The Stephen King adaptations keep rolling in. This is one of the more exciting ones though. Alex Ross Perry, one of the best directors working today, will reportedly adapt King’s 1989 novel The Dark Half for MGM.
The story revolves around author Thad Beaumont, a recovering alcoholic laying low in the small town of Ludlow, Maine. (No, really). Thad has had minor success as an author under his real name, but he’s risen to higher heights through novels written under his pseudonym, ‘George Stark’, thanks to his Stark novels exploring the life of a fictional serial killer named Alexis Machine.
When it’s revealed Thad and George are the same person, Thad’s wife Liz suggests the couple have a mock burial for the George Stark pen name. Since this is a King novel, things go very wrong and take a dark turn. George actually rises up from the grave and seeks out Thad, and things only get worse from there.
King fans will note that this story bears some resemblance to King’s own frustrations with finding more success writing under the pseudonym ‘Richard Bachman’ in the 70s and 80s. ‘Bachman’ penned Rage, The Long Walk, Roadwork, and The Running Man before being outed as King.
King created him in an attempt to make sense out of his career and try to answer the question of whether his success was due to talent or luck.
King later said he had yet to find an answer to that question, as he was outed as Bachman too early. The final Bachman book before his discovery as King was Thinner, which sold 28,000 copies during its original run, and then ten times as many when Bachman was revealed to be King.
So there’s plenty to work with here for Perry. He’s no stranger to dark material, with two of his recent films – Her Smell and Queen Of Earth – taking Elisabeth Moss through the ringer in pitch-black explorations of the human psyche. Every film he’s made also tackles with identity – even his funnier works – so he’s an excellent choice to adapt this particular novel.
This isn’t the first time The Dark Half has been adapted though. George Romero previously adapted the novel into a 1993 movie that starred Timothy Hutton and Amy Madigan. That one didn’t leave much of a cultural mark.
As mentioned, King adaptations are ubiquitous now thanks to the success of IT. This year we’ve had Pet Sematary, Doctor Sleep, In The Tall Grass film adaptations, IT: Chapter Two hit the big screen, plus Creepshow and Castle Rock on the TV side of things. HBO’s The Outsider arrives next year, along with plenty more silver screen King adaptations.
It will probably be tough to stand out with that sort of competition (did you remember Pet Sematary came out this year?), but Perry’s voice is so distinct that he should have no trouble crafting something memorable.