Welcome to Buried Credits, a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten or unknown film and TV credits.
Favorite TV Roles: Leverage, Kidnapped
Favorite Film Roles: Beautiful Girls, Ordinary People
Currently appearing on the new season of American Crime.
The Dark Half (1993)
There’s no doubt that The Dark Half, based on the Stephen King novel, is saying something about writers. Since Stephen King is a writer (and a prolific one) he must be partial to the profession but that doesn’t mean he’s not without some self-loathing.
Thaddeus (Timothy Hutton) is a professor who writes highbrow literature and wears slightly sloppy, oversized clothes to connect with the youth he teaches. When he’s not doing that, he’s channeling his pseudonym, George Stark, and writing popular novels about Alexis Machine. Like his character, the Machine, Stark is a violent man, uninhibited by human decency, and Thaddeus takes a meta approach to writing Machine novels. His personality changes to that of Stark’s and his wife (Amy Madigan) and twin children notice the difference. While Thaddeus is prone to using his childhood typewriter for writing, Stark uses Black Beauty pencils exclusively. Either Timothy Hutton has terrible handwriting or adopts an illegible scrawl whenever he’s George.
A man finds out who George really is and tries to blackmail Thaddeus for money to keep silent. To take away the stranger’s power, Thaddeus does a newspaper tell-all with a fake gravestone putting George Stark to rest. The gravestone wasn’t planned but it’s enough to make George offended and possibly corporeal. Before, their Jekyll and Hyde routine was strictly on the clock. Now it’s possible George has gotten his own body to murder whoever gave blessing to Thaddeus’ decision to kill George off.
Essentially (if The Dark Half is a faithful adaptation) King is saying that his books (represented by George) should be destroyed to prevent further violence. That, or he’s addressing the public’s perception, of pulp fiction having a negative influence, and giving them what they want.
Playing bad is more fun and Hutton has a way of walking when he’s George, where his leg swings around, that’s insolent. Thaddeus could be bland but Hutton has the decency to make him exaggerated, which isn’t good or bland. The Dark Half starts like one of those Stephen King movies that doesn’t fret about making sense but will go to great lengths to entertain you (see Tommyknockers “Part Two”). This lack of sense gets away from the film when its incompetent police force apologize for accusing Thadeus of murder, when all the evidence points his way. They don’t arrest him, more people get murdered, and nobody bats an eye. Like the Hitchcockian influx of birds that follow Thaddeus so the film can be more Hitchcockian, The Dark Half is a blip of a movie to be lost among all the better films before it.
Verdict: Better Left Buried