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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

The Dark Half (1993)
(Blu-Ray & DVD Dual Format)


Starring: Timothy Hutton, Amy Madigan, Julie Harris and Michael Rooker
Distributor: Eureka Entertainment
RRP: £17.99 (Blu-Ray & DVD Dual Format)
Certificate: 18
Release Date: 14 October 2019

A writer and lecturer authors respected books under his own name of Thad Beaumont (which nobody buys), and brutal horror thrillers under the pseudonym of George Stark (which are very successful). When someone discovers they are one and the same person and tries to blackmail him, Thad decides to come clean and reveal all in a publicity stunt wherein a mock gravestone for George Stark is placed on the family burial plot. But Stark won’t go easily. As a child Thad had suffered debilitating headaches. It turns out the remains of a twin foetus was attached to his brain. It was cut out and buried in the family plot. The twin – or the dark half of Thad Beaumont – takes on the form of a heartless killer from the Stark books, and is killing everyone that is close to Thad. There has to be a reckoning, as only one of them can survive The Sparrows Are Flying Again...

Film company Orion suffered monetary problems at the time of The Dark Half’s release, resulting in around seven movies not seeing the light of day for two years. Bird effects put the movie quite a bit behind schedule. The sparrows were obviously added to create more of a visual horror impact – doubly important for the film version. Real birds were brought in, but obviously could not be controlled, so mechanical birds and birds-on-sticks were utilised to create the desired effect. In close shots it works surprisingly well, and is a little lacking in other areas. Intelligently, large wheels of cut-out bird shapes were used with a light source to throw out shadows of countless birds. When they take Stark apart and drag his remains into the night sky towards a glowing fog, it defies explanation.

So, The Dark Half is a film which succeeds and fails in equal measures. The early parts are gripping: the young writer collapsing with head pain, and the eye opening in the brain during his operation (suitably gruesome). In fact, the young Thad – to all intents and purposes, the young Stephen King – is so watchable it made me long for the story to be told with him. The twin babies of Thad and his wife are amazing; the most continuously curious and happy ones I can remember.

George A. Romero will forever be known for the original zombie classic Night of the Living Dead, but he nurtured many other films. He does his best with this one, but the material itself means certain sections of the movie are non-sustaining. The figure of George Stark is rather stereotyped as a bad guy with a cut throat razor. It takes only a minute to get a grip on the characterisation before you begin suffering diminishing returns. In other words, he’s dull. I do like the idea that King used a real life experience and exaggerated it to see how far it would go. Many great ideas evolve from the smallest grain of a concept.

This duel format Blu-ray and DVD release is well deserving of an extra point for the excellent special features. There is an Audio Commentary with director George A. Romero (sadly no longer with us); a Making-of Documentary/Retrospective with Romero, Make-up Special Effects with Everett Burrell and John Vulich, Visual Effects Supervisor Keven Kutchaver, Actor Robert Joy, and Editor Pasquale Buba; Deleted Scenes; Behind-the-Scenes Archive Video Material; Original Storyboards, Trailers, and Limited Edition Slipcase and Booklet. The many interviews, fly-on-the-wall set-ups and insights into the making of this film made the extras almost as compelling as the film.


Ty Power

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