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DARK HALF, THE(director/writer: George Romero; screenwriter: based on the story by Stephen King; cinematographer: Tony Pierce-Roberts; editor: Pasquale Buba; music: Christopher Young; cast: Timothy Hutton (Thad Beaumont/George Stark), Amy Madigan (Liz Beaumont), Michael Rooker (Sheriff Alan Pangborn), Julie Harris (Professor Reggie DeLesseps), Kent Broadhurst (Mike Donaldson), Glenn Colerider (Homer Gamache), Tom Mardirosian (Rick Cowley), Rutanya Alder (Miriam Cowley), Robert Joy (Fred Clawson), Sarah and Elizabeth Parker (The Beaumont twins); Runtime: 122; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Declan Baldwin; Orion Pictures; 1993)
“Should satisfy mostly hardcore fans of the horror genre.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

George Romero (“Night of the Living Dead”/”Dawn of the Dead”/”Monkey Shines”) is writer and director of this classical Jekyll-and-Hyde story. It’s about a mentally unbalanced acclaimed literary writer and creative writing college tutor named Thad Beaumont using the alias of George Stark (Timothy Hutton) to pen four crappy pulp violent thrillers that become bestsellers. During childhood, in 1968, he was operated for a brain tumor causing headaches and it was uncovered that an undeveloped twin dwells in his brain. It’s the first collaboration between horror legends George A. Romero and Stephen King since 1982’s Creepshow.

The respected writer Thad lives happily with his wife Liz (Amy Madigan) and his baby girl twins in an ideal small-town in Maine. When a grubby New Yorker named Fred Clawson (Robert Joy) blackmails him about his double identity, rather than pay for his silence Thad with his press agent’s approval goes public, calling the press, and buries Stark himself in a publicity stunt mock symbolical burial ceremony. Soon the police discover the fake grave has been dug up and a series of violent razor slasher murders begin of Thad’s friends and colleagues along the East Coast. The local sheriff (Michael Rooker) finds it hard to believe that Thad’s fictional alter ego is responsible for the bloodshed (something this viewer concurs, as the film’s farfetched conceit relies too much on the usual cheap shock formula tricks to get over rather than bringing something more substantial and interesting to make its case). Thad begins to realize his dark alter ego is Stark, who is now demanding that he write more trashy gore books under Stark’s name or else what will follow is the destruction of Thad’s family, as the film stages a battle for mind control between the two opposing forces.

Despite this psychological horror story’s drawbacks as a literary twist on the Jekyll-and-Hyde story, that its strange unreality flies better on the written page than it does on film, and its contrived build-up of suspense fails to carry the day, it still has a reasonably intelligent screenplay and provides a few cheap gruesome chills in the form of visual jolts that should satisfy mostly hardcore fans of the horror genre.

REVIEWED ON 10/29/2008 GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”