Title: The Dark Half (1993)
Director: George Romero
Writer: George Romero (based on the novel by Stephen King)
Cast: Timothy Hutton, Amy Madigan, Michael Rooker
So The Dark Half is one of those George Romero movies that doesn’t get talked about much. Like Monkey Shines (1988) and Martin (1977), The Dark Half tends to get overshadowed (as most Romero films that don’t deal with zombies do) by Romero’s living dead films. But in all honesty, I think this movie deserves a whole lot more attention then it gets, simply because it’s not a film one can easily lump amongst Romero’s bad films, like Bruiser (2000) or Season of the Witch (1972) for example.
Hey, Thad just so happens to be giving a class on the films theme! What a coincidense!
The Dark Half tells the tale of Thad Beaumont, a writer who has been working under the pseudonym George Stark so that he can sell books and make a living. You see, he writes trashy violence filled novels under this name so that his real name isn’t tarnished. Kind of like the same way that Stephen King would write under the name Richard Bachman, but more on that later. So anyhow, Thad decides to kill off his pseudonym and tell the world that George Star and Thad Beaumont are one and the same. Problem is, when he does this, George Stark, basically Thad’s alter ego comes alive and starts killing off people. Everyone thinks that it’s Thad doing the killing, when in fact it is his alter ego/persona George Stark. Will Thad be able to stop Stark? Will he ever confront his dark side and win?
This film marks one of many collaborations between Stephen King and George Romero. Their first collaboration was Creepshow (1982). They worked together yet again on Creepshow 2 (1987). The Dark Half is an interesting picture because it mixes the best of both of these brilliant horror oriented masterminds. On The Dark Half, we get a lot of the themes that we can come to expect from a Stephen King novel/film. If you notice, a lot of Stephen King stories revolve around the life of a writer, in this way, King mirrors his own life in his work. Misery, Desperation and even IT all have writers in them. And in many of these stories, the writer is always confronted with the fear of someone hounding him, like in Misery (1990) for example where the writer is assaulted and kidnapped by one of his own rabid fans, forcing him to write the story she wants to see.
The film was based on the Stephen King novel of the same name
On The Dark Half, Thad Beaumont is the writer. And he writes these violent novels by using the pseudonym George Starks. In a way, Thad uses Stark and these violent novels in a cathartic manner, exorcising his inner demons, his dark violent side. The film explains we all have this dark side, the side we don’t show to everybody. Thad is also a university teacher, and on his classes he explains that a writer needs to let their super-ego, the dark secret self out when they write. A writer’s job is to set this inner persona loose and let it go wild and free. And of course this is all true. A writer does need to let go of inhibitions when he or she writes. On The Dark Half, this secret persona becomes real when Thad decides to eliminate him. So suddenly we are in a story where Thad has an evil version of himself doing all sorts of twisted and perverted deeds. Problem is, all these evil deeds are blamed on Thad.
George Stark's one evil S.O.B!
I actually enjoy it when he does something other then zombie films. I’m a fan of Monkey Shines, I love Martin. And I love The Dark Half. It stars Timothy Hutton as Thad Beaumont, and it’s a good Timothy Hutton performance. He plays a double role, the good side of Thad and his dark half, George Stark. It is said that Timothy Hutton was not easy to work with during this production, that he and George had differences. Hutton even quit the film for a few days during the middle of the film! But whatever, I say that this all translated rather well on film. Hutton seems intense and evil when he is playing Stark, who by the way has a little bit of Elvis Presley in him as well. He constantly hums Elvis’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” all through out the film, another sign that Stephen King is mirroring himself with this story. Stephen Kings affection for the King is well known. By the way, King himself says that this story is semi-autobiographical because it has to do with a story that forced him to reveal his Richard Bachman pseudonym to the world. When King wrote under the Bachman pseudonym, his novels were darker and violent, and that’s because no one knew he was Bachman as well. As a writer, he would go nuts! Until he was forced to come out to the world and say the truth: that King and Bachman were the same guy. After that, he wrote The Dark Half. I will say this about The Dark Half, it has more King then Romero in it that’s for sure. So maybe that’s what some critics mean when they say this isn’t so much a Romero film.
The film was plagued with production woes. Aside from the differences between Romero and Hutton, Orion Pictures was going bankrupt, and so the film was stuck in limbo for well over two years after completion. It didn’t really make its money back at the box office, making only 10 million vs. its 15 million budget. But I’m sure the films failure at the box office had more to do with the way it was marketed, then the film itself. I recently saw it and didn’t find many faults in it. I mean, the only negative side to the whole thing is how to explain George Stark manifesting himself in the real world. I mean, okay, Thad Beaumont had an unborn twin brother lodged inside his brain when he was a kid, but it was surgically removed. My only question for King and Romero is how do they explain a fictional character manifesting in the real world like that? How did George Stark come to be? I mean, Stark was simply a pseudonym, a name. That’s all. Stark was really Thad all along. Is Stark some sort of dark spirit? What exactly is Stark? It is never explained. But I let that go because within the fantasy of the film it works. I mean, I get the symbolisms and what the story is trying to say; it’s just that when it comes down to logic, there really isn’t any there. That’s about as negative as I can get about this movie.
Nightmares can be a bitch in a George Romero film!
This is not really a whodunit, because pretty early on we know its not Stark doing the killing, we know about Thad’s dark side pretty early on. If anything, some might think that it isn’t that fun learning the films “twist” so early in the film, but that’s just fine with me. The Dark Half isn’t a Shyamalan film, wanting to wow you with a twist ending. Romero isn’t concerned with that. This film isn’t even a gore fest like many of Romero’s zombie films, the blood letting and gore on this film is suggested and happens off-screen most of the time. No my friends, The Dark Half is more of a psychological film, a symbolic film. It asks us to deal with our dark side, confront it, and eliminate it if need be. It’s interesting that Thad decides to do this so he can protect his family from harm, in this way, revealing to us its ultimate message.
Rating: 4 out of 5