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Somewhere in the dark recesses of over-fluffed and processed Stephen
King movie adaptations, there lies this jewel of a film: "The Dark
After having it watched it about three times, I'm still quite at a loss as to why this movie has been, more or less, forgotten or simply passed over by the horror movie community. Not only is it a fairly neat adaptation of a great King novel, but it's also directed and written by a true horror movie icon: the one and only George Romero. Isn't this the kind of "team-up" that fans would, under normal circumstances, go absolutely bananas over? I know that I did.
Anyway ... the movie is about a writer, Thad Beaumont (Timothy Hutton), whose past - quite literally - comes back to haunt him. As a young man, he wrote pulpy crime novels (that I can only imagine were directly inspired by Richard Stark's hardboiled, master thief, Parker) that sold well ... though his literary yearnings tended to veer toward a much less marketable direction. We learn that when he was writing those pulps, his personality suffered. He drank, yelled at his wife, probably slept around, too. Having successfully exorcised that particular demon, when we meet him, Beaumont has a couple kids and an office at some New England university, teaching - you guessed it - creative writing. But when the bodies of folks close to him (i.e.: his agent, biographer) begin cropping up, the small-town police fun finger is pointed at Beaumont. But ... there's a much more sinister twist in this jet-black yarn. We learn that Beaumont indeed has a "dark half."
The direction is perfect, the writing is perfect, the acting is perfect. What more do you want in a film? I'm not exactly certain what King's response was to this film ... I've heard rumors that if he's not directly involved in the production process, he generally scoffs at the final film product. (For example ... he's all but urinated on all the goodness that was Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of "The Shining," which not only marked a substantial turning point in horror cinema, but it's also one of my personal favorites.) Then again ... from what I understand to be true of King and Romero both ... they're friends. Hell, they made "Creepshow" together ... which is another favorite of mine, though I'm more than just a little bit guilty about it.
"The Dark Half" also does one hell of a job at creating a genuinely creepy atmosphere. And who could listen to "Are You Lonesome Tonight" again the same way ... after hearing its soft melodies during a particularly uncomfortable dream sequence?
All of this, compounded with the fact that Timothy Hutton is a damned fine actor (albeit sinfully unknown by most these days) ... makes "The Dark Half" an explosively well made horror/thriller. The proverbial mind meld of King and Romero made "Creepshow" an instant cult classic. So, I ask again ... why was "The Dark Half" a blink-or-you'll-miss-it flop? Maybe these horror titans just can't share the same marquee, anymore.
The Dark Half is one of the finest Stephen King adaptations. It's also one of George Romero's most under-appreciated works. The two of them have collaborated on many occasions to produce nothing but good things, but this takes it to a new level. Romero is known for casting unknowns for his leads. This time he went against the grain. He used the amazing Timothy Hutton. Hutton, in a dual role, plays both mild-mannered Thad Beaumont and mean b*stard George Stark. But when he's Stark, he really comes to life. He's both cool and creepy. The sparrows are also a crucial part of the overall eeriness of the movie. Although he will always be known for the unforgettable Dead trilogy, this may be Romero's finest, most high-brow picture to date. The production values are the cleanest I've seen in any Romero flick, the acting is top-notch, and story is solid. Getting a scare at the theater is fairly easily achieved. Getting me to jump in the privacy of my own home in another thing altogether. Romero made me jump while watching the movie on a crappy 19 inch television.and I've seen the movie before. That's saying something. Royal Dano and Michael Rooker co-star.
The Dark Half is great. Put two of the masters of horror together in a box,
shake em up, and you get this very entertaining and darkly humorous story.
Can you believe this is the latest film from George Romero? 1993? It's a
crime that this man isn't doing movies on a regular basis anymore. I hear he
has a couple of projects on the horizon, but seven years is just too long,
George! Stephen King movie adaptions can be pretty damn good, or really,
really awful depending on who's behind the camera. Well, no worries here,
King and Romero have had a great working relationship in the past (and I
expect good things in the future).
But give credit where credit is due, it's Timothy Hutton's outstanding performance that really makes this film special for me. He's good enough as ordinary Thad Beaumont, with just a hint of evil underneath his nice husband and father persona, holding back the nasty as best he can. Then Hutton is George Stark, and he doesn't even look like the same person. That's why Hutton is so damn good. With just a few minor changes, slicked-back hair and some facial stubble, he's a completely different person. You have to see it to believe it, he's that good. And he delivers the films darkly humorous lines perfectly ("What's going on out here?", "Murder. Want some?"). I know, the murderous joker has been done to death, but Hutton's good enough that we can forgive it. I love, love, love horror movies and this is one of the reasons why. 8/10 stars. G'night!
Sadly a rather bland version of King's sadly rather bland novel. Romero had apparently been slated to direct Pet Semetary before commitments (Monkey Shines) pulled him off - now that would have been worth watching. This on the other hand is a rather tepid slasher flick punctuated with a few inspired moments (the dream sequences and the whole sparrow things in particular). It's hard to know who is a fault here - certainly Dark Half - despite its intriguing premise - is one of King's weaker novels - but Romero's screenplay is little more than a rather one dimensional collection of deaths. There is some suspense and some good effects but overall a rather dull affair.
The Dark Half is a very good horror movie which is not surprising
considering the novel was written by Stephen King. George Romero a man
who has done a wonderful job with horror movies is the man in charge of
taking this from a novel to a movie and he delivers.
The plot revolves around author Thad Beaumont. Beaumont had written several best selling novels under the pseudonym George Stark. However a law student makes the connection and threatens to reveal it to everyone. Before this can happen Beaumont goes public and tells everyone he is Stark, essentially killing off his pseudonym. Stark isn't content with being dispatched and he comes to life determined to stick around. Stark then goes around killing those responsible for his demise. Beaumont must fight Stark because only one of them can survive.
Timothy Hutton does a spectacular job as both Beaumont and Stark. He really makes you believe the two are separate people but are tied together. The plot is suspenseful and full of unexpected twists. There are also supernatural elements such as the sparrows or bringers of the living dead.
So to sum it up The Dark Half is one of the better adoptions to Stephen King's works. It follows the story accurately and succeeds in scaring the audience which is the aim for horror movies.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In Castle Rock, Maine, the respectable writer and professor Thad
Beaumont (Timothy Hutton) lives a comfortable life with his wife Liz
Beaumont (Amy Madigan) and his two babies. Out of the blue, he is
blackmailed by a punk from New York that has discovered a hidden secret
about Thad: before writing serious novels, he had written cheap
literature using the pseudonym of George Stark and has become a
successful writer of the genre and made enough money to raise his
Thad and Liz discuss the situation and Thad calls his editors telling that he would tell the truth about George Stark to the press. The editors like the idea and prepare a promotional event, with That Beaumont burying George Stark in the cemetery. When the photographer is murdered, Sheriff Alan Pangborn (Michael Rooker) comes to Thad's home and tells that he is the prime suspect of the crime. Thad believes that the blackmailer is the responsible for the death but soon he finds that the man was murdered. Soon there are a crime spree incriminating Thad and he claims that George Stark is the responsible for the bloodshed. How can his violent alter ego be responsible for the homicides?
"The Dark Half" is a horror movie with a promising story by Stephen King but unfortunately with a disappointing conclusion with the sparrows destroying George Stark and leaving Thad Beaumont without any evidence to prove his innocence. The explanation of Reggie that George Stark is a conjuration, an entity created by dark half of Thad that brought his alter ego to life, is weak. I saw this movie for the first time in the 90's on VHS and I have just watched again on DVD. My vote is six.
Title (Brazil): "A Metade Negra" ("The Dark Half")
I saw this movie after i read the book and i have to say pretty much of
book was also in the film, although not all. Some parts with the sparrows
for instance weren't in the film, probably because the budget wouldn't
special effects that elaborate. And the murders, although violent enough
the movie, were particularly more gruesome in the book.
Ultimate conclusion: great acting from top notch actors/actresses who usually are nowhere to be found in horror (if you discount Michael Rooker's performance in "Henry"), pretty good special f/x and direction from a director who has made his mark in horror.
George Romero didn't translate King's book to the letter when he made
this screenplay; perhaps for the better because his version is an
equally interesting take.
Starring Timothy Hutton as a famous pulp novelist writing under the name of George Stark, the main character works; Thad Beaumont is clumsy, intelligent and quite the family man. Married to Amy Madigan and a father of twins.
When someone threatens to expose Thad for the pulp writer he is, Beaumont decides to let the world know he is George Stark. Good call you'd think, but George disagrees.
Thad's friends and family become the target of a guy going by the name of "George Stark". Like the characters in the books he has a taste for underground killings and a flair for rock 'n' roll one liners.
As the killings continue, Thad becomes entangled in an investigation directed at him.
This material is at fist glance unknown territory for George Romero, having spend too much time writing dialogue for zombie victims. Sure, Martin and Monkey Shines were proof the man could write a good script, but "the dark half" is as clever in its writing as it is to the point.
Add to that a wonderful score by Christopher Young (you haven't lived until you've heard the main theme, reprized at full glory in the end credits) The American DVD is full screen, the European (UK) has the widescreen, so avoid that US edition.
Dark Half is an inventive thriller that relies very much on the steps of belief (it builds the fiction, which few horror films do).
This is one of the few horror movies in which I was truly frightened. Unlike most horror movies these days, this one was serious from beginning to end. I saw this movie before I read the book and knew very little about it. I was on the edge of my seat all night. Timothy Hutton is wonderful as the evil George Stark and the good Thad Beaumont. Amy Madigan was good as his confused wife, too. This movie is a wonderful adaptation of the Stephen King book. Very little is left out. If you haven't seen this movie, which many people have not, you should rent it. I give it a ten out of ten.
Thad Beaumont (Timothy Hutton) had a brain tumor as a child that was an
undeveloped twin. Now, as an adult, the twin returns, fully formed and
violent. The source is a bit supernatural, but real enough to kill.
The story goes over ground that should be familiar to Stephen King fans. The idea of a child growing up to confront something from his childhood. The theme of a writer, explored numerous times ("Misery", "The Shining") but most closely to this in "Secret Window". Howard Maxford calls it a cross between "Misery" and "The Birds", which I do not fully accept but see his point.
Interestingly, Stephen King is not known for good movie adaptations, and George Romero has had his slew of below average films (though, if you stray from his zombie films, you will find an assortment of goodies). But together, they seem to have made a decent movie here. I really enjoyed it. I also enjoyed "Creepshow" -- maybe these guys bring out the best in each other? Michael Rooker is here (with hair) playing the role played by Ed Harris in "Needful Things". I would have liked to see some consistency in casting, but how do you choose between Rooker and Harris? Both top notch. Another Harris, Julie Harris, does appear, though... And the music is from Christopher Young, perhaps best known for his "Hellraiser" score.
Some of the factual information I found to be a bit questionable. Does a military service record really go into an FBI fingerprint database? I suppose it might, but the idea struck me as odd. And the idea that one in ten people start off as twins seemed too exaggerated (and then they said that was at the very least). I would like to know the truth on that.
Overall, though, a really decent film. It is not Oscar or Golden Globe material by any means, but a horror fan should enjoy the mix of gore and dark humor. Rue Morgue has called it "a middling Romero film based on a middling King novel", which really sells it short.
Unfortunately, the film did not get the proper respect in 1993, because its distributor (Orion) was fighting a bankruptcy battle and promoted it poorly. But now (2015), it has a second chance thanks to the fine folks at Scream Factory who have loaded up the Blu-ray with everything possible, including the kitchen sink.
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