The Dead Zone (1983)

DVD Cover (Paramount Reissue)
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Connections: The Dead Zone

Johnny Smith is a young schoolteacher with his whole life ahead of him. Unfortunately, after leaving his fiancée's home one night, he is involved in a wreck with an 18-wheel tractor-trailer and is in a coma for 5 years. When he wakes up from it, he discovers he has an ability to see into other people's lives, past, present and future, by coming into physical contact. But the visions he has are often frightening, and even apocalyptic... --IMDb
Review by Crispy
Added: March 22, 2011
Stephen King's reputation as a master of horror is well warranted, but only in the world of writing. Anytime his work is transferred to film, the results typically vary from average to horrible. Despite this, while far from a cinematic masterpiece, The Dead Zone is still a solid little flick.

As simple as life is, Johnny Smith is incredibly happy. A well liked teacher of American Literature, he's engaged to another teacher, eagerly looking forward to their wedding so he can get his consummation on. King just loves to fuck with these kinds of people though, and while driving home one rainy night, he slams headfirst into a jackknifed eighteen-wheeler. The impact knocked him into a five year coma, and he wakes up to find Sarah is married with a child and he's lost his job. Oh, and he's developed a powerful new psychic technique: the power to see past and future of a person by touching their hand. Using this power takes a gradual but undeniable toll on his body, plus Johnny has no interest in the resulting media buzz it creates, so he lives a secluded life, but with a power this strong, he'll never again enjoy that simple life he once had.

The Dead Zone is something of a strange movie. For one thing, it has a very episodic feel; indeed it would later be adapted as a TV show, a format which I'm sure would suit the story better. Secondly, there's no true conflict to the plot. The closest thing to a villain we have is Senator Stillson, but even he is barely a secondary character. The true conflict is internal: Johnny dealing with putting his broken life back together, trying to deal with losing Sarah, and the morality issues of whether he should use his powers to help people. Again, it's a concept that works much better in a format other than a movie; in this case, I'm referring to the novel version. I've never read the book myself, but there it would be possible to actively explore his thoughts and feelings. Sure, Christopher Walken does the job well enough, but you can only convey so much on screen.

Speaking of Walken, back in 1983, he hadn't quite taken on the eccentric, aggressive typecast he's known for now, but all the traits that earned him said reputation were in full effect. The end result was an interesting sight for any of us who've seen more than a few Christopher Walken films, as seeing him play a more submissive, victim character was incredibly strange. Not that he did a bad job, on the contrary, he was great, but watching him "out of character" was something else. All of the other characters weren't a large enough impact to the film as a whole to warrant mentioning, but Martin Sheen definitely shined as the corrupt Senator.

The Dead Zone is an interesting story, and the end result is a bleaker version of Spider-Man's "With great power comes great responsibility" theme, but it's an idea that I'm sure worked better in book and series form. Still, the movie version is definitely worth a look. 6.5/10.
Chad #1: Chad - added 12/01/2011, 11:51 PM
I really enjoyed the book, but this adaptation was a small step up from awful. The problem is that they wanted to keep everything from the book in the movie, but they didn't have time to devote to all of it... so they jumped from scene to scene at a frantic pace. With a longer running time or with less of the stuff from the book, this could have been a great movie. As is, not so much.
crucibelle #2: crucibelle - added 12/02/2011, 05:56 PM
Yep, this movie had a lot of boring areas. Not very good, IMO.
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