The Dark Half: Dual Blu-ray and DVD

Monday, 14 October 2019 16:22

Based on a novel by Stephen King, “The Dark Half” is an attempt by zombie maestro George A. Romero to make a more commercial, studio-produced horror movie. Timothy Hutton (The Haunting of Hill House, “Ordinary People”) plays author and university tutor Thad Beaumont. Unbeknownst to Thad, as a child he had remnants of a partially-absorbed twin removed from his brain after experiencing a series of debilitating headaches.

Some twenty years later, grown up Thad is married with two baby children and is doing rather well for himself thanks to the success of some grizzly horror novels, released under the secret pseudonym George Stark. A blackmailing incident forces Thad to go public and abandon his alternate career, but this triggers the onset of some horrific murders, with all the evidence pointing to Thad himself. Is the writer going crazy or is some supernatural force emerging?

“The Dark Half” certainly feels like a more conventional horror-thriller movie than the majority of Romero’s output (such as “Dawn of the Dead” and “Martin”), bearing far fewer quirky, distinctive qualities. Fortunately this does not make it a bad film, just one that could probably have been made by any number of directors lacking Romero’s unique vision.

Hutton’s performance is fascinating, not least because he has to play two different sides of the same character – wholesome family man Thad and cold, devious murderer George. One could not be any straighter whereas the actor has immense fun as nasty piece of work George, subtly aided by facial prosthetics, a darker wardrobe and a black musclecar.

The film works best whilst the audience is kept guessing as to whether George is some kind of split personality of Thad’s or a completely separate entity. As the body count builds, more and more pressure is heaped on Thad to prove himself innocent, primarily by local Sheriff Pangborn (Michael Rooker – “Guardians of the Galaxy”, The Walking Dead).

The audience has to suspend its disbelief somewhat, not least because Pangborn continues to let Thad remain free despite the overwhelming evidence suggesting he is the killer. Locking him up might have constrained the plot somewhat but it would surely have been the right thing to do under the circumstances.

The special effects are surprisingly sparse until the final 15-20 minutes, whereupon the movie spirals into more traditional Romero territory and wows with some impressive gore and visual flourishes involving flocks of sparrows. As horror films go there are precious few jump-shocks but on the plus side, the character of George does dig quite deep under your skin.

King and/or Romero fans should give this a go; it is a solid, largely conventional horror film with an intriguing premise.

Special features include:

  • 1080p presentation of the film on Blu-ray (with a progressive encode on the DVD)
  • LPCM audio (uncompressed on the Blu-ray) and 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio options
  • Audio commentary with Writer/Director George A. Romero
  • George A Romero episode of Son of the Incredibly Strange Film Show [38 mins] - documentary on the director originally aired on UK television in 1989 fronted by Jonathan Ross
  • The Sparrows Are Flying Again! The Making of The Dark Half [36mins] - Retrospective with George A. Romero, special make-up effects creators Everett Burrell and John Vulich, visual effects supervisor Kevin Kutchaver, actor Robert Joy, editor Pasquale Buba and more!
  • Deleted Scenes
  • A selection of Behind-the-scenes and archival video material
  • Original Storyboards
  • TV spot
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve
  • Limited Edition collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Simon Ward
  • Optional English SDH subtitles

The making-of includes some nice interviews with the cast and crew, and Romero himself takes centre stage. Sadly, Hutton doesn’t feature but then, based on comments about him being a bit difficult to work with due to his method approach, it is not entirely surprising. Romero is very candid about what does and does not work, and the downfall of Orion Pictures evidently put a rather large spanner in the works.

“The Dark Half” (1993) is out now on Dual Format Blu-ray and DVD (2 discs), courtesy of Eureka Entertainment Ltd. The main feature has a running time of 121 minutes approx, carries an ‘18’ certificate and retails for £17.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com.

Last modified on Tuesday, 15 October 2019 16:28

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