George A. Romero (director)
14 October 2019 (released)
18 October 2019
In a clever twist to the classical Jekyll & Hyde story, Oscar-winner Timothy Hutton finds himself confronted with his dark half in this unsettling Stephen King adaptation.
In a brief ‘prequel’ sequence set during the tail end of the 1960’s, a young boy named Thad Beaumont displays literary talent but his progress both in school and at home becomes marred when he suffers unexplainable headaches and mysterious visions of flying sparrows. Eventually young Thad is diagnosed with a brain tumour and during the operation the surgeon discovers traces of a fraternal twin living inside the boy’s brain – mainly eye, some teeth and other delightful things one doesn’t normally host in ones grey cells. After successfully removing the tumour (and thus the fraternal twin) a strange phenomena outside the clinic occurs when a gigantic flock of sparrows – apparently out of nowhere – keep crashing against the hospital windows. While recovering from surgery, Thad’s mother decides to keep quiet about the fraternal twin in her son’s brain – can we blame her?
Forward two decades later and Thad Beaumont (Timothy Hutton) is not only happily married to wife Liz (Amy Madigan) and a proud father of baby twins, but he has become a successful author too… as exemplified by his cosy and posh house, surrounded by rural tranquillity. His success, however, came at a price: initially a writer of more highbrow novels he had to learn the hard way that the great unwashed public seems more interested in pulp and cheap crime stories. Hence the suspense thrillers penned under his nom de plume ‘George Stark’ brought him the success that Thad Beaumont was denied. And so Thad and his family would have lived happily ever after were it not for the sudden appearance of an apparent fan called Fred Clawson (Robert Joy) who remembers Thad back from the old days and quickly put one and one together… Now, armed with a ‘George Stark’ novel under his arm, he has come to blackmail Thad: either he pays up or Fred will let the world know that the well-spoken and well-respected Thad Beaumont is in fact the very writer of trashy crime novels known as George Stark. Although initially annoyed, Thad – after a lengthy discussion with his wife and his literary agents in New York, decides not to give in to Fred’s demands. Instead, in a well-staged publicity stunt, he officially ‘buries’ George Stark, with ‘Not a very nice guy’ written on the fake tombstone.
And this is when the horror creeps in, for George Stark refuses to be dead and buried. Thad’s literary double is engraved so deep in his conscience that George Stark begins to morph into an actual physical being (also portrayed by Hutton), dressed in black (as villains in American movies always are) and sporting a mean rockabilly hairstyle. Just like Sweeney Todd – the demon barber of Fleet Street – George Stark proceeds to dispatch all those who helped ‘bury’ him with his cut-throat razor, from local photographer to Thad’s agents and even a doctor – no one is spared except Thad and his family. Well, so far. As the bloodbath continues, local Sheriff Pangborn (Michael Rooker) would like nothing more than to arrest Thad for multiple murders - especially since his fingerprints are found at each crime scene. Much to his frustration though he cannot arrest him because Thad has fool-proof alibis for some of the timeframes during which the murders occurred. Little does Pangborn know that Thad’s dark half has literally come to live… even Thad himself is struggling to believe it. Only after visiting local weird dame Reggie Delesseps (the fabulous Julie Harris) does Thad comes his dark half is an evil entity controlled by his own writings – and now George demands that Thad continues with an unfinished book… In order to demonstrate just how serious he is, George kidnaps Thad’s wife and kids and the stage is set for a truly mind-boggling finale!
Both director George A. Romero and main actor Timothy Hutton won two awards for their efforts. Although at times gory and creepy the film also delves into the psychological aspects of King’s story. As Thad Beaumont remarks: “We all have a beast in us.”
With its eerie soundtrack (performed by the Munich Symphony Orchestra) and effective editing courtesy of Pasquale Buba, THE DARK HALF benefits from first-rate performances and highly effective make-up trickery by John Vulich and Everett Burrell.
Available for the first time in Blu-ray in the UK, the multiple Bonus features include a ‘Making of…’ docu plus a 1989 episode of Jonathan Ross’ series ‘The incredibly Strange Film Show’ during which he interviews (and introduces) George A. Romero and his work, and finds himself transformed into a zombie by special effects wizard Tom Savini.