2017 is a good year to be a Stephen King fan. The prolific author not only has a new book, Sleeping Beauties, out in September, but several of his most famous works are being adapted into TV series (Mr. Mercedes) and feature films (IT, The Dark Tower). The Dark Tower in particular is an interesting case, as King’s sprawling, eight-book fantasy series has had a long, hard road to the big screen and part of the reason for that is because of just how dense its story and mythology is. Many of King’s novels are connected in some way, but The Dark Tower operates at the center of King’s fictional universe and is filled with all sorts of nods and allusions to the author’s other works (take a look at this list for some specifics).
While The Dark Tower movie, starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, is a lot less complex than King’s story as it exists on the page, it’s still filled with quite a few callbacks to the author’s stories which are sure to please longtime fans. We probably missed a few (and please let us know if we did!) but here are all the Easter Eggs hiding in The Dark Tower.
Warning: SPOILERS for The Dark Tower are discussed
12. Overlook Hotel Picture
There are a number of references to The Shining spread throughout The Dark Tower, but one that is easy to miss is the photo of the Overlook Hotel that is sitting on a shelf in Jake’s therapist’s office. The hotel, of course, is the location where Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson in Stanley Kubrick’s unsettling 1980 adaptation) and his family serve as caretakers for a winter as Jack loses his mind and eventually tries to kill his wife and son. Perhaps Jake’s therapist likes to vacation there?
11. The “Shine”
The Dark Tower’s strong connection to The Shining becomes quite explicit once the Man in Black, aka Walter (McConaughey) and his followers start discussing how strong Jake’s “shine” is. As we find out later, shine refers to Jake’s psychic powers, which Walter wants to harness Jake’s shine to destroy the Tower. Jake ends up using his powers quite a bit in the film, primarily as a way to communicate telepathically with others, which is similar to how Danny Torrance uses his shine ability in The Shining. One would assume that Danny would be another child that the Man in Black has tried to capture at some point, but we don’t see any evidence of this in the film (unless Danny was one of the children on Walter’s tracking monitors, in which case we stand corrected).
10. Hey, That’s a Familiar Poster!
At one point in the film, we see gunslinger Roland Deschain (Elba) come across a door with a poster hanging on it. It’s an iconic poster of actress Rita Hayworth, the same poster hanging in the prison cell of wrongfully convicted inmate Andy Dufresne in King’s 1982 novella, The Shawshank Redemption (later adapted into the critically-acclaimed 1994 film starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman). As we later learn, Andy didn’t have the poster up just because he enjoyed looking at Rita (although he most certainly did) but to cover up the escape tunnel he spent years digging.
During one of the scenes set in New York City, there’s a shot of a St. Bernard being walked in front of Manhattan’s Forbidden Planet comics shop, right across the street from where Jake is standing. Now, this very well could just be any old St. Bernard but anyone familiar with King’s work will recognize this as a nod to his 1981 novel Cujo, about a rabid dog who traps a mother and son in their car. As a neat detail, the two actors walking the dog bear a passing resemblance to Dee Wallace and Danny Pintauro, the two stars of the 1983 movie. Fortunately, Cujo looks decidedly more docile here, but it’s probably still a good thing that Jake ends up keeping his distance.
8. The Number 19
The number 19 pops up repeatedly throughout The Dark Tower and is featured prominently in the opening scene, which shows a number of children (called “Breakers”) being led to the Man in Black’s tower-destroying machine. Tower fans will instantly be familiar with the number 19 and its significance to the series. The number appears throughout King’s novels, particularly toward the end of the series and is often used to indicate to Roland and other characters that a connection between Keystone World and Roland’s world of All-World is involved. Interestingly, Stephen King started writing The Dark Tower at the age of 19, which is assumed to be the primary reason why that particular number holds such significance in his story.
7. Attack Dog Sign
When Jake seeks out the House on Dutch Hill where the gate that takes him to Mid-World is located, he comes across a door with a sign that reads “Attack Dog: Keep Out!”. This could be another Cujo reference or a nod to the dog guarding the junkyard in Stand By Me, or it could simply be a warning about the Doorway Demon that attacks Jake as he tries to make his way through the portal.
When Jake and his buddy Timmy are hanging out in his room, Jake can be seen working on more of his drawings while Timmy plays with one of the car’s in Jake’s room. This is a toy car version of a 1958 Plymouth Fury, the same make and model as the bloodthirsty car from King’s 1983 book, Christine. Of course, a model car is a lot less dangerous than the real thing but to be honest, a movie about two boys being hunted down by a toy car probably would have been more better than what The Dark Tower turned out to be.
5. Shining Twins?
Yet another allusion to The Shining, the two twins trapped at the Man in Black’s breaker village at the beginning of the movie may not look anything like the two young girls who haunt Danny Torrance, but the way they’re dressed certainly indicate that director Nikolaj Ancel is paying homage to the infamous pair. Unfortunately, they don’t get a chance to utter the line “Come play with us.”
4. Mr. Mercedes Hello There
King’s classic works aren’t the only ones referenced in The Dark Tower, as the film also includes a reference to the author’s 2014 novel Mr. Mercedes. In that book, the serial killer uses a smiley face as his calling card and the Man in Black pulls a copycat move after killed Jake’s mother (played by Vikings star Katheryn Winnick), using Laurie Chambers’ ashes to paint the malicious face on Jake’s bedroom wall. Not cool, Walter!
3. Paul Sheldon’s Misery
In a film that is already quite metatextual, we get the very cool Easter egg of the Man in Black being in possession of a novel titled Misery’s Child. Why is this significant? Well, Misery’s Child is a novel within a novel, being written by Paul Sheldon, the protagonist of Stephen King’s 1987 novel Misery. Misery Chastain is the heroine of Sheldon’s story and what happens to her in Misery’s Child has a profound effect on the story of Misery, as the novel’s events drive Sheldon’s no. 1 fan, Annie Wilkes, to force the author to modify the story, at any cost. You could almost read it as a comment on how The Dark Tower’s screenwriters heavily modified King’s original text, but perhaps that’s reading too much into things …
1408 is another one of King’s infamous haunted hotel room numbers and the title of a 1999 short story that was later adapted into a 2007 film starring John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson. In that story, the hotel room contains a malevolent presence but in The Dark Tower movie, it’s simply a number inscribed over a doorway that Roland and Jake use to get back to Keystone earth.
While the horrific clown in Stephen King’s IT doesn’t show his face in The Dark Tower, his presence is still felt during the camping scene with Jake and Roland. Jake gets separated from Roland at one point in some creepy woods, where he stumbles upon the ruins of an amusement part named after Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Pennywise has been confirmed to be one of the monsters that the Tower protects many different worlds from and interestingly, Roland chooses to use a spider to stand in for the monsters when he’s explaining all of this to Jake. As anyone familiar with the story of IT knows, one of Pennywise’s other forms is a giant spider.