28 March 2006 | TigerMann
A film that deserves far more than it's given credit for
Somewhere in the dark recesses of over-fluffed and processed Stephen King movie adaptations, there lies this jewel of a film: "The Dark Half."
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.