reason for anyone to sign up for my service to pay me for it, and the show and service both lose value, since it's just another offering that any consumer can get from almost any place.

    As a disc fan, I'm happy to see them out on my preferred format, but if I was the person in charge of deal making at these services, I wouldn't let any of my original content be put out on another medium until I was sure that all possible value from that show that could be extracted by my service was. And while the Season One run may be over, the content will be in demand again when the second season begins and new and old fans want to catch up on what came before.

  2. Josh Steinberg

    I don't really understand why any web-based show is being released on physical media.

    Off the top of my head:

    1. Not everybody has access to the caliber of broadband that New York City does.
    2. The quality of a disc-based presentation still exceeds a streaming presentation.
    3. With the number of streaming services ever proliferating, it becomes very cost prohibitive to subscribe to all of the ones that have content you're interested in. Sometimes it's easier to make a one-time, up front purchase than it is to subscribe to yet another service and then remember to cancel once you're done.

    If I'm Hulu, having Castle Rock be exclusive to my service means that if someone wants to view the show, they have to pay me to see it. And it doesn't matter when they hear of the show; if it's always exclusive to my site, it'll always be fresh to people seeing it for the first time.

    Absolutely, if you're Hulu. But if you're Warner Bros. Television, you don't want to be restricted to one revenue stream on a series you've sunk a lot of resources into. A time-limited exclusive window, followed by a many-year non-exclusive license, is a compromise between Hulu's position and Warner Bros.'s position.

  3. Adam Lenhardt

    Absolutely, if you're Hulu. But if you're Warner Bros. Television, you don't want to be restricted to one revenue stream on a series you've sunk a lot of resources into. A time-limited exclusive window, followed by a many-year non-exclusive license, is a compromise between Hulu's position and Warner Bros.'s position.

    For sure. I totally understand why Warner would want a physical release. I guess I’m more surprised that Hulu in this case didn’t have the leverage to insist upon terms that were more favorable to them. I’m kinda surprised that all the streaming services haven’t grouped together to hold firm on this point. I mean, the disc release more often than not benefits me, so I’m not complaining.

  4. Josh Steinberg

    For sure. I totally understand why Warner would want a physical release. I guess I’m more surprised that Hulu in this case didn’t have the leverage to insist upon terms that were more favorable to them.

    Bad Robot had the rights to the Steven King intellectual property, and Bad Robot has a long-term deal with Warner Bros. Television. Warner Bros. had all of the leverage since they could have found another home for the series if Hulu tried to play hardball. And Warner Bros. is far more aggressive about releasing its TV product on disc than any other studio.

    The one that always surprises me is "Stranger Things", produced in-house by Netflix but released on disc as a Target exclusive. I thought the first season release was just a marketing tactic to hook more subscribers, but then the second season came out on disc as well.

  5. I picked it up but haven’t seen it yet. I have a bit of a backlog viewing queue so not sure when I’ll have time but hopefully soon.

    And even though I have very robust internet (benchmarks over 300Mbps routinely) I still suffer the occasional stutter in the video which is annoying. So if I really like something, I buy it on disc. Also, as with everything else online, there’s no guarantee that the content will be there forever. At any time, your digital viewing access can be removed. If you own it on disc…well barring disc rot, it’s yours forever. Or at least for the rest of your natural life.

  6. For sure. I totally understand why Warner would want a physical release. I guess I’m more surprised that Hulu in this case didn’t have the leverage to insist upon terms that were more favorable to them. I’m kinda surprised that all the streaming services haven’t grouped together to hold firm on this point. I mean, the disc release more often than not benefits me, so I’m not complaining.

    Same reason other networks haven't stopped physical releases. The owners of the show have another revenue option.

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