The horror world suffered a massive blow when director George A. Romero, the undisputed “Father of the Zombie Film”, passed away at 77.
While he did in fact establish the zombie genre as a horror mainstay with his quintessential film Night of the Living Dead – ushering a wave of homages and copycats in its wake, even to this day – it would be unfair to limit Romero’s horror contributions to just undead brain-eaters. A quick glimpse at his filmography shows his directing talents extended far beyond ghouls and cemeteries; they included vampires, governmental conspiracies, psychotic animals, and, well, medieval reenactment groups.
One of Romero’s frequent collaborators and longtime friends was Stephen King. The pair worked together on several projects, including Knightriders and Creepshow – Romero was also supposed to direct adaptations of King’s The Stand and The Dead Zone in the early ’80s, but didn’t end up working on either project.
Romero’s final joint effort with Stephen King was The Dark Half, based on King’s novel of the same name, which Romero wrote for the screen and directed. A semi-autobiographical tale (which King work isn’t?), The Dark Half stars Timothy Hutton as “Thad Beaumont”, a writer who must confront his own pseudonym, “George Stark”, when it eerily comes to life.
Shot in 1990, but not released until 1993, The Dark Half was a disappointment at the box office and received mildly receptive reviews. But that didn’t stop developers from making a video game out of it.
That’s right: in 1992, Symtus and Capstone Software released a computer game based on The Dark Half!
The plot of the game is identical to the film: as Thad, your goal is to solve the mystery of your killer pen name, “George”, by gathering clues and avoiding police – and in the end prove you’re innocent of the murders he’s been committing. The game utilized a point-and-click interface which was popular among many computer adventure games at the time. The only difference was the incredible difficulty of the game. Being killed and being arrested were common occurrences, ending gameplay. Therefore saving your game often was required – which players apparently rebuked.
The struggle of beating the game, combined with the poor translation from movie screen to computer screen (the game is apparently rife with plot holes and is perhaps not the most faithful adaptation), led to The Dark Half getting a bad rap. Much like the movie it was based upon, the game was a commercial failure. However, as with many misunderstood pieces of media, it has since become a sought after cult hit. So much so, in fact, that in 1997, a follow-up game, Dark Half: Endsville, was announced.
Sadly, that game never came to fruition.
Make sure to check out Romero’s The Dark Half if you haven’t seen it, and if you’re feeling especially adventurous, check out some of the gameplay from The Dark Half computer game below!