Stephen King was creating a shared universe well before the MCU made them pop culture’s hottest trend, as all of the horror masters’ books are littered with Easter eggs and references to other stories he’s written. Many take place in the same fiction Maine town of Castle Rock, so it makes sense that Hulu has chosen to set its King-inspired horror series in Castle Rock. What makes less sense is that the actor who plays Pennywise the Dancing Clown in It is somehow scarier without any clown makeup on — but also, like, he could still get it.
Hulu released a new trailer for Castle Rock on Tuesday, and the spot reveals much more about the plot of the new show than previous trailers, which were more about establishing the creepy tone. Bill Skarsgård plays a young, seemingly nameless man who is found locked up in Shawshank State Prison (yes, that one). The guards and wardens have no idea who he is or how he got there, and he seems seriously, seriously creepy.
Skarsgård isn’t the only actor in Castle Rock who has played a Stephen King character before. Fellow It star Chosen Jacobs has a role in the new series, as does Sissy Spacek of Carrie fame. None of the actors, so far as anybody can tell, are playing the same characters from their earlier roles, meaning that Skarsgård’s nameless prisoner is not Pennywise the Dancing Clown, also known as It.
Without the scary makeup or sharp teeth, though, Skarsgård is arguably even scarier. Pennywise was clearly a monster, but Skarsgård’s Castle Rock character just looks like a creepy, damaged young man. Is he a victim or a demon? It’s hard to say, and that uncertainly makes for a deeply discomforting performance. A different kind of scary than Pennywise, sure, but one that arguably rings truer.
Also, please don’t @ me, but Skarsgård is still hot despite being extremely frightening to behold. He could use a little more color, sure, but maybe that’s part of the appeal? He’s a smoother, IRL-airbrushed Steve Buscemi. He’s what would happen if a grown-up Kevin from Home Alone perfectly swerved in and out of drug-filled NYC club phase and came out looking the right amount of dangerous and damaged. He looks like he was grown in a lab by Tim Burton, but in a good way.
Castle Rock premieres on July 25.