The Horror Honeys: Everyone Has a Dark Half

Everyone Has a Dark Half

I want to open this review with some full disclosure. I have a bit of a soft spot for both the film version of The Dark Half (and actor Timothy Hutton, but that's a separate issue.) While The Dark Half will always be one of my favorite Stephen King novels, the movie adaption is far from the best. It's not even that great. However, it stands as one of the first horror movies I ever saw, at around 11 years old, in the company of my horror-loving grandfather, who has since passed. So it will always hold a special place in my heart. But really... It IS kind of lame.

The Plot: Novelist Thad Beaumont writes the kind of "thinking man" novels that almost no one wants to read. Since it's impossible to make money that way, Beaumont creates an alter-ego in George Stark, who writes violent and unpleasant fiction that the public adores. However, when Beaumont is outed as Stark, Beaumont and his wife decide to symbolically "bury" Stark in a publicity stunt where George Stark is declared dead. It turns out that George Stark doesn't appreciate being dead and rises from the grave, going on a killing spree and taking out anyone responsible for his demise. Now Beaumont must figure out how to stop a murderer that doesn't exist before he, himself is taken in for the crimes.

Stephen King wrote the The Dark Half after it was discovered that he had been penning more violent horror novels under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. One of the elements I love most about this particular King novel is that it wrestles with the question that every horror writer has to eventually face: how deep into the darkness can we go before we are swallowed by it completely? In the novel (and film) it turns out that Thad Beaumont and George Stark are somewhat inextricably bonded to one another. But is this the case for every author and the material they create?

The film sticks fairly close to the book in both tone and story. However, the way that George Romero chose to portray George Stark was a little bit silly. Stark is Timothy Hutton as well, but made up to look like a cartoon, a low level Dick Tracy thug. Stark's intimidation factor is seriously underwhelmed by the fact that he comes across as little more than a caricature of bad guy from a 50s movie. I will admit that I've never been impressed with Romero's non-zombie films (Bruiser, The Crazies, Monkey Shines... Also, did you know he directed a documentary about O.J. Simpson called The Juice is Loose? HA! Hindsight.) But there really is a complete lack of subtly in The Dark Half that it could have benefited from greatly. Since the acting from Hutton, Amy Madigan, Michael Rooker, and Julie Harris is generally enjoyable, and Romero DID adapt the script faithfully, it all comes down to heavy handed direction. Which is, frankly, a bummer.

But, like I mentioned, I still watch The Dark Half regularly. It loses a lot of King's more interesting subtle elements and devolves into a fairly generic slasher film, but it will forever hold the distinction of being one of the first horror films to ever scare the pants off of me. And cheesy or not, The Dark Half will always remind of me my grandfather and the fact that he introduced me to my love of horror. So, lame or not, The Dark Half holds a special place in my stabby heart.

Revenge Honey Stabby Points: 3 out of 5
Revenge Honey Sentimentality Points: 5 out of 5