Horror has had its ups and downs since the heydays of the 80s. While resurgences do happen, they often seem short lived and dump the genre right back into a state of stale storytelling and ripoffs trying to capture the lighting-in-the-bottle successes of their predecessors. We have seen tv come leaps and bounds ahead of what once seemed like an obvious prejudice to the genre. The Walking Dead turned audiences onto a subgenre that many never knew existed, American Horror Story earned accolades and drew pop-stars towards their ranks, and fans saw a reluctant chainsaw-wielding hero emerge once again from the ashes. Things were pretty good.
Well, The Walking Dead’s fan base is shrinking with its ratings, AHS has resorted to being a parody of itself and Mr. Williams has slipped into retirement. We are seeing the start of another dip whether we like it or not. Franchises continue to phone-in unnecessary spin-offs, veteran actors are being overlooked for the “teen-of-the-week” and originality is taking back seat to remakes, re-treads and regurgitated ghost stories.
Hulu’s Castle Rock is an exercise in WORLD BUILDING. You might be familiar with that term from the popularity of a little film just released that goes by the title of Avengers: Infinity War. World building often sees multiple properties under one banner culminating in event films that not only tie in a long running narrative that spans several films but also rakes in HUGE numbers at the box office. So you might love Iron Man but Captain America falls a little flat for you, well, you can cherry pick with a film like Infinity War, rooting your favorite characters on while others are merely backdrop. Now that’s not to say that horror hasn’t tried this in the past..albeit in small doses. Full Moon Entertainment put their licensed properties in vs. and team-up films with Puppet Master and Demonic Toys and Trancers. The not so distant past even saw a Freddy vs. Jason movie. BUT, horror movies are largely penned as one-offs that only see multiple installments once the receipts come in. What if we started writing with a bigger picture in mind (and before you scoff or put on your “meh” face let’s just agree to forget that Tom Cruise Mummy movie never happened, ok?)? What if we started creating universes that could hold multiple maniacs? Several Slashers? Multiple Monsters?
King has built an elegant, complex and intricately interwoven world that many casual fans have never really plumbed the depths of. Many of those characters and events play pivotal roles in King’s magnum opus The Dark Tower, which has also been picked up a streaming service, this time by entertainment juggernaut Amazon Streaming. “Castle Rock” a fictional Maine town in King’s writing was often the epicenter of weirdness, either taking center stage or just an honorable mention. The new Hulu series has not only promised to see several of King’s focal points unite, but it is also doing so with a mind for the fans, casting the likes of Carrie’s Sissy Spacek and It’s own Pennywise, Bill Skarsgard. it’s a bold move but one that needs to reverberate across the horrorsphere in order for the genre to grow and learn.