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The Dark Half

Rated R, 122 min. Directed by George Romero. Starring Timothy Hutton, Amy Madigan, Michael Rooker, Julie Harris.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., April 30, 1993

For all twelve of you out there who didn't read Stephen King's book while it lingered on the Times best-seller list for several months, this is the story of novelist Thad Beaumont (Hutton) and what happens to him when his recently exposed pseudonym, George Stark (Hutton, again) literally comes to life and begins slicing up Thad's friends with a straight razor. Okay... King's book explored the schizophrenic nature of writing, asking, basically, “who does a writer become when he's in front of the keyboard, wrapped up in all that fantasy?” It's an interesting question, even for non-writers, and King took the ball and ran with it in an admirable manner, crafting one of his best books in years. Alas, the movie is never the book, and try as he might, horror auteur Romero (Night of the Living Dead) never makes this puppy sing the high notes. Instead of focusing on the psychological aspects of the story, as King did in his book, the director instead takes the gory, literal road, and despite excellent performances from Hutton, Madigan, and more sparrows than Hitchcock could shake a stick at, The Dark Half never really comes to life, unlike Stark. It's hard to pin down, really, just what goes wrong: certainly the film takes far too long to get going, that's one problem, but it's more than that. Even in Romero's capable hands, this seemingly surefire story ends up stillborn, perhaps in part due to the medium's inability to portray the thoughts and inner dialogue of its characters without benefit of hokey voiceovers. While hardly the worst of the “Stephen King Films” (that honor still rests with the execrable Silver Bullet), The Dark Half just doesn't do much more than go “Boo!” And poorly, at that.
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