In the week leading up to San Diego Comic-Con, we saw some strange items being loaded into the two blocks at Front and Island in downtown San Diego: From a box of mannequins, to razor wire, to a toppled over car. What ended up emerging was Hulu’s Castle Rock experience, to promote the new series on the streaming giant based on the collected works of Stephen King.
Castle Rock took over both sides of the street during Comic-Con, with a walk-through activation and a large area to relax among the trees in the Children’s Park. You could never be quite calm there, though, with an eerie car submerged nearby and a child figure standing on the water (we later find out this is Henry Deaver from the pilot episode of the series).
For the walk-through activation, a prison yard and house facade were built, a tie in to the Shawshank Prison that is featured in Castle Rock. Guests checked in to the Castle Rock Bed & Breakfast and greeted by the two majorly creepy owners. After touring the living room with its multiple nods to Stephen King novels, a caretaker described what we were about to experience and directed us to our rooms.
We were assigned to room 30265 which turned out to be the Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption room (a quick web search confirms that “30265” is Red’s prison number, the character played by Morgan Freeman in the film). Other rooms, we heard, were full of red balloons from IT or the hallway from The Shining — I was thankful not to have been given one those rooms. You got a minute to look around at the display in the small room, and it was only after the next door was opening that I thought to peek behind the poster, and indeed there was an escape hole in the wall!
Moving through the second door, you then entered an etherial underwater scene with the bottom of the half-submerged car floating above you — the same car from the fountain across the street, Maine plates and all.
The next few rooms were much like a haunted maze, being rushed from scene to scene and through an inflatable room to a maze of mannequins, some perhaps moving on their own. One creepy character mumbled a story to us around his bathtub full of mannequin parts, and in another prison scene we had flashes to The Green Mile as a death sentence was carried out on an older woman, who then came back to life.
All in all, the Castle Rock experience was exceptionally well done and an amazing build. It was only after watching the first few episodes of the series (now streaming on Hulu) that much of what you witnessed made more sense — or as much sense as a show coming from J.J. Abrams and Stephen King can make.
Which room did you get in the Castle Rock experience and what did you think? Comment below!