The Dead Zone

Rating 4

Directed by David Cronenberg

Written by Jeffrey Boam, based on the novel by Stephen King

Starring Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Martin Sheen, Tom Skerritt, Herbert Lom, Herb Smith and Anthony Zerbe

Schoolteacher Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) is involved in a horrific automobile accident that leaves him in a coma for five years. When he wakes up he discovers he now has the ability to see events from the future and the past. In the meantime, his fiancée Sarah Bracknell (Brooke Adams) has married and has a ten-month-old child.

Smith is able to use his powers for good, helping to solve a series of serial killings. However, he hides away from the world, until a chance encounter with Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen), an aspiring local politician who will stop at nothing to reach his goal to become the President of the United States of America, wakes him up to the reality of his destiny.

When ‘The Dead Zone’ was released in 1983 it marked a slight departure for the Canadian film director David Cronenberg. The film, I think, bears many of the hallmarks of John Carpenter and it is perhaps not surprising to learn that it was produced by Debra Hill, Carpenter’s creative partner on several of his greatest films.

Cronenberg is, of course, an exceptional filmmaker in his own right, not just a simple copyist, and ‘The Dead Zone’ is a really intelligent horror film that allows the viewer to forget that it is a horror film. Oddly enough, Carpenter made his own Stephen King adaptation in 1983, ‘Christine’.

Christopher Walken gives a typically electric performance, without slipping into parody, something that seems to have affected some of his more recent work. The acting generally is excellent, as might be expected from a cast of such reliable actors as Martin Sheen and Tom Skerritt. It is always good to see the under-rated Brooke Adams, who is perhaps best known from the 1978 remake of ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’.

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