170) The Dark Half (1993) Dir: George Romero Date Released: April 1993 Date Seen: May 15, 2010 Rating: 3/5
Though The Dark Half, writer/director George Romero's adaptation of a short story by Stephen King, seriously takes a nose-dive once George Stark (Timothy Hutton), the pen name and now evil twin of mild-mannered writer and family man Thad Beaumont (also Hutton), starts talking, there's something about the film I find irresistible. For Romero, The Dark Half is a much-needed return to a more character-driven kind of horror film, something he hasn't really tried since Martin,* which is rapidly becoming my favorite of his films. Hutton's alternately inspired and just flat-out hammy performance really is the heart of the film, not the mostly unexplored idea that man needs to become schizophrenic in order to fully express themselves. Romero's script is crude and rambling but that's because he's trying to do something he's never really nailed down: fleshing out protagonists that are people first and a series of provocative tics second.
The Dark Half is also a nice reminder that Romero does know how and hence can cognizantly direct an evocative scene. His films aren't just a collection of neat concepts that infrequently pay off in a big way: there's a craft to it, as in the film's spectacular The Birds tribute, the ending in the hidden room, a brief street scene where Stark is stalking Beaumont, the rising tension in the scene where Stark pulls over his next victim or the one where he uses someone's head as a football. They're all sub-Bava or even sub-De Palma stabs at Hitchcockian suspense and hence just a riff on an established mode but I think Romero needs that from time to time; gives him some much-needed focus. Not a perfect film but certainly one I'm glad I saw on the big screen at BAM and a very nice way to kill time on a Saturday afternoon.
*As far as I know. Please correct me if I'm wrong.