Dark Half [1993]

Although it lacks the creepy subtleties of Stephen King's celebrated novel, George Romero's underrated adaptation of The Dark Half ranks among the best films based on King's fiction, with Romero taking care to honor King's central theme while serving up some gruesome gore in the film's much-criticized finale. Inspired by King's own admission that he wrote several novels under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, The Dark Half explores the duality of a writer's impulse, ranging from literary respectability to the viscerally cathartic thrills of exploitative pulp fiction. Author and teacher Thad Beaumont (Timothy Hutton) finds himself torn between those extremes when he "kills" his profitable, pseudonymous alter ego George Stark (the bestselling "dark half" to Thad's light), who then assumes an evil, autonomous form (again played by Hutton) to lethally defend his role in Thad's creative endeavors. Forced to wrestle with this evil manifestation of his own unformed twin, Thad must fight to protect his wife (Amy Madigan), their twin babies, and his own survival as an artist. Romero skillfully develops the twin/duality theme to explore the writer's dilemma, and Hutton is outstanding in his dual roles, playing Stark (in subtly fiendish makeup) as a redneck rebel with a knack for slashing throats. Julie Harris adds class in a supporting role, and horror fans will relish Romero's climactic showdown, in which swarms of sparrows seal Stark's fate. It favors a pulp sensibility with clunky exposition to explain Stark's existence, but The Dark Half is a laudable effort from everyone involved. --Jeff Shannon

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