The Movie Waffler Blu-Ray Review - THE DARK HALF (1993) | The Movie Waffler

Blu-Ray Review - THE DARK HALF (1993)

the dark half review
A writer's pseudonym embarks on a murder spree.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: George A Romero

Starring: Timothy Hutton, Amy Madigan, Michael Rooker, Julie Harris, Royal Dano

the dark half bluray

By the early '90s, most of the bunch of North American horror filmmakers who emerged in the '70s had taken a crack at adapting the work of Stephen King. Tobe Hooper gave us Salem's Lot in the form of a two-part TV mini-series in 1979, while in 1983 both John Carpenter and David Cronenberg tackled King with Christine and The Dead Zone respectively. George A Romero had collaborated directly with King for 1982's anthology Creepshow but it wouldn't be until 1993's The Dark Half that Romero would adapt a pre-existing piece of King fiction.

the dark half review

Like much of King's work, The Dark Half's protagonist is a writer, Thad Beaumont (Timothy Hutton), a moderately successful author of highbrow literature who holds a teaching position at a college in the town of Castle Rock. Beaumont makes his real money through George Stark, the pseudonym he uses to pen a series of financially lucrative lowbrow pulp thrillers.

[ READ MORE: Blu-Ray Review - And Soon the Darkness ]

One day a scuzzball from central casting threatens to reveal Beaumont's secret if he doesn't pay him a hefty sum, but Beaumont calls his would-be blackmailer's bluff, going public with the news that he is indeed the man behind George Stark, and announcing his plan to retire the pseudonym. This news doesn't go down well with Stark, who manifests himself as a greasy haired man in black (who looks an awful lot like Agent Cooper's evil double, Mr C, in Twin Peaks: The Return; could this have been an influence on David Lynch?) and begins to kill off anyone close to Beaumont.

the dark half review

As many filmmakers have discovered to their detriments, what works on the page doesn't always translate smoothly to the screen, and The Dark Half is a classic example. In literary form, the metaphysical notion of a writer's pseudonym taking on a life of its own may prove an intriguing and fascinating premise. On the screen however, where you're forced to define such an idea through an image, it all gets a little silly. Representing Stark as a living, breathing, grease-ball hillbilly reduces The Dark Half to little more than a mediocre entry in the sub-genre of thrillers concerning evil twins. When Beaumont and Stark finally meet, it's all too reminiscent of the Star Trek episode where Kirk battles his malevolent, goateed doppelganger.

[ READ MORE: Blu-Ray Review - Fright ]

Thematically, The Dark Half should have proved the ideal property for Romero. Like the story's protagonist, Romero was himself an artist who found himself torn between the worlds of highbrow art and lowbrow entertainment. With the likes of his 'Dead' movies, Romero was able to explore societal issues in satirical form while still ensuring his audience got all the horror thrills they paid their money for. With The Dark Half, this dichotomy proves a struggle for Romero. It's a very elegantly shot film, with nice autumnal cinematography by Tony Pierce-Roberts, and Hutton and his co-stars give their all, but it too often gets bogged down in a silliness that jars with the studious tone Romero brings to the story. Perhaps the biggest stumbling block for the audience is in believing that Beaumont wouldn't be locked away in a cell, seeing how his fingerprints keep turning up at crime scenes. I'm no expert in the American legal system, but I'm pretty sure his local accommodating Sheriff (Michael Rooker in a rare nice guy role) would be over-ruled by the feds pretty quickly.

the dark half review

For the most part, The Dark Half takes itself far too seriously, with little of the dark humour Romero is known for. There is one lovely moment of black-as-night wit when two cops break down after discovering a corpse, unlike the victim's landlady, who simply shrugs as though finding mutilated cadavers in her rooms is a regular occurrence. Romero's dry film is crying out for more of such moments.

Feature commentary by George A Romero; Romero focussed episode of Jonathan Ross's 'Son of the Incredibly Strange Film Show'; 36 minute making of; deleted scenes; behind the scenes footage; original storyboards; original trailer; booklet featuring new writing on the film by Simon Ward.

The Dark Half is on dual format blu-ray/DVD October 14th from Eureka Entertainment.