Once again zombie master George A. Romero teams up with chiller king Stephen King for the screen adaptation of the book of the same name, although this outing is a little less tongue in cheek than ‘Creep Show’, offering up some darker themes and some more cool practical effects.
The plot follows Thad Beaumont, a writer who has two identities, one who is trying to write serious novels, novels to be proud of, the other, written under the alias George Stark gaining infamy through writing trashy gore novels. Despite his efforts the former is respected but far from a best seller, the latter, whilst being ultra-violent and ultra-sleazy the books are somewhat embarrassingly popular.
Thad, who managed to keep the least social of his egos secret, is one day confronted by a ‘fan’ who threatens to go public with the information that he and George Stark are one in the same. Rather than pay the ransom he, encouraged by his publishers, decides to go public. For a publicity stunt he decides to kill off and pronounce dead the violent writer – mock funeral and all.
Its then the murders start, unhelpfully conducted in the style of Starks antagonist. The police follow the usual procedures, but all evidence points to the writer as the prime suspect; initially he professes his innocence, however, as the body count mounts up Thad must face the reality that his literary alter-ego might no longer just be a work of fiction.
Likely owing to the production value of a bigger studio the production values are somewhat higher than you might typically associate with Romero flicks, particularly in the visual effects department which are as ambitious as they are gruesome. The acting is of an equally good standard with Timothy Hutton carrying the film in his dual role as the family man Thad, and gratuitous killing machine ‘Stark’. The films pace is good and whilst the plot is pretty linear, owing to strong performances and some really stand out set pieces the films two-hour(ish) duration flies by.
This film, for better or worse, does sacrifice suspense for a bit of more-than-realistic blood and violence. Don’t get me wrong it’s no splatter flick, but you do get to see plenty of blood, violent deaths and full body dismemberment – although admittedly it straddles that fine line between looking cool but dodgy. You can’t argue, however, that the frequent on-screen violence comes at the expense of some atmosphere and story development. There are very few surprises hidden in the plot, although the film tries hard to link Stark’s existence with a bit of tenuous science fiction; that said, this point, and the big finale involving flocks of birds is never truly explained.
The film is not a comedy, but there are obvious moments of dark humour. The Alter ego is pretty crude giving the opportunity for some memorable lines “don’t fuck with me, cock-knocker” being one of the best; he’s also pretty keen on threatening to stuff people’s balls in their mouths – he’s true to his word too!
Overall, despite the lack of the usual King-mystery this film is well worth the watch. I can’t comment on its relationship to King’s source material because I’ve not read it, but as a stand-alone film it’s a decent chiller/thriller. Eureka’s Blu-ray really looks the part, and as with many quality remasters is well worth the upgrade over film’s original lacklustre DVD release.