Originally released in 1993, The Dark Half presents yet another collaboration between masters of horror Stephen King and George A. Romero. After multiple collaborations on other movies such as both Creepshow movies, it would mark the end of their duel projects together, but by no means on bad terms. Clearly the two men enjoyed working with one another and trusted each other with their own work.
Loosely based on King and his own alter ego, Richard Bachman, The Dark Half follows a writer, Thad Beaumont (Timothy Hutton), whose alter ego, George Stark, comes to life and will do anything to keep it that way.
The idea of the alter ego being some over-the-top bad guy version of the lead character could have made this one of King’s more campy adaptations, but Romero manages to rein it in and balance dramatic and camp very well, a lot of which is due to the excellent first third of the movie. The introduction of the character and his history of (somewhat supernatural) migraines, as well as his alter ego, are done very well. The strange uneasiness that comes whenever George Stark or his stories are brought up creates wonderful atmosphere throughout the film itself, but also allow for some mystery to creep its way in to the film.
The performances and the directing from Romero help to push this even further. Timothy Hutton and Romero could have gone a tiny bit more over the top, or too serious, and it could have completely thrown off the perfect balance the film holds, but the performances managed to be solid all round, with Hutton being the standout in his dual role performance.
At points the overall production can be a little weak, looking more like an 80s TV movie rather than a feature film made in 1993. This is no fault of the camera or sound work, both of which remain great throughout. It seems as though it could be a mixture of editing, terrible special effects (which thankfully aren’t used much) and Romero’s blocking of the actors, which appears to be slightly rigid. These problems take very little away from the film, thankfully. However, it should be noted how much the special effects come in to play in the film’s climax.
The film’s main source of quality comes from the writing. Based off a novel by one of the most famous writers of all time and adapted for the screen by a man who has crafted some of the most famous horror films of all time, it is by no means a surprise how excellent the script is. King can occasionally get a little crazy in his writing, so having a second pair of hands in Romero to rein him in works excellently and creates a brilliant script, filled with mystery, suspense, and horror.
The Dark Half is a surprising little film. Originally receiving somewhat negative reviews upon release, it has aged well and appears to be extremely underrated. While the competition can be hit and miss, The Dark Half is definitely up there with the best Stephen King adaptations.