Schlocktoberfest VII – Day 14: The Dark Half

 

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The Dark Half (1993)

Trailer:

*Spoilers Throughout*


What’s It About:
 Timothy Hutton plays Thad Beaumont, a writer with a seemingly quiet life until it’s revealed that his secret writing pseudonym has taken shape and is enacting revenge for Thad exposing the pseudonym. Basically it’s Jekyll & Hyde and an allegory for Stephen King while he was trying to sober up.

Here are some of my observations as I watched the film:

  • So the film begins in 1968 and we meet Thad, a young boy who longs to be a writer. But he keeps getting these excruciating “headaches.” In an operating room during surgery, the surgeon lifts off a portion of his skull and there’s an eye in his brain. The doctor also mentions that Thad once had a twin in utero and was absorbed! This could be great.
  • Rest in peace George A. Romero. I hope this movie is as good as your zombie flicks. Well not the last three anyway, the first three. 
  • The surgeon pulls out a tooth from Thad’s brain and says immediately that the tooth has a cavity. Just by looking at it? He’s a surgeon not a dentist.
  • Outside the hospital is a huge swarm of birds that would put Hitchcock to shame.

  • Now in the present day and Thad is married with twins of his own. Gosh that’s weird.
  • Thad is a literature professor because I guess his writing ain’t good enough to pay the bills.
  • Alexis Machine is one terrible character name. I wonder if King used the winery name Alexis Lichine as an inspiration. I mean, King was a terrible alcoholic, he probably drank that brand.
  • One of Thad’s students is blackmailing him because Thad wrote a few books under a pseudonym. So fucking what? Is that illegal?
  • Why are Thad and his wife eating dinner on a coffee table in the living room? Weird.
  • So the fact that Thad used to write trashy pulp novels about an antihero called Alexis Machine is apparently such a big deal someone tried to blackmail him to expose this secret and his agents think it could be career suicide for Thad to come out with the truth. I’m still confused by all this. Is this like if  we found out J.K. Rowling wrote books about sex-fiend necrophilic cannibals under a pseudonym? But these are just pulp exploitation books that “George Stark” is writing. It can’t be that bad.
  • Also his pseudonym George Stark apparently is an alcoholic and a fiend. We have a Jekyll/Hyde dynamic going on here in case you were just skimming my notes.
  • Wait a minute. George Stark is an Alky? Tony Stark/Iron Man in Marvel Comics is also a struggling boozer. Coincidence? Probably not.
  • So Thad or Stark kill the photographer who took the publicity photos of Thad coming clean. Why? Just to establish this “dark half” to us, the viewers.
  • Cool. Michael Rooker is the sheriff.
  • “He’s deader than a squashed coon!” Whoa now.
  • Beat him with his own wooden leg. That’s how I want to go.
  • This deputy who finds the blood soaked photographer’s truck keeps saying “Ask mama if she believes this.” Is he related to VP Mike Pence?
  • Thad is a chief suspect in the photographer’s death and is questioned by the police. Thad denies it and seems to have an alibi but Thad starts to get the bird chirping headaches again.
  • When the police arrived in Thad’s house they said he was under arrest for the murder but they never take him in after he chats with them about his alibis and explaining about the blackmailer. Michael Rooker even says they found his fingerprints on the blood in the truck. Why is Rooker so lenient?
  • I’m sure the symbolism in Thad’s dream mean a whole lot but I’m not going to worry about them right now.
  • In the blackmailer’s apartment they find him dead and the words “The sparrows are flying again” written in blood. Sparrows? That’s what all those flocking birds are? Not ravens or crows but cute sparrows.
  • The blackmailer was castrated and his own cock was shoved in his mouth. That’s NOT how I want to go.
  • Thad seemingly is in a trance (or is Stark) and is writing words down on paper and I can’t make out most of what he’s writing. Stark has shitty penmanship.
  • Also this is the second time we’re hearing Elvis’ “Are you Lonesome Tonight” so I’m assuming it means something. Maybe about being lonesome. Or maybe its ironic.
  • Stark is threatening his/Thad’s sister, who we never seen before.
  • For some reason the camera lingered way too long on the sister’s Andrew Lloyd Webber Cats poster. As if it meant something to the story here. Which it certainly does not. Granted I have never seen Cats but I stand my ground.
  • Cats the Musical is more disturbing to me than this.

  • George Stark is just the greaser version of Timothy Hutton.
  • Wait. Thad called Rooker to explain that latest murder and said it was his agent. So why did Stark call her sis? Now I’m confused. Is Thad’s agent also his sister?
  • The journalist who interviewed Thad about coming clean is now on the hit list. He comes off an elevator and the power goes out. He then says “Goddamned city.” What does the city have to do with his apartment losing power? Way to generalize your problems bub.
  • Hahahaha. A neighbor opens his door and sees George Stark terrorizing the writer in the hallway and says “What’s going on?” Stark very casually and matter-of-factly replies “A murder. You want some?” That was actually fantastic.
  • Great police work there Lou.
  • What I don’t fully understand is why George Stark is killing everyone who’s involved with Thad admitting that he used George as a pseudonym. Is he seeking revenge for being outed? But again, why? And if Thad’s wife is correct that he’s slowly coming around to killing Thad and his family then why doesn’t he do that first? I mean isn’t he the main reason for his outing? This is kind of a weak premise. And wouldn’t killing Thad be suicide if Stark does actually kill him? How is Stark going to continue writing about Alex Machine if he’s dead?! Am I asking too many questions?
  • Again, great police work Lou. The other agent is escorted by the cops but they only go two feet into his apartment. As soon as the agent closes his door and goes to the bathroom, Stark slices his neck. Why didn’t they search his WHOLE apartment before leaving?!
  • Whatever happened to Chelsea Fields?
  • Amy Madigan screams at her crying babies to please shut up. She’s having a bad day I guess. She’s very MADigan at them! Sorry.
  • Hey remember earlier in the film when Thad was teaching a class and seemed to be a professor? Apparently the movie doesn’t.
  • OMIGAWD IT’S THE SLIGHTLY OH SO MENACING SPARROWS!!!!
  • I guess if you have 1,000s of any type of bird, whether they’re little finches, sparrows or larks, they would be somewhat ominous since it’s uncommon. I wonder if it was parrots and toucans would that too be as menacing? Probably not.
  • Maybe I’m unfazed by the huge flocking of birds because every January or February in my neighborhood, I get a huge flock of chirping birds swarming around our trees. I don’t know why they do this but it’s fascinating. I even took footage of such a phenomenon.
  • Thad just stabbed himself in the hand with a pencil after telepathically communicating with Stark. Somewhere else, Stark has a pencil in his opposite hand. Also it appears he has some kind of cut under his eye.
  • Some other teacher friend of Thad’s gives him a ball cap and dark sunglasses and says that’s a disguise for Thad as he goes to Bangor. It’s a great disguise. No really, totally can’t tell its Timothy Hutton. I looked away for a moment to put down my beer and when I looked back I was like “Who’s this guy now?”
  • So I knew early on that Stark was the “twin” that the surgeons excised out of Thad’s noogin but according to Thad’s old doctor they buried the remains of the twin. So is Stark real or is it Thad acting like Stark and doing the killing? And if it’s the latter, then how is this possible 100’s of miles away? And it can’t be the former because, well the whole being buried deal. This is either really weird or incredibly stupid.
  • Rooker says he feels like an idiot for not locking up Thad long ago. I gotta agree, with all the evidence Thad is guilty as hell. He’s a complete moron.
  • Psychopumps! Are those a sort of high heel shoe for crazy ladies?
  • Why does Stark have a southern accent?
  • OMIGAWD IT’S THE SLIGHTLY OH SO MENACING SPARROWS!!!!
  • OK I written off this teacher friend, some old lady named Reggie, as just some support but now I’m curious to why she knows so much about Thad and Stark.
  • Do you think George R. R. Martin homages King with his Casterly Rock in his books?
  • Stark has a pistol to the heads of the twin babies. I wonder if the child actors watched this movie when they grew up and were traumatized by this scene.
  • Why is Thad always writing on unlined sheets of paper? Wouldn’t a legal pad be way easier? What novelist chooses to write on unlined sheets of paper?
  • OMIGAWD IT’S THE SLIGHTLY OH SO MENACING SPARROWS!!!!
  • Those twins are behaving beautifully by themselves on the floor. It’s borderline absurd how well they are behaving as Stark is threatening Thad. 
  • You don’t see that too often. Stark takes aim at the twins and fires but Thad hits him with a typewriter and the bullet misses one of them by a mere few inches. Again, how are these child actors coping with being subjected to such traumatizing cinematic experiences?
  • OMIGAWD IT’S THE SLIGHTLY OH SO MENACING SPARROWS!!!!
  • I still don’t understand the meaning or symbolism of these sparrows. Why did it need to be sparrows?
  • Nice. The sparrows are slowly pecking away at Stark’s flesh. Within a few seconds he’s nothing but bones and flown away with the birdies.
  • FLOCK YOU STARK!
  • So how are all these unsolved murders going to be explained now that it was some sort of supernatural doppelgänger?

Scare Level: I can’t say it was scary but it had it’s tried-and-true moments of somewhat psychological terror. Timothy Hutton playing against type helped a bit as the villainous George Stark. But at no point was anything making me quiver.

Gore Level: Having a aviary’s worth of small birds peck off the flesh of our villain from flesh to bone is enough to sweeten the pot.

Nudity Level: I’m sure George Stark sleeps in the nude but we never saw it. He did castrate a man and stuff the appendage in the victim’s mouth but again we don’t get the pleasure of witnessing it.

Best Line: Easily the “What’s going on here?” “A murder. Want some?” line.

Best Scene: I can go with the easy answer of the finale with the sparrows devouring Stark to death. And I will.

Worst Scene: Well I’m still confused and bewildered by the whole student blackmailing Thad about his pseudonym bit. But this is the crux and point of the whole movie here so that’s not a good sign.

 

Stephen King References: Sheriff Alan Pangborn and Deputy Norris Ridgewick of Castle Rock, Maine; Menacing old car

Overall: If you’re a fan of King and kept up with his writings in the late 80s and 90s then you are some kind of superhero. Kidding aside, if you were a fan back then then you know that he struggled bigly with substance abuse (he claims he has no recollection at all about writing Cujo) and The Dark Half was his catharsis novel of overcoming his past sins and also his way of getting his own pseudonym, Richard Bachman (The Running Man and Thinner were “Bachman” novels). With that bit of trivia being said then that helps with the narrative of The Dark Half’s premise and execution. However, like most King film adaptations it’s kinda weak and forgettable. Sorry to say it but this again, felt just like a very long and boring Tales From the Crypt episode. And don’t get me wrong I loved Tales From the Crypt but when that show was in its prime I was 12 so that doesn’t say much. There’s way better King film adaptations out there so take heed with picking The Dark Half as your movie night choice.

Score: 6 OMIGAWD IT’S THE SLIGHTLY OH SO MENACING SPARROWS!!! (out of 10)

 

For our other Stephen King movie reviews, check out:

The Dark Tower

Thinner

Children of the Corn

Tales From the Darkside

Creepshow 2

The Night Flier

Cat’s Eye

 

One thought on “Schlocktoberfest VII – Day 14: The Dark Half

  1. Pingback: Schlocktoberfest VII: Recap of Dread! | Hard Ticket to Home Video

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