After it is discovered that failing author, Thad Beaumont (Hutton) is also using a pseudonym to publish a highly successful range of horror novels, he decides to 'kill off' his now pointless alias. Unfortunately this being based on a Stephen King novel, the pseudonym personifies and comes back from the dead in search of its owner.
Inspired by Stephen King's pseudonymous adventures as Richard Bachman, George Romero's adaptation of the horrormeister's bestseller stars Timothy Hutton as mild-mannered literary failure Thad Beaumont who is exposed as pseudonymous bestseller George Stark, author of nasty thrillers about razor-slashing mobsters. When Thad reacts by killing off his pseudonym and posing beside a gravestone with Stark's name on it, his alter ego manifests himself in the real world. Having crawled out of his grave and generated a body from the buried remains of an unborn twin once removed from Thad's brain, Stark goes on a rampage, slashing up all those involved in his murder and leaving Thad's fingerprints all over the shop. Sounds good, no?
King's novel discusses fascinating personal material and questions the responsibilities of the popular artist, but it's also a bloated pretend-horror freak that fails to make any plot sense and goes on about 250 pages too long. Romero does his best to streamline the flabby storyline and gets some extraordinarily subtle performances from a great cast, but King's malformed original keeps hobbling the film.
This is too well-made and acted to be a total failure, and even the formulaic slasher scenes are handled with creepy aplomb. Hutton, in two complicated roles, digs deeper into the characters than duty calls for, and manages to make some of the quieter moments far more upsetting than the big shocks. You also get the excellent Madigan as Thad's devoted but apprehensive wife, Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer's Rooker as a bewildered Sheriff, and a genuinely haunting use of Elvis' Are You Lonesome Tonight?
Although the novel that this was based on was one of King's more successful novels, it was still a long philosophical read, raising many questions, instead of what, let's face it, we all want, the killing of innocent victims. But in the hands of gruesome director Ferrera, it manages to do the book justice, but sadly in this case that's not such a good thing.