George A Romero's film of Stephen King's The Dark Half opens in the UK tomorrow, nearly a year after its US release. It bombed big time in the States, which probably won't dent King's reputation for having the box-office Midas touch one whit. Actually, the screen translations of the horror author's work number more failures, conceptual and / or finanical, than hits: The Dead Zone, Christine, Firestarter, Cujo, Cats Eye, Silver Bullet, Children of the Corn, Graveyard Shift etc overwhelm Carrie, The Shining, Stand By Me, Pet Sematary, Misery, The Lawnmower Man . . .

It has to be said: the shorter King's novels, the better the film, usually. Of late, the master of the macabre's books have been getting longer, in direct correlation with declining sales. Thus It, The Tommyknockers and The Stand went straight to TV as mini-series. King resents this but it seems logical, not merely because the form is equipped to accomodate his sprawling structures but because his brand of terror is becoming . . . somewhat cosy. Shape-shifting fiends, brain-draining aliens, evil incarnate - you wouldn't mind having them around the house, not really. Not if they cleaned up their mess. Not if it was a choice between them and hors d'oeuvres with Hannibal Lecter.

Still, the studios clamour for the King. It speaks volumes about the power of the brand name that anyone could contemplate filming The Mangler, the story of (yes]) a possessed clothes presser - yet here it comes. Which may not be the same as being able to sell your laundry list, but comes pretty damn close.

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