Monday, November 17, 2014

Dark Half (Scream Factory Blu-ray) Romero and King at It Again

There's a point in any horror director's career when you start to see him slip. That's not to say all the work thereafter will be drivel or unworthy of praise, but something is clearly missing. While The Dark Half, an adaptation of a Stephen King novel directed by George A. Romero, isn't a slip per say, it certainly signifies the end of Romero's near untouchable streak. The Dark Half is actually a fine movie with plenty of chills, suspense and a fascinating premise as dictated by King, but the movies that follow do not live up to the near perfection of Romero's earlier work. Which movies came after you may ask? Brusier for one. Bruiser that does not appeal to me. Land of the Dead and the subsequent sequels in the "of the Dead" series that may offer some substance but little ingenuity or quality. The Dark Half is the end of the line for me (and yes, I happen to be one who enjoyed Two Evil Eyes).

Timothy Hutton in the duel role as Thad Beaumont and George Stark is perfect. Each role is filled with a brilliant drama that is almost tidal; the relationship between beach and wave gradually eroding and succumbing to one another. Each fills the other with energy as if Hutton is acting against himself. While Hutton as George Stark is completely unbelievable in a fantastic made-up way, Hutton is equally alive for us. Real. That's the way it should be of course. Stark is the fictitious character after all. The supporting cast is perfect and New England with both Michael Rooker and Amy Madigan creating some very real King characters.

The Dark Half has some strong kills that don't exactly punch you in the gut with visual simulation, but leave so much to the imagination between a combination of carefully framed shots (shot not to show too much) and clever dialogue that illustrates the out come of George Stark's needy madness. Toward the end, the effects continue to build creating more violent images and more surreal makeup on George Stark. He lives and rots in this own strange lack of being. This is King's doing, but the effectiveness of this picture is due to some solid makeup and, toward the finale, some very unusual surreal effects.

The artwork is the traditional cover and poster art with stills inserted on the reverse. It looks very good and is clearly an upgrade from previous releases, however I couldn't help but notice some dust and hair in some early scenes. It's hardly a problem, but I expect Scream Factory's detractors to jump all over this and make a big stink about it. It's no reason to avoid this release by any means especially when you consider the bonus package that is full of goodies for Romero fans that touch on some of the reasons this film is so successful especially the new making of featurette and audio commentary by Romero himself.

Bonus Features include:
  • NEW Audio Commentary With Writer/Director George A. Romero
  • NEW The Sparrows Are Flying Again!: The Making Of "The Dark Half" - An All-New Retrospective With George A. Romero, Special Make-Up Effects Creators Everett Burrell And John Vulich, Visual Effects Supervisor Kevin Kutchaver, Actor Robert Joy And More!
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Animated Storyboards for the Original Ending
  • Behind-The-Scenes Footage – Special Effects and On the Set
  • Vintage "Making of THE DARK HALF" plus additional interview clips
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spot
  • Still Gallery
I haven't read the book The Dark Half, but I haven seen the movie once before. It falls in line perfectly with two other releases from Scream Factory, Day of the Dead and Monkey Shines (if only they could have gotten their hands on Creepshow). Shout Factory also released Knightriders which is a drastically overlooked and underrated piece of Romero's filmography. This may have been the last great hurrah for Romero before he went into making sequel after sequel to his most successful series, the last movie that truly gave us something of which to be in awe, but it isn't his Romero's best. This is what happens when Romero works with a major studio instead of being the independent filmmaker we love. It is however a shining example of how Romero and King worked so well together and should have continued their collaborations (if studios and finance hadn't gotten in the way). It may be Hutton's best picture though... next to Ordinary People of course. It's such a chance to enjoy his style.

You can order The Dark Half now!

Synopsis from Scream Factory:

Masters of horror Stephen King and George A. Romero have created a "gripping, creepy, frightening" (L.A. Reader) film that “thrills, shocks and works us over" (Los Angeles Times)! Featuring an "intelligent screenplay and first-rate cast" (The New York Times) including Oscar® winner* Timothy Hutton, Amy Madigan (Fringe), Julie Harris (The Haunting) and Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead), The Dark Half has “a terrific premise for a thriller and director George Romero sets it up with skill and style” (Roger Ebert).

Horror writer Thad Beaumont (Hutton) hopes to distance himself from his murder novels and from George Stark, the name he has used to anonymously author them. To achieve this, he cooks up a murder to play out in real life: a publicity stunt that should lay Stark to rest forever. But when the people around him are found gruesomely slain – and his own fingerprints dot the crime scenes – Beaumont is dumbfounded until he learns that Stark has taken on life of his own...and begun a gruesome quest for vengeance!

*1980: Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Ordinary People

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