Spoilers will shake your hand.
This film was another reason I’m doing a series on David Cronenberg. I enjoyed this film a lot more now as an adult that when I watched it as a kid. I did like it, but I thought it was a bit slow. Watching it again after all these years, I feel more appreciative on the slow burn it takes until it finally sets up the perfect scenario for its final confrontation. That’s not to say that the stories in the middle are not great. This might be an acquired taste. Most jaded audiences might not find it exciting enough to sit through it. Although it does exist in the eighties, I think this film has aged considerably well.
The Dead Zone (1983) was directed by David Cronenberg. The screenplay was written by Jeffrey Boam based on the novel by Stephen King. Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) works as a teacher in the local school, soon to marry the love of his life. One fateful night, he is injured in a traffic accident and falls into a coma. When he awakes, he learns he’s spent five years in that state. He begins a painful road to recovery and tries to accept that his past life and dreams are gone. On top of that, he finds that touching certain people allows him to see someone’s tragic past, present or future. With the future, he also learns it can be changed.
Like I started saying, I appreciated this a lot more now than back when it hit theaters. It takes its time, but as Johnny suffers each new episode the stakes are steadily increasing. His visions also get him press recognition, which goes even further when he helpes solved a string of murders at Castle Rock (there’s your Stephen King reference). By the time he actually meets the popular yet greasy candidate to the senate Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen), you can already figure that Johnny is going to be in over his head.
There are quite a string of memorable characters with notable performances in this film. Martin Sheen does a terrific job at playing Stillson, your double-crossing asshole politician that just says what people want to hear but is just bullying his way in. Tom Skerritt plays Sheriff Bannerman because that role just fits him like a second skin. Herbert Lom does a good job as Dr. Sam Weizak. Brooke Adams plays a troubled Sarah, conflicted between her love for John from five years ago and the family she has now. The movie belongs to Christopher Walken though.
Strongly recommended for nostalgia as well as for audiences who won’t mind a thriller with some supernatural flavour. There’s no particular special effects required so for the most part it can be seen without any cringe. You will have to buy Christopher Walken as your regular guy, but he does settle himself into the role. It’s much more a thriller than a horror or sci-fi film, so don’t expect any particularly over the top scenes. The visions are pretty tame for modern audiences, but at the same time it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. I don’t think it’s slow pace at all considering the main character has gone through a traumatic experience. Very much worth a watch, just don’t expect too much spectacle.
That will do for now.