Tagged Michael Rooker

The Dark Half: One Part King, One Part Romero Equals a Sweet Bit of Horror

The Dark Half. 1993. Directed & Written by George A. Romero; based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name.
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. Orion Pictures.
Rated R. 122 minutes.
Horror/Mystery

★★★★
POSTER I’ve long said that George A. Romero and Stephen King go together like coffee and pie. Is that a thing, is that what people say? Well, I like coffee and pie. A nice treat. Just like I dig some Romero and King. They’re sweet together, as sweet as horror can get. You fans know what I’m talking about. Usually people associate Romero with the zombie sub-genre, and rightfully so: he single-handedly reimagined the zombie in modern terms giving birth to a trend that’s still going on today, which will undoubtedly continue until the end of time. Yet Romero made some really good work outside of the zombie structure. Long before 1993, too. But The Dark Half is one of those King-Romero collaborations that isn’t only interesting on paper. The whole film is a dark, gorgeous joy. Previously the two powerhouses of scary shit did well working on 1982’s Creepshow. Most will say that’s their best work together. I love that one, have it on the shelf alongside this and other Romero, as well as other King. I have to say, this one is my personal favourite of the two movies. Most of all because the book is so good, and for better or worse this adaptation nails most of the important aspects right on the head. The visual style is quite what we come to expect from the master of horror in Romero. King’s story matches the darkness of the director in his story examining duality, the lure of addiction in the sense of it creating an entirely other identity in one person, a quasi-monster movie about a man’s evil side literally appearing out of thin air. This is on the top of my lists for favourite King adaptations. There’s a lot to enjoy, even if it isn’t perfect. In the second half of the film things get riveting. Romero always goes for the jugular, this is no different.
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Love the idea of duality. We’ve seen it many times before in literature, most famously in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. What’s most interesting about the King novel and this adaptation is how we look at the dual identities of George Stark v. Thad Beaumont (Timothy Hutton v. Timothy Hutton). This is a parallel of several things. Of course on the surface there’s the idea of literally mirroring King and his own pseudonym, Richard Bachman. This whole film can act as a metaphor about how King and his feelings of the success involved with Bachman’s writing, in that it became this whole other entity that needed to be dealt with, and King’s wild imagination concocts this whole story. On a deeper level there’s the fact King wrote The Dark Half right before going sober. His own feelings of the drugs and the booze taking over, the addiction becoming an entire entity all of its own, his need to rein in control as himself and be a sober man going forward, these are the biggest drive for the ultimate differences between Thad and George.
The whole visual difference between Hutton as Thad and George is awesome. When I read the book I really got such a feeling of uncanny terror when imagining the two versions of this one man. Particularly later on when things get very intense, the practical makeup effects used make the divide between Stark and Beaumont bigger. Added to all that there’s Hutton. Now apparently he was a horror to work with, even quitting the production at one point. Can’t say he doesn’t play the part to near perfection. He has the feeling of a writer torn in two from the start, not sure whether to keep riding on the success of a part of his identity which clearly causes trouble in his real day-to-day life. Then as we get further into the plot Hutton’s able to seamlessly transition from just a writer in distress to a man having one devastating existential crisis.
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Something I’m very interested in personally is the Eastern belief in the concept of tulpa. Essentially, this is the concept that the mind is so powerful that it can will something into existence through pure thought. Further than that there’s often the idea that collectively, enough people might be able to will something into existence due to the amount of people expending mental energy on conjuring it up. Such is the case today with phenomenons like Slender Man and others. Certain occult thinkers might suggest these entities can become real, of flesh and blood, if enough people believe in them and will it so. In a way, George Stark is such a tulpa. Thad has not only thought him up, he’s effectively become a real person in that Beaumont hands his work over to the pseudonym, making him a part of the world. Then there’s the fact Thad had a malformed twin in his skull as a boy, this plays into more ideas about duality and further almost twists this into a monster movie – horrific images in the mind conjured up concerning a leftover bit of brain, bits of human matter not fully formed, waking up and growing into a whole man, wreaking havoc on a town in Maine. King, adapted well by Romero, takes a wild look at what happens if a murderous, hateful, vengeance seeking guy like Stark were to be willed into existence. There’s an equal part of camp much as there’s depth to the story. It’s all great, though there is quite a good helping of a sort of 1950s-style. There’s nothing wrong with that. Mostly it comes in the form of Stark who is appropriately a sort of typical 50s gangster with a razor blade, a slick-haired, leather jacket wearing, kinda Elvis copy. He’s no West Side Story sort, he’s much more dangerous than that. Along with his creepiness comes an awesomely throwback sense of camp that adds a dark humour to many of the kill scenes. All in all, the way King’s story and characters bring out the idea of the tulpa is lots of fun. Romero does his best to make that work and does a bang up job.
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I can forgive a movie’s mistakes if most everything is compelling enough. King wrote a great novel, one to which I found myself glued until the last page turned and that back cover slapped shut. The Dark Half is in good hands with Romero. His directorial choices match his capabilities as a writer, each side complimenting the other. More than that I think he does well with adapting King. Not everyone can fit a novel of his into one screenplay properly, though I’m inclined to feel as if Romero does just that. Rather than make this into a half-assed attempt at jamming every little idea King had in the novel into the script, Romero opts to choose the best material, condense it, then make sure the lead character and his story gets brought out powerfully. The adapted screenplay works, and Timothy Hutton sells the Thad Beaumont character, in turn doing a fantastic job with George Stark in a highly opposing role; all the duality rests on him here, he carries that responsibility nicely. Throw in some nice effects, a couple nasty horror kills and blood to boot, this keeps things on the level for those genre fans out there. I forget how good this movie is then each time I put it on I remember, so quickly. If you’ve not seen it and call yourself a King fan, or one of Romero’s legion, then get on it, now. This is better than many will try and tell you.

The Walking Dead – Season 3, Episode 6: “Hounded”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 3, Episode 6: “Hounded”
Directed by Daniel Attias
Written by Scott M. Gimple

* For a review of the previous episode, “Say the Word” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “When the Dead Come Knocking” – click here
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Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) is leading the charge searching for Michonne (Danai Gurira). He’s got a couple people from Woodbury with him, including a young guy he calls Neil (Dave Davis). Out of the woods Michonne comes killing the others, leaving Merle and Neil alive. After the confrontation, Merle stands defiant: “Are we having fun yet?” he calls out into the forest, as she slips away after their fight.
Back to Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) in the tombs of the prison, among the dead walkers, in the place where his wife dead. He received a phone call from someone who won’t say where they are, who they, who is with them. Rick pleads with them for help, but the woman on the other hangs up. Meanwhile, Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), Hershel (Scott Wilson) and the others eat together. When they do see Rick again he’s slightly better. But not near well. Glenn (Steven Yeun) talks about making a run for supplies, Daryl gives Rick an update on other plans. Yet off Sheriff Grimes goes again, by himself. Into the tombs.
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In Woodbury there’s a better relationship brewing between Andrea (Laurie Holden) and The Governor (David Morrissey). She wasn’t impressed with their big show the night before, having Merle give off a big three-ring circus style act with walkers. Although, she wants to stay, and to contribute. The Governor agrees to have her.
Rick continues to talk to other voices on the phone. This time, a man. Again he gets hung up after a bit of conversation. Frustrating, no? Or is it all in Rick’s head?
Andrea proves her worth in the new town by taking down a walker, jumping over the Woodbury wall to get it. Only the girl she’s on guard with doesn’t seem too impressed. “This isnt a game,” she tells Andrea, who only looks confused. And she ought to be, having turned the world outside into just as much of a game, a “release” as she put it, as the circus Merle was putting off the night before.
Hershel finds Rick in the prison tombs. He tries to talk with the distraught father and widower. Rick reveals the call he received and Hershel tries listening to the phone; we don’t hear any dial tone, does he? Either way, Rick sends Hershel off and wants to stay alone.


Coming across Michonne, the team of Merle and Neil find Michonne. Then a zombie attack breaks out. Everyone fends for themselves, as poor Michonne slices one walker open and its guts pour onto her stomach, chest, face. Nasty, and amazing makeup effects done by the KNB wizards.
At the prison, Daryl talks with Carl (Chandler Riggs), as he and a couple others explore the tomb-like tunnels. We get the story of Mama Dixon burning herself to death in bed after falling asleep with a cigarette. Then Carl tells Daryl about having to kill his mom: “I ended it. It was real. Sorry about your mom.” “Im sorry about yours,” replies Daryl.
Meeting with The Governor, we hear Andrea admit to enjoying the fights, as opposed to her earlier sentiments. He seems to have her pegged, to know what she’s all about. He also believes he’s “growing” on her. In other news, Merle is trying to get Neil back to Woodbury. The younger guy is giving Merle a bit of hell over what they have to tell The Governor re: Michonne. She’s been shot by Merle, and he’s sure she’ll die. Nevertheless, the oldest Dixon puts a bullet between Neil’s eyes and leaves it at that. Always a survivor.
Michonne is covered in the walker guts after crossing paths with Merle. Lucky for her: the zombies don’t even notice her.


While on their run, Glenn and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) end up being watched from afar by Michonne. For her part, Andrea’s lounging in a lush green garden drinking booze with The Governor. They’re becoming closer and closer with each passing scene.
The most interesting is when Merle shows up where Glenn and Maggie are scavenging, Michonne still waiting in the wings. When Merle starts a fight things get tense. He makes Glenn drop his gun, Maggie at gunpoint in his own grip, all with Michonne watching. When they drive off she’s left alone, shot, and wondering what to do next.
Another call for Sheriff Grimes. He picks up the receiver and hears a familiar voice – Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies). The whole time he’s been talking to Amy, Jim, Jacqui. All their dead friends. This is a devastating scene for Rick, as he sort of compounds all his failures, crying and telling Lori: “I couldnt put it back together.” His breakdown is tough to witness. He’s meant to be that never-wavering alpha leader. But that’s also why Rick is a well written character, whose faults and stumbles are present, always. Yet further he soldiers on in the hardest, most trying times of this new life in the post-zombie apocalypse world.


With Andrea in bed, The Governor’s successfully conned her into his life. Sad, as she’s one smart character. Usually. At the door Merle tells his boss about losing the three people in his search party, or, he lies about what happened. He says Michonne is dead, claiming the head and her sword were “torn up” in the scuffle. Things are lightened when The Governor is made aware of the new hostages, Glenn and Maggie. Merle is apparently getting ready to extract a little info.
Finally, Rick goes back to his son, his daughter, and the rest of the group. He looks long at his new child before picking her up out of Hershel’s arms. The light slowly returns to his eyes and brightens his soul a bit. We can sense a change in that moment, more of the incredible acting talent Andrew Lincoln brings to the role.
In the tombs, Daryl holds the knife belonging to Carol (Melissa McBride). He gets angrier and angrier, opening the door they’d noticed earlier was pushing open slightly and finds Carol herself, right there. A happy reunion in all of the bitter brutality. Outside, Rick notices something off in the distance. He gives the baby to Carl and heads down to the fence where he finds Michonne, carrying formula in a small handcart Maggie and Glenn were stocking up. They lock eyes before the episode cuts to back.


Next up is “When the Dead Come Knocking”. Stay with me.

The Walking Dead – Season 3, Episode 3: “Walk With Me”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 3, Episode 3: “Walk With Me”
Directed by Guy Ferland
Written by Evan T. Reilly

* For a review of the previous episode, “Sick” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Killer Within” – click here
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We start out with a military helicopter chopping through the sky; it’s in trouble. The serious kind. With soldiers inside the thing goes down hard into the forest.
Cut to Andrea (Laurie Holden) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) on the road, miles away. They see it crash, then begin to make their way into a field out towards the site. Of course, Michonne has her two pet zombies on a leash with them. When they get to the crash, Andrea has to rest a minute, still not feeling top notch after her bout of the flu, or whatever. Michonne goes to see if there are any survivors, but mostly it’s just death. One soldier is cut in half completely by the chopper’s remaining blade.
And then in the road a little further comes a truck. Michonne and Andrea hide, checking out the people who emerge from the vehicles. They’re a crew of men there to investigate the crash, as well as see if there’s anything worth scavenging. A few walkers come out of the forest and are quickly dispatched by this new group, with bow and arrows, baseball bats. The men discover a soldier in the helicopter is still breathing, so they get him out. They only end up killing more people, the dead coming back. Essentially putting people out of their misery, yet there’s still something about these guys that feels… military. Strongly so, and in the wrong sense.


But out of the woods behind Michonne and Andrea comes a familiar face, to us, and Andrea, too. It is “your old pal Merle” – Mr. Michael Rooker himself. After all he’s been through, the older Dixon brother survived. He now has a nice little rig on his arm, extending out into a blade. Good for the post-zombie apocalypse.
Now the two women are being shuffled off, blindfolded in the night. Brought to some place where they have no idea how to get, or get back from. Although, once they’re in this new camp Andrea’s being cared for with medicine. Merle shows up and explains a few things. Shows off his bloody, nasty stump. He has a few choice words, particularly about Rick Grimes (Andrea Lincoln). Their reunion is not exactly cheery, but Andrea doesn’t seem in danger. For now.
The man who runs the community is called The Governor (David Morrissey). He also gives Andrea and Michonne some knowledge – no matter how people die, they turn. Shocking for these two to learn it, especially from a man neither of them know. But either way for the time being they’re welcomed into the quaint, walled little town named Woodbury.
The place is almost too good to be true. Neither Andrea nor Michonne is too keen on staying, though, eventually they’re convinced to stay a while. Their streets are protected, men always on guard and others making runs for supplies, et cetera. A few people with obvious medical experience take care of the sick and unhealthy. Walkers never make it inside the town walls, but are shot by lookouts posted around Woodbury. Seems as if The Governor has everything all figured out, right?


In a makeshift laboratory, Milton Mamet (Dallas Roberts) is doing a few experiments. He and Merle aren’t really pals, they don’t work well together. But Milton gets on with his tests. The Governor is interested in the previous relationship between Merle and Andrea, from their old group; he wants more information, specifically asking if Andrea knew anything about his brother Daryl (Norman Reedus).
Milton dissects and studies the walkers Michonne was hauling along with her on the leashes. Turns out, if you take away the zombie’s ability to eat eventually it stops wanting to, or caring for food. As we know they were used as repellent, to help Michonne walk among the dead without much attention paid to her. The Governor has Milton fairly wrapped around his finger, as it seems the rest of Woodbury’s citizens are, too.
The next morning, Andrea and Michonne have breakfast with Milton and The Governor. Not totally without unease. Michonne eyes her samurai sword placed in a cabinet in the apartment where they sit. All the while, tea is served and things are as if nothing ever changed. Except every single thing has changed. Personally, the idea of Woodbury and trying to make things seem normal is almost too forward a step. Too forward thinking, at least for the time being. While most of the world is overrun with living corpses.
The soldier saved earlier gives The Governor a location for the rest of his men, a National Guard convoy. He heads out to meet them waving a white flag to make sure they don’t take it as an assault. He tells the men about their survivor, but soon things turn into a bloodbath. The Governor initiates an all-out one sided gunfight, kill the soldiers and commandeering all their guns, ammo, vehicles. It is a chilling moment. To watch this Governor go from being a friendly leader welcoming new citizens into his safe haven suburb, to a cold blooded killer who takes down a bunch of military men who were probably willing to become part of their larger group, perhaps help with keeping things safe. A very defining scene, which will resonate further.
So back to town goes The Governor and his men, new vehicles and other goods in tow. Just another day out scavenging the wastelands. He boldfaced lies to everyone in Woodbury, saying the National Guard soldiers were taken down by “biters”, as they call them in this camp. Is this how things usually go, will always go? Probably. He seems like a two-faced sort already within the first episode of his appearance. Those who’ve read the comics know all about his danger.
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Andrea: “So whats your real name? If its not asking too much.”
Governor: “I never tell
Andrea: “Never say never
Governor: “Never


But it’s the final couple minutes of the episode which tell the full tale. The Governor, with a naked woman splayed on his bed sleeping, slips into a secret room he keeps. He drinks and sits in his big leather chair, thinking. Watching. In front of him stands a large encasement of aquarium tanks, all of them holding dead walker heads, including the National Guard soldier who survived; at least until he arrived in Woodbury. More will come. Let’s see how this new town affects both Andrea and Michonne.
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Stay tuned. Next episode is titled “Killer Within”.

The Walking Dead – Season 2, Episode 5: “Chupacabra”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 2, Episode 5: “Chupacabra”
Directed by Guy Ferland
Written by David Leslie Johnson

* For a review of the previous episode, “Cherokee Rose” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Secrets” – click here
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We cut back to before the zombie apocalypse. Or, right at the beginning.
Shane (Jon Bernthal), Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Carl (Chandler Riggs) are out on the highway, alongside Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride), her family, as well as tons of others. The road is blocked. Nobody knows what’s happening, while Shane tries to figure things out.
Then, out of the sky come explosions. People on the highway come to blows. Overhead, black helicopters fly in the night, headed towards the city. Everybody on the road heads towards the woods just in time to see the helicopters fire on the city, “dropping napalm in the streets” as Shane observes with wide, terrified eyes. These were the starting moments of what was to come – a better look at what the military did at the start of the outbreak can be seen in Season 1 of Fear the Walking Dead.
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Back to the present with the survivors, Lori is still reeling from discovering her pregnancy. Though, it’s clear nobody else knows yet. Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) is up, as is Carol who tends to the laundry. Carol also wants to “cook in a real kitchen again” and cook dinner for Hershel and his family. Good idea, after all they’ve done for the group. Carol also thinks it’s best if the idea comes from Lori who is dubbed the “unofficial First Lady” of their little unit. At the same time, everybody’s still planning their search for Sophia. Daryl (Norman Reedus) has plans to take a horse and go out on his own, as usual; the title of the episode comes from a story he told around the fire about squirrel hunting and seeing an actual chupacabra, the mythical dog-like, bloodsucking creature. Amazing little addition, which surely will come into play later in the episode. Somehow.
Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) have a tenuous sexual relationship going. Only Maggie doesn’t seem particularly enthralled with their previous lovemaking, to Glenn’s dismay. “Weve still got eleven condoms,” Glenn tells her. “You see eleven condoms I see eleven minutes of my life Im never gettinback,” replies Maggie.
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Shane and Rick are out in the woods together. Like old chums again. Their “high school love life” comes up, respectively. First, Shane goes on about “banging 30 year olds on the regular” such as their P.E. teacher. Second, Rick’s fairly lax love life back then comes out. After a few minutes, Shane gets morbid saying they ought not be talking about their old stories: “The people in our stories are dead.” But he’s the one who brought it all up. He turns it into a talk with Rick about the people who depend on him. There’s always a duality happening. Shane always wants to turn another conversation, any conversation, into one about Rick. Anything he can do to break down the aura of Sheriff Rick Grimes, resident bad ass. He is jealous of everything: Rick and Lori, Rick being Sheriff in their new group essentially, Rick having Carl as a son. It’s as if Shane thought he was going to walk off with Rick’s life after he left him in the hospital, and Rick coming back was a shock to his system. Sad, and will go to tragic lengths.
In his own neck of the woods, Daryl is adventuring alone. Down by the water he tracks Sophia, a doll resting on a log. But after being thrown off the horse Daryl slides down a rocky cliff and into the river. An arrow sticks through his side, he lays there bleeding until eventually crawling out onto the shore. The survivalist in Daryl sees him do a bit of basic medical patchwork to keep him going. He tries to make it up out of valley, struggling over a hill, arrow still in his side. What will become of him? Soon enough he goes flying back down the hill, back he started. Except worse.
Glenn finally confronts Lori about her pregnancy. She needs to keep it quiet for now, which shocks Glenn knowing Rick hasn’t been told. This is developing into a tricky situation for Lori, as she can’t be totally sure whether or not Shane is the father. Deep down, you know that’s she is thinking. At the same time, Rick is already stressed with Shane questioning his leadership, wondering if he “make the hard decisions“.
Not particularly happy with things, Hershel reminds Rick of a need to control their groups respectively. He wasn’t told about Jimmy, the young boy of his group, heading out with Rick and theirs earlier. Nor was he informed about Daryl taking one of their horses. Hopefully communication improves, as Rick absolutely needs Hershel right now. He might not know it, but he does; a pregnant Lori can’t be out walking the wasteland with a child in her belly. Not to mention when it comes time to deliver.
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Dale: “If I had known the world was ending, Id have brought better books.”


In the wilderness, Daryl is having another hallucination: not a mythical creature this time, instead it’s Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker). The vision of Merle calls his younger brother an “errand boy“, Rick’s “bitch” and so on. He reminds Daryl who is his blood, who is not. The things he tells Daryl aren’t true, they’re simply a darkness in Daryl’s mind speaking aloud in his rough state.
And when Daryl comes to it isn’t Merle over him, but a zombie now. He tries to get a bite of foot. Daryl fights back best he can, smashing the walker’s face in with a big stick. Puling the arrow out of his side, Daryl pushes through the pain and loads it into his crossbow. Just in time to put one through another zombie’s skull. A brutish, savage scene that certainly was, on first watch when it premiered, a scary moment for Dixon fans. Although, you should’ve known a tough son-of-a-bitch like Daryl wasn’t about to go down because of an arrow and blood loss. Afterwards, Daryl chows down on a squirrel, cuts off a few zombie ears to make a necklace, takes Sophia’s doll and heads back on the road, one step at a time. Now and then Merle reappears, cackling and taunting his little brother.


With Andrea on the lookout, she sees a walker on the horizon coming towards the ranch. Only it isn’t the living dead, it is more certainly the living – Daryl moves out of the trees. But with Shane, T-Dog and Rick running to see if it’s a zombie, Andrea is left on top of the R.V. with her rifle. A very tense couple moments pass. When Rick points his gun, then puts it down, a bullet flies past grazing Daryl’s head. She wants so badly to be trusted with the gun yet continually makes people nervous. Fortunately, Daryl is only knocked unconscious. Everyone is still worried, especially considering he’s wearing an ear necklace. But best of all there is a sign of Sophia, giving them a ray of hope in all the darkness. Even more, this situation brings Carol and Daryl closer, which proves to be an awesome, fun, friendly relationship for a long time to come.
A nice dinner is cooked by the women of Rick’s group. Everything is not exactly cheery across the table, everybody quiet and eating with only passing glances to one another. Under the table, Glenn and Maggie pass a note to plan another steamy session; both Hershel and Dale take note, the latter already having warned Glenn about shacking up with their host’s oldest daughter. Definitely going to see a fallout of some kind, even a small one come out of this situation.


Carol: “You need to know something. You did more for my little girl today, than her own daddy did in his whole life.”
Daryl: “I didnt do anything Rick or Shane wouldnt have done.”
Carol: “I know. Youre every bit as good as them. Every bit.”


There’s already fallout. Just not the sort we might’ve expected. Maggie opens the note Glenn gave her at the table and it asks- Ever done it in a hay loft? This prompts a scared look from her.
Cut to Glenn out at the barn. Remember, the one Hershel said Rick out to stay away from? Well as he goes to check the place out, Glenn makes an unsettling, disturbed discovery: the barn is full of walkers locked inside. What is Hershel doing with all them? Will he tell the rest of the group? “You werent supposed to see this,” Maggie says catching up to him.


The following episode, “Secrets”, will certainly drop a few bombs. Looking forward to another viewing. Stay with me and a review will be up soon enough.