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Castle Rock: The Complete First Season (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

One of the more buzzed about shows in the streaming world for the year of 2018 was the Hulu original program called Castle Rock. This marked a merging of sorts between legendary writer Stephen King and film and television directing and producing savant JJ Abrams. Castle Rock promised to be a sort of singular town all built around things found in the written works of Stephen King. The show has already been renewed for a second season on the streaming giant, but its unknown when that season will have its premiere. The first season had a late July one, so that could still be in the cards for the show’s sophomore season. In the meantime, Warner Bros is releasing the Hulu show onto 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray on January 8th. This is a smart move as many King collectors will want to have it in an forma of physical ownership and not a licensing agreement that could change on a whim. 

Film 

The first season of Castle Rock follows Henry Deaver (André Holland, American Horror Story), a Death Row attorney who returns to Castle Rock, Maine, his hometown, after he receives an anonymous phone call from the infamous Shawshank State Penitentiary. The call is about a nameless young man (Bill Skarsgård, It) who is found locked in an underground cage that’s located in a long-abandoned cell block beneath the prison. Upon his discovery, the mysterious young man, with a sinister and unnerving presence, whispers Henry’s name. Curious about how and why someone left this boy imprisoned, Henry is drawn into the case and attempts to help him. But there are reasons why “The Kid” was imprisoned.  And reasons why he should never be set free.

Permeated with a sense of foreboding and dread, the haunting small town of Castle Rock is not willing to let Henry leave. Aside from now having to deal with the strange young man found in the prison, Henry is faced with the fact that his adoptive mother (Sissy Spacek, Carrie), who lives in Castle Rock with retired Sheriff Alan Pangborn (special guest star Scott Glenn), is struggling with the onset of dementia. Reluctantly, Henry stays to figure out just who “The Kid” is and how he wound up imprisoned under such appalling circumstances.

Castle Rock really wasn’t my bag and I’m pretty certain I won’t be checking out season 2. I found myself curious based on the team up of Abrams and King. While I enjoy the work of Stephen King quite a bit, I’m mostly familiar with his output in the cinematic form. When it comes to Stephen Kings’s actual written genius, I’ve only actually read Carrie and that was probably twenty years ago. I’ve read my Clive Barker books than I have from Stephen King which sounds blasphemous and weird, but its totally true. I was actually really into the guy who made Pinhead for a good while and the guy who made Pennywise I waited for the ABC mini-series. Just how things go I suppose.

The show looks very good and is filmed quite well. Many of the frozen pond sequences in the show turn out looking pretty gorgeous and epic in some sort of fashion. The performers do their jobs quite well and there are some moments of good action or suspense in three intermittently. But, the show has a tendency to cut away and not give us the results to many of its heightened scenes. And it never feels like its on genuine purpose, in service of the story, just some random light things seem to hop on and off.

Castle Rock just didn’t work for me. I never found much engagement or anything to really draw me in. While these are supposed to be things found in the Stephen King wheelhouse, none of it really ever felt original. The show feels built upon some form of generic template as to which to try and craft a mystery television show. There are ones that do this well and standout, then there are your Castle Rock’s that don’t offer much outside of a ancillary sales pitch and then probably will run together in your mind with many other lower tier shows like it that you’ve checked out before. This many just be for the most hardcore of hardcore Stephen King fans that will eat up every reference and seem to get into this story more.

Episodes

Severance

Habeas Corpus

Local Color

The Box

Harvest

Filter

The Queen

Past Perfect

Henry Deaver

Romans

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: While I didn’t really fancy Castle Rock’s first season, it does look really pretty on the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format. Colors are well saturated in a crisp, sharp image. Detail runs very strong here with an almost window-like presence for the picture.

Depth:  There is good spacing between characters and their environments throughout with smooth, natural movements with the camera and people. There are moments around the iced up lake that look quite large in scale and give off a pretty good sense of how huge things are.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and natural with good saturation. Detail holds on quite strong and no crushing was witnessed during this viewing.

Color Reproduction: Strong coloration here, much of it really pops in a many of the dark moments of the film. Said iced lake gives of a beautiful aura of blue whenever its show.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent start to finish. Facial features and textures comes through very clear.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish

Dynamics: Castle Rock debuts with a crisp and clear track that manages good balance of both the louder and quieter moments in this mix. The score, effects and vocals are able to grab the spotlight when they need to and never get in the way of one another.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Car crashes, gun shots, punches and many other actions songs get a boost from the subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation: This mix knows pretty well where the placement of the effects and such goes. Much of it is up front, but the rear channels are never forgotten, accurately as best they can putting together the onscreen actions in the appropriate direction.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.

Extras 

Castle Rock: The Complete First Season comes with the standard 2-Disc Blu-ray edition and a digital copy of every episode.

Disc 1

Inside The Episode

  • Severance (HD, 3:44) 
  • Habeus Corpus (HD, 2:54)
  • Local Color (HD, 3:21)
  • The Box (HD, 2:48)
  • Harvest (HD, 2:55)

Disc 2 

Inside The Episode

  • Filter (HD, 3:24)
  • The Queen (HD, 3:03)
  • Past Perfect (HD, 2:24)
  • Henry Deaver (HD, 2:36)
  • Romans (HD, 3:12)

Castle Rock: Blood On The Page (HD, 19:40) – The exploration of the methods Stephen King utilizes in his spellbinding works and how these techniques inspire the Castle Rock mythology.

Clockwork of Horror (HD, 4:51) – A look at how the storytellers of Castle Rock merge the distinct styles of Stephen King and JJ Abrams into an exciting tale of mystery and horror.

Summary 

Castle Rock just wasn’t for me. I found it hard to return to it every time after I’d put it down. Kudos to those who enjoy it and I hope the second season suits your fancy too. This Blu-ray release comes with some decent little bonus features and a very good presentation. Yes, I’m sure you can watch this for free on Hulu, but the quality on this release is much much better and if you want to own it, act on the opportunity to get the set while one exists!

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “Castle Rock: The Complete First Season (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Morgan

    Castle Rock’s first season was super hard to finish for me. It took too many episodes to answer questions that viewers had. Once answered I understood what was happening and was genuinely surprised by the storyline. It was shortlived joy because I was still furious with how many episodes I felt like they wasted to get there. I really felt for some of the characters and was devastated by the loss of one, but I will not watch the second season because I value my time. I know that they will jerk me around too much and don’t want to fall into that trap again. As you said, Kudos to those who like it and I hope the next season has writers who can tighten up the storyline!