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Horror Review: The Dark Half

Written by Josh Brewer, August 11th, 2017, at 1:00 p.m. Tweet to: @theJWBrewer


Title: The Dark Half

Director: George Romero
Writer: George Romero, Paul Hunt, Nick McCarthy
Based on the Novel by Stephen Ling
Release Date:  April 23rd, 1993
Cast: Timothy Hutton, Amy Madigan, Julie Harris, Michael Rooker

Cliff’s Notes

After publicly “killing” his pseudonym, a writer becomes the target of a vicious killer who uses his books at motivation. Razor blade murders follow.

Lecture

After my less than stellar trip to the multiplex, I was desperate for something better from the Stephen King library. I’d been hearing plenty about how The Dark Half stood as a quality King adaptation, but I’d never had the opportunity to check it out. Mostly because I’ve always heard it was a hit or miss venture, The Dark Half hadn’t been on the top of my list. Well, I got off my ass and got to work and, damn, I’d been missing out. Helmed by the late, great Romero, The Dark Half gives you all kinds of goodies while wrapping it up in a mature, quality story.

And let’s get this out of the way, this puppy ain’t modern horror. Flashy editing and jump scares don’t serve this kind of story well and this puppy avoids them like the plague. Instead, we get a slow burn that ratchets up the tension as moves through the plot points, building something that works perfectly as a twisted horror piece. At its core, The Dark Half manages to invoke fears about addiction, art, and the core of what it is to tell a story. Hefty stuff from a genre piece.

Now, that’s not to say everything is perfect. A number of plot points only exist to force the story along, meaning that parts feel less organic and more forced. And while Rooker plays his sheriff character perfectly, this puppy is stuffed with fake laws and processes that keep the cops from ever being efficient. That works against the film, as the level of depth given to the struggle of our lead reads with significantly more depth.

Acting

Hutton is this flick and the entire thing hangs on his performance. Lucky for us, dude puts in the time and gives a solid pair of performances. Sure, his character work stands head and shoulders above his more traditional role, but the straight man always seems underappreciated. Madigan and Harris both do well, though they don’t have a ton to work with. Rooker plays against type as the put upon sherriff and nails it. He’s got a few weak character turns that come from the script, but the guy always rocks and this stands as a prime example.

Directing

Romero takes his time with this dark horror yarn, letting The Dark Half build naturally over its two hour run time. He takes a more measured pace than in his other work and it pays off in spades. That, added with his often underappreciated visual style, means that The Dark Half succeeds as a horror film for adults.

Script

A common complaint about The Dark Half falls not to the plot or the characters, but the whys behind the craziness. I really can’t say that bugs me. I never wanted to know why things were happening, but rather was drawn into the craziness that took over the character’s lives. The dialogue works well, with Stark getting all of the great lines, and the finale gives you a little bit of greatness.

Effects

The practical effects win the day, providing enough nastiness to keep this puppy bloody. Sure, it’s not a gore-hound’s dream, but there’s enough here to keep the horror fans happy. And the ending goes a little crazy in all of the right ways.

Highlights

While I’m inclined to go with Hutton’s performance, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give it to the out there solution to the baddie. Good times.

Lowlights

I’m really done with cops who are wrong because it serves the plot.

Final Thoughts  

A horror film for adults, The Dark Half gives you creepiness in spades and one hell of a pay off. Not for those who are looking for jump scares and empty fluff, The Dark Half plays its hand just fine.

Grade: B

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