Archive for Stephen King

DOLORES CLAIBORNE (1995) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in movies, USA with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2013 by goregirl

There are not nearly enough films out there that feature strong roles for women. I had no idea Stephen King wrote a book with such a solid female protagonist. Despite the fact this is based on a novel by Stephen King this is not a horror film but rather a mystery drama with a dash of thriller. To say Dolores is one tough woman is an understatement. The woman’s life is a hell. I certainly didn’t appreciate this film in my 20s like I do today. Dolores Claiborne is a heart wrenching, bleak and ugly film that left me with a feeling of complete admiration for the titular woman. “Sometimes, an accident can be an unhappy woman’s best friend“.

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Dolores Claiborne opens with a scene where we see or rather hear a struggle at the top of a staircase. We later learn the two women are Dolores and her employer Vera Donovan. Vera Donovan takes a bad fall down the stairs. Her frail elderly frame lay at the bottom of the staircase as Dolores rushes down to see the woman is still conscience. Dolores runs to the kitchen rifles through some drawers and settles on a rolling pin. She hurries back to Vera and readies herself to finish the woman off when the postman walks in. Dolores freezes with rolling pin raised above her head. Vera in fact died before Dolores had a chance to strike her blow. The next scene we are taken to a New York office where we meet Selena St. George; a reporter trying to convince her boss to give her a hot story. She receives a fax with a single sentence “Isn’t this your mother?” with a copy of a story from a Bangor newspaper. Dolores has been accused of causing Vera Donovan’s death. Selena makes her first trip home in fifteen years. When Selena arrives in the tiny town she meets Detective John Mackey who is working on her mother’s case. Mackey remembers Selena from when she was a teen and he was investigating Dolores for the death of her husband Joe. Selena seems to have no recollection of Mackey. The balance of the film is Dolores relaying her history and we learn the circumstances that led to both her husband’s and Vera Donovan’s deaths.

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Dolores is a hard woman with a bad reputation around town of being difficult. Many of the townsfolk believe she was guilty of her husband’s death and in a small town the word travelled fast about the strange scene surrounding Vera Donovan’s death. This is the woman we meet when the film begins, but the woman that is shown to us in flashbacks is a very different woman indeed. It is amazing what some people are forced to endure. Did Dolores ever have joy in her life? Does she feel her many sacrifices have been redeemed by her daughter’s achievements? The scrapbook Dolores keeps with every article Selena wrote tells me yes. But how could she not feel a little cheated about a daughter who has stayed away fifteen years believing her mom was some battleaxe that made her father’s life a living hell?

As an adult Selena lives in a haze of prescription drugs, chain-smoking, excessive drinking and failed relationships. Selena has buried her past deep inside her. Despite her successful career as a journalist Selena is a bitter, acidic and troubled young woman. As Dolores is relaying the events that occurred during Selena’s childhood it is like a slap in the face to Selena. Selena is not easy to empathize with but by the end of the film she is considerably softened by the revelations.

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It is very difficult to relay Dolores Claiborne’s best scenes as they are key plot points that would give too much away. There are several poignant moments in the film and several of those involve Dolores’ interaction with her husband Joe. Joe St. George is a drunken creep of a husband who mentally and physically abuses his wife. One evening he whacks her in the back with a 2 x 4 and she does her best to hide the incident and the unbearable pain she is in from her daughter. Later that evening after Selena has gone to bed, Dolores surprises Joe with a strike to his head. When Joe makes a move to come after Dolores she threatens him with an axe. She than drops the axe in his lap and gets right in his face daring him to finish her off once and for all. She tells him he will never hit her again or else one of the two of them is going to the boneyard. Of course the insults continue as does the drinking but the ugly man does not raise his hand to her. Why does she stay married to Joe? Till death do us part I guess but what a fucking concept that is. It is not long afterwards that Dolores takes a job as a housekeeper for Vera Donovan. A job she takes to start a bank account for Selena so her daughter is not trapped in the tiny town like she is. The job keeps Dolores out of the house, but unfortunately also leaves her daughter alone with her drunkard husband which inevitably becomes problematic.

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Kathy Bates is extraordinary as Dolores Claiborne. A hard as nails woman with a beautiful heart that becomes an embittered woman who is forced to defend her actions and refuses to do so even though it may mean her life. She refuses to be intimidated and is rarely shaken. She has hands that tell a 1000 stories. I really can’t imagine anyone else in the role; Bates is beyond perfect. Judy Parfitt has a fairly small but immensely important role as Vera Donovan. Vera Donovan is a demanding woman who is exceedingly difficult to work with. She has a million fussy little eccentricities that have caused many a housekeeper to run from her home in tears; at least the ones she doesn’t fire. Parfitt is quite unforgettable as Vera. Jennifer Jason Leigh as the bitter and unhappy daughter who has buried her past deep within does not have an easy role but pulls it off effortlessly. Christopher Plummer is a son of a bitch with a major bone to pick with Dolores. He always believed that Dolores killed her husband Joe and considers her not guilty verdict to be a failure on his part. He is gunning to see her go down and relentlessly pursues a guilty verdict on the death of Vera Donovan. David Strathairn plays Joe St. George the deplorable, hateful and hideous husband. He is excellent in the unpleasant and unenviable role. John C. Reilly also has a small role as a constable assisting Detective Mackey. The cinematography is lovely. A key scene that takes place during a solar eclipse is truly haunting and beautifully captured (it is also very satisfying!). Danny Elfman’s score works quite well at complimenting the daunting moments. Dolores Claiborne is sad, beautiful, ugly and powerful. Highly recommended.

Dungeon Rating: 4.5/5

Directed By: Taylor Hackford

Starring: Kathy Bates, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judy Parfitt, Christopher Plummer, David Strathairn, Eric Bogosian, John C. Reilly, Ellen Muth, Bob Gunton

Goregirl’s TOP 10 Favourite Horror Films From 1993

Posted in horror, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 27, 2013 by goregirl

It was my intention to post a top ten list each week during this 90s feature and I have already gone and dropped the ball! I had to dig pretty deep to come up with ten films for 1993. I would have liked to have gotten my hands on a copy of The Wicked City; a Hong Kong made Sci-Fi/horror, but no dice. I did not give any film from 1993 a perfect score. The top two are films I rated 4.5/5, films three and four were rated 4/5, five through seven were rated 3.5/5 and eight through ten are films I rated 3/5. I also gave the following four films a 3/5; Skinner, Jack Be Nimble, The Good Son and Bloodstone: Subspecies II.

*Only feature-length films will be included on the top ten lists for the decade; I do not include shorts, documentaries or made for television movies.

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#10 ED AND HIS DEAD MOTHER
Directed By: Jonathan Wacks

Ed and his Dead Mother is a horror-comedy of the PG variety. Ed is a serious mama’s boy who is awkward, likable and completely dedicated to the family hardware store. Ed would do anything to get his mother back, including making a deal with the Happy People Corporation to resurrect her. Ed lives with his Uncle Benny who is always telling Ed he needs to move on with his life. Imagine Uncle Benny’s surprise one morning when he finds his sister in the refrigerator peeling potatoes! Ned Beatty is great and gets the film’s better lines. I also enjoyed Gary Farmer who plays Big Lar, one of Ed’s hardware store employees. Eric Christmas is also memorable as a sales man for the Happy People Corporation. And of course there is the affable and talented Steve Buscemi who plays Ed, who is really this comedy’s straight man. Sadly the ladies are the weak link here. I don’t really think Miriam Margolyes who plays mother is to blame as she was animated and enthusiastic enough. The bigger problem was they just did not give her enough funny lines and/or scenarios. The dead mother really should have been the highlight shouldn’t she? She is not. Ed’s romantic interest, Storm (more of a strong breeze than a storm if you ask me) played by Sam Jenkins also does not get any particularly funny bits. She is awful pretty, but is rather a non-entity. There is very little horror outside of the resurrection of Ed’s dead mother and one death scene which we don’t get to see. Even the laughs are a clean affair. I guess I was hoping for something a little darker. The love story was unnecessary and the ending is terribly corny. Ed and his Dead Mother gave me enough laughs to warrant a bit more than a pass but consider it a light recommendation at best.

ed and his dead mother

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#9 NECRONOMICON
Directed By: Christophe Gans, Shûsuke Kaneko, Brian Yuzna

Necronomicon is an anthology of three stories based loosely on the writing of H.P. Lovecraft. The wraparound story even features Lovecraft as a character played by Jeffrey Combs. The Drowned is directed by Christophe Gans (Brotherhood of the Wolf, Silent Hill) and is visually appealing but has the weakest story of the trio. The story focuses on Edward de Lapoer who inherits an old mansion. Edward finds the diary of the relative who left him the home that tells the story of how he resurrected his dead wife and son. The flashback portion is well done and was full of promise. Unfortunately the latter half is mainly Edward and it is a stone cold drag. It does have a rather nice looking creature however. The second story is The Cold directed by Shûsuke Kaneko (Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack) and had a pretty good story but lacked a little in the visual department. This story focuses on Dr. Madden who discovered the secret to eternal life and the young woman who inadvertently becomes involved with him. The performance from the excellent David Warner is what makes this segment stand out. I wasn’t crazy about the choice of Emily for the woman in his life. Emily seemed far too young and was not terribly charismatic. There is no chemistry between the two whatsoever. The Cold is a flawed but fairly entertaining tale. Whispers is the best of the trilogy and has a decent story and pretty nifty visuals. Whispers was directed by Brian Yuzna (Society, Bride of Re-Animator, The Dentist, Progeny, Return of the Living Dead III) who also directed the wraparound story. A pregnant cop’s lover/partner is pulled from their car after an accident. She pursues the perpetrator unaware that she is entering into an unimaginable world of nightmarish horror! This segment has some blood, gore and nice looking effects; a creepy atmosphere too. The story is paper thin but it serves its purpose. Necronomicon is flawed right, left and center. Each segment has its strengths and weaknesses but none of them knocked my socks off. Necronomicon did not take up much of my time and it definitely had its moments but the anthology as a whole package is just a touch better than mediocre. To read the full review click here.

necronomicon

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#8 THE WASHING MACHINE
Directed By: Ruggero Deodato

There were still a few of the old school Italian directors churning out films in the 90s. The output from Italy was considerably slimmer than its heydays of the 60s, 70s and 80s and the quality was not what it once was. Nonetheless this is the first of three Italian entries on my top ten list for 1993. In a stronger year, a film I rated 3/5 would not make a top ten, but in 1993 The Washing Machine was one of the year’s stronger titles. The Washing Machine is the story of Maria, Vida and Ludmilla; three sisters who find a dead man in their washing machine. When the handsome Inspector Alexander Stacev shows up to investigate however there is no dead body to be found. An inspector who doesn’t have a case is nonetheless intrigued by the three sisters and their claims. Each sister attempts to frame the other for a crime that may not have even been committed. Inspector Stacev doesn’t seem too put off by each woman’s attempt to seduce him either. The Washing Machine is sex and nudity served with a side of murder. There is lots and lots of nudity. Frankly, it is far too light on the killing. It is also pretty light on story and some of the scenes drag badly. I do not know that I really understood the women’s motivation when it was all over. The final scene did give me a serious chuckle though. These are three sexy and saucy women, and I won’t deny despite its problems the film has its intriguing moments. The trio of bodacious babes and their handsome inspector were quite watchable.

the washing machine

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#7 THE UNTOLD STORY
Directed By: Danny Lee & Herman Yau

The Untold Story is about Wong Chi Hang who has recently acquired The Eight Immortals Restaurant thanks to a gambling debt. The gambling debt is merely Hang’s motivation to kill which we witness in the films opening scene when he beats the crap out of a man and sets him on fire watching him burn alive. Hang is in fact a psychotic killer. I should mention also, he is using corpses for meat in his popular pork buns! Apparently this is a horror comedy. I get the horror part but I can not say I found The Untold Story particularly funny. There really is nothing funny about the Wong Chi Hang character. He is an unfriendly, self-righteous, crooked, violent prick. The laughs I guess are supposed to come from the inept police. The chief of police has a weakness for the ladies, or more specifically for prostitutes, but he is the only one who seems to have any brains. The three male cops are always insulting the lone female cop about needing to get laid and having small tits. As the viewer we are ten steps ahead of the cops. When the cops finally do catch up and figure out Hang is the guilty party they can not get him to confess. The cops end up torturing the hell out of Hang. Hang’s confession of how he eliminated the former owner of The Eight Immortals Restaurant and his family is truly chilling and horrific. I wasn’t terribly amused by the comedy; the mix of comedy and violence was awkward and a bit discomforting. I have to admit that I found the hideous Wong Chi Hang story (apparently based on real events?!) brutal, grotesque but thoroughly intriguing. It superseded the cop shit. The violence is very nasty and heartless and hugely memorable. I knew of Anthony Wong and had seen him in the odd thing, but it would seem he was a bigger name than I realized. This is at least the fifth film I’ve seen him in from the decade and Wong has played a creepilious creep in every last one. He is frightfully good at playing creeps. I almost feel a little guilty about enjoying The Untold Story as it really is a nasty and ugly little film. But what can I say? Anthony Wong rocks!

the untold story

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#6 THE DARK HALF
Directed By: George A. Romero

The Dark Half is based on the book by Stephen King and is directed by George A. Romero. The story is about Thad Beaumont who as a child had a tumor removed from his brain that contained pieces of his unborn twin. Thad grows up and gets married and has twins of his own and life is honky dory; until he is blackmailed. Thad has been writing a series of popular violent crime novels under the name George Stark. Instead of giving in to the blackmailing bastard Thad discusses it with his publisher and they go to the press themselves. Thad has buried George Stark for good but Stark apparently does not much care for being dead. Thad, by sheer will materializes George Stark in to an actual walking, talking, murdering entity. The Dark Half introduces some ideas that are not followed through and some of the action felt a touch redundant but the story is intriguing, the acting is good, the effects are decent and there are some effective moments of horror. The Dark Half is flawed by entertaining. To read the full review click here.

the dark half

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#5 TRAUMA
Directed By: Dario Argento

Dario Argento’s Trauma is the second Italian made entry to find a place on my top ten list for 1993. As far as I am aware, Trauma is the only title Argento filmed in the USA; Minnesota to be specific. It is also the first film he directed to star his daughter Asia (there would be several more). The story is about Aura Petrescu, a young woman who along with David Parsons, her newly acquired love interest set out to investigate the murder of her parents. The acting is pretty decent with memorable turns from Piper Laurie, Frederic Forrest, James Russo and Brad Dourif. The two characters really in focus here are Aura and David. As Aura, Argento manages to garner some empathy and is quite likable and Christopher Rydell is also amiable enough; but a lack of chemistry does work against both characters. Don’t let the whole filmed in the USA thing turn you off, this is distinctly European and has Argento’s stamp all over it. Argento’s always impressive eye for detail and creative shots are fully intact. I always enjoy a good death scene that takes place in the snow or rain and Argento includes some really lovely oppressive and bleak rain scenes that are very effective. While there is not as much gore as other Argento films it does have a few very nice set pieces to rave about. With a killer known as the Headhunter you can rest assured people do lose their heads and that is always fun! With Tom Savini on board to take care of the makeup effects you know you are in good hands. Trauma is not without flaws, but I really don’t understand the hate out there for this film. Trauma is a compelling horror thriller; visually alluring, atmospheric and a rather underappreciated Giallo.

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#4 BODY MELT
Directed By: Philip Brophy

Body Melt is a satirical look at the big business of fitness in the late 80s and early 90s. It is a hilariously gross horror-comedy oozing with bodily fluids. Vimuville is a health spa that is marketing a new line of vitamins. They have chosen the good people of Pebbles Court in Homesville to be part of their experiment. Their experiments spare no one; kids, pregnant women, business men. Bodies melt, explode, implode and sometimes tentacles come crawling out and placentas attack and kill husbands. Side effects will include severe hallucinations and death! There is even a mutant family subplot. Body Melt has it all! It is completely bananas. Body Melt is a cheap, cheesy, cheeky, funny flick full of free flowing body fluids and a delightfully vile horror-comedy that should appeal to fans of low-budget and low-brow schlock. To read the full review click here.

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#3 RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD III
Directed By: Brian Yuzna

I am a huge fan of Dan O’Bannon’s 1985 film The Return of the Living Dead. I think it is one of the best horror comedies ever and it has long held a position on my top 100 favourite horror movies of all time. Unlike the original, Return of the Living Dead III is not a horror-comedy but rather straight up horror served with a side of love story. Love stories in horror films are generally a big turnoff in my book; but in Return of the Living Dead III it actually works. Return of the Living Dead III has very little in common with the first two films, but don’t let that turn you off. Return of the Living Dead III is a sequel that can be enjoyed on its own merit. To impress Julie the girl he loves, Curt steels his father’s security key card. Curt’s pop is a high ranking Colonel working on a top secret project at a nearby military base. Julie and Curt sneak in one night and witness what appears to be a dead man being brought back to life. The couple leaves the facility undetected. Later that same evening Colonel dad informs Curt that he has been transferred and they will be leaving at the end of the week. Curt decides to runaway with Julie and start a new life. Unfortunately they are in a motorcycle accident and Julie is killed. Faster than you can say “I didn’t see that coming” Curt has Julie inside the military facility and abracadabra Julie is back from the dead. I really can’t say enough about the awesome effects and makeup in Return of the Living Dead III! The zombies are all nasty, creative and grotesque and the gore effects are beautiful. Watch out for giraffe neck zombie…he was fan-freaking-tastic!! Practical effects this good should be applauded. Return of the Living Dead III has excellent action sequences, intensity, great effects, beauty gore and a stand out performance from Melinda Clarke who plays Julie. Return of the Living Dead III is a very entertaining zombie flick. To read the full review click here.

return of the living dead III

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#2 DARK WATERS
Directed By: Mariano Baino

The final Italian entry on my top ten is Mariano Baino’s excellent Dark Waters; sadly the only full-length feature film from the director thus far. Dark Waters is the story of Elizabeth whom embarks on a journey to investigate a remote convent. After the recent death of her father Elizabeth learns he had been sending significant amounts of money to this convent. The haunting stone fortress cut off from the world is an intimidating place and the convent’s nuns are cold and unfriendly but nonetheless allow Elizabeth to stay. Elizabeth begins to experience relenting and horrifying nightmares and soon uncovers the convents secrets which relate to her own past. Elizabeth finds out that some secrets are best left undiscovered. Dark Waters is a visceral experience that leaves a lasting impression. The island is the most beautifully unappealing, bleak, desolate and godforsaken place you can possibly imagine. The nuns are a grim and acidic bunch led by a blind and particularly salty Mother Superior. They make no attempt to help Elizabeth find her answers with the exception of one young nun named Sarah. Mariano Baino makes the most of the sublimely perfect setting. Dark Waters pitch perfect atmosphere is beautifully complimented by Elizabeth’s terrifying nightmares. It is clear that director Mariano Baino was inspired by H.P. Lovecraft. Wait until you get a glimpse of the creature. Unfortunately, you do get only a glance, and I must admit I desired to see more. The use of candles and the various other religiously-oriented props are superb and enhance every last shot in the film. There are some genuinely creepy scenes of nuns featuring burning crosses and the like, and anyone who digs badass nuns will be thrilled. Louise Salter is very good as Elizabeth; I hoped for her survival; although things never look very promising for her character. My only complaint really is the ending felt a bit rushed, but by no means was it unsatisfying. Dark Waters is a gorgeously filmed, well-acted atmospheric horror film with some truly terrifying moments. Mariano Baino needs to make another film!

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#1 CRONOS
Directed By: Guillermo del Toro

Cronos was the first full-length feature film from Mexican director Guillermo del Toro and it is a hell of a debut! Cronos remains to this day one of the most unique cinematic entries in the vampire mythos. Jesus Gris is a kind elderly man who owns an antique shop. He finds a gold scarab hidden inside a hollowed out archangel which affixes itself to his skin and injects him with a needle. Soon after he realizes the scarab stab has given him new vigor and begins to knock years from his age. Meanwhile, an eccentric dying man named De la Guardia has been collecting information about the very same golden scarab and has purchased several archangels to find it. De la Guardia with the help of his thug nephew Angel will stop at nothing to acquire it. The Scarab device is 450 years old when Jesus finds it; the creation of an alchemist searching for eternal life. The inner workings of the device which are detailed in a particularly excellent scene features a living insect fitted with internal clockwork. Pretty intricate, and amazing. Of course there is always a price to pay for eternal life and in the case of Cronos it comes in the form of an overwhelming desire for blood. Jesus Gris is a good man, but even he can not fight the lure of eternal life! The visuals in the film are really quite impressive and del Toro makes the most of the limited budget with flare and style. There are some really great effects in Cronos. There is a bit of blood and gore too. What really elevates Cronos are the characterizations and the performances. I can’t say enough good things about the charming Federico Luppi who plays Jesus. He is the most sympathetic and likable blood sucker ever. He has a genuinely sweet relationship with his granddaughter Aurora, who is an adorable and absolutely delightful little thing. Claudio Brook who plays De la Guardia is also outstanding and his eccentric brute of a nephew played by Ron Perlman steals every scene he is in. There were a few questionable plot points but they have little effect on the overall picture. Cronos is a well made, original, atmospheric, funny, dark, beautifully acted and effective horror film well worth a viewing (and multiple viewings at that!).

cronos

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Goregirl’s Dungeon on YouTube: Danny Elfman – Dolores Claiborne – End Credits

Posted in movies, USA with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 17, 2013 by goregirl

I completely forgot I owned Danny Elfman’s 2-cd compilation Music for a Darkened Theatre. I am not in love with this score but it fit with the 90s theme; so here it is…

Music & images from Taylor Hackford’s 1995 film Dolores Claiborne. Music by Danny Elfman – End Credits for the film.

THE DARK HALF (1993) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies, USA with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2013 by goregirl

I hungrily devoured horror fiction in my pre-teens but my love for horror fiction started to dwindle in my late teen years. I have read very little horror fiction in my adult life and I could count on my hands how much I’ve read in the last ten years. Odd I suppose considering my lifelong addiction to horror films. I bring this up simply because my recollection of the writing of Stephen King is a distant memory for me. I am in no position to compare a film adaptation to the original material where Mr. King’s literature is concerned. One thing I do know however is there have been a shitload of films made based on the writing of Stephen King; and they have been a mixed bag as far as quality is concerned. From the awful Cujo to the brilliant The Shining (evidently much maligned by the author) you never know what the hell you are going to get when you watch a flick based on the work of Stephen King. This brings me to The Dark Half. I am not sure I ever read The Dark Half but I figured I was in pretty good hands with the great George A. Romero on board to direct.

the dark half

The film opens in 1968 with a young Thad Beaumont, already an aspiring writer but plagued by severe headaches. As the headaches are coming on Thad hears the sound of birds and the severe headaches eventually become crippling for the child. Doctors are forced to perform surgery and discover a tumor which has pieces (including a huge eyeball and a tooth) from an unborn twin. Immediately after removing the tumor the sky above the hospital is darkened with a tremendous amount of sparrows. We are transported 23 years later and meet Thad as an adult. Thad is a professor who is happily married to Liz and the father of twins Wendy and William. At the end of a class he is approached by a man introducing himself as Fred Clawson. Clawson has discovered that Thad Beaumont is the writer behind a popular series of violent crime books penned under the name of George Stark. He attempts to blackmail Thad who reluctantly decides to go to the press himself and bury his pseudonym once and for all. Thad’s publisher arranges an interview at his Castle Rock retreat with People magazine. People’s photographer even sets up a fake tombstone for George Stark with the simple line below the name “Not A Very Nice Guy”. The symbolic act of burying George Stark has real consequences as those who helped make it happen begin dropping like flies.

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The Dark Half’s opening sequences is fantastic and very creepy. It was an intriguing start to the film. There is a great sense of foreboding even through the lighter moments shared with Thad and his family. Clearly Thad is torn about parting with his dark half and not just for financial reasons. Liz comments to Thad that he was like Jekyll and Hyde when he was writing as George Stark and would sometimes say cruel things. Thad replies that it was all him even the ugliness. I have managed to say quite a bit about its story without mentioning that it is in fact a supernatural tale. The People magazine photographer who is beaten to death with his prosthetic leg is the first body to turn up. Thad is instantly suspect as his fingerprints are all over the place. Sheriff Alan Pangborn shows up at the Beaumont’s home but does not arrest Thad despite the fact that every clue leads to him. Is Thad schizophrenic? Does he have an evil twin? Is there a crazed Stark fan running amok? They make it clear mid film who, or more accurately what, the menace is. Thad has materialized George Stark through sheer will and he is an actual walking, talking entity. Stark is none too happy about being killed off either.

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Timothy Hutton plays both Thad Beaumont and George Stark. In the dark from a distance you could easily mistake George for Thad. On closer inspection they do a decent job of changing Hutton’s face. As Stark they make Hutton look harder, older, poorly shaven and slick back his hair. Stark has a Southern drawl, wears black from head to toe and drives a cool black Oldsmobile Toronado with the words “High Toned Son of a Bitch” stenciled on the back. Initially George commits crimes when Thad can not account for his whereabouts but eventually he gives up on that idea. Stark eventually commits crimes that Thad could not have possibly been in attendance for. I guess it is not in George’s best interest to see Thad go to prison. What George really wants is to be brought back from the dead in book form. Thad shares his theory that he has actually materialized his pseudonym with Sheriff Pangborn. Thad even suggests who the next victims will be but Pangborn needless to say thinks he is out of his freaking mind. I mean honestly, the whole thing is pretty crazy. It seemed a little premature to give up the Stark thing mid-film.

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The acting is quite good across the board. Amy Madigan plays Thad’s supportive wife Liz and is likable and has good chemistry with Timothy Hutton. As Thad, Hutton is brooding but kind; although he does have a temper which he is constantly trying to keep in check but slips now and again. Hutton gets to have some fun playing his dark half George, who unlike Thad, never keeps his anger in check and has not given up drinking and smoking. Rooker is a good guy here as Sheriff Pangborn and is likable enough but still elicits respect. Julie Harris has a minor role as an expert in the occult who helps Thad work through some of his shit. Really I have no complaints about any of the acting in the film even the minor roles. The Dark Half has a significant body count; Stark stabs and slashes a significant amount of people before the finale. There is some blood but it is not terribly graphic. The use of computer generated sparrows was pretty neat, as was Thad’s spooky dream sequence. The visuals are quite decent. The Beaumont’s Castle Rock retreat was something else. I had a dream after watching The Dark Half that I had a sliding bookshelf door like Thad had in his writing room.

The Dark Half has a great start and an intriguing build up but there are ideas introduced that aren’t followed through and some of the action felt a bit redundant. The acting is good, the effects are decent and there are some nice moments of horror. The Dark Half is flawed but I can’t say it wasn’t entertaining.

Dungeon Rating: 3.5/5

Directed By: George A. Romero

Starring: Timothy Hutton, Amy Madigan, Michael Rooker, Julie Harris, Robert Joy, Kent Broadhurst, Beth Grant, Rutanya Alda, Tom Mardirosian, Larry John Meyers, Patrick Brannan, Royal Dano, Glenn Colerider, Sarah Parker, Elizabeth Parker