The Dead Zone (1983)
What’s It About: Schoolteacher Johnny Smith (no really, his name is Johnny Smith) gets a unique and surreal gift of predicting peoples’ deaths after being in a coma for 5 years. Hilarity ensues.
Here are some of my observations as I watched the film:
- Do you think King really wanted to homage The Twilight Zone with this title?
- I could listen to Christopher Walken recite Edgar Allan Poe all day.
- He mentions Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Walken actually portrays the headless Horseman in Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow. Weird.
- It’s kinda weird Tim Burton hasn’t done a Stephen King adaptation.
- Walken has one god awful haircut.
- This is the loneliest roller coaster ride ever. It’s just Walken and his girlfriend. SAD!
- I know that the character in the novel is lamely named Johnny Smith but Walken just doesn’t look like a Johnny or even a John Smith. He should be named Lancelot McCracken or maybe just Christopher Walken. Anyway, I can’t in good conscious go on referring him as Johnny Smith so I’m just going to call him Walken from here on out, OK?
- How did Walken NOT SEE that huge well-lit milk tanker truck in the middle of the road?! It wasn’t even raining that hard.
- Five years is a mighty long time to be in a coma. That’s a horror story in itself.
- Walken’s first “vision” is when he touches the nurse and tells her that her daughter is trapped in their burning house. I understand how he can see the tragedies unfold in his visions but how would he garner the name of the girl without it being spoken?
- And why is the young daughter all alone in the house?!
- So Walken and the doctor are on a first-name basis now? Seems odd that Walken called his doctor “Sam” like that.
- “Chugging?” Speaking of, I could use a beer.
- Of course you’re going to lose weight in a five year coma! Do you think they hosed food down your gullet while you were out of it?
- Yeah, if only Walken stayed the night and made love to his girlfriend, he’d be fine and happily married to her now. If only he boinked her.
- This dumbass reporter presses Walken into his newfound physic ability and for a demonstration and when he starts making the reporter uncomfortable with his vision he calls him a “fucking freak.” What an asshole.
- This is not one of Cronenberg’s best looking movies. In fact it looks older than 1983. But just boring set designs.
- In fact, I have to keep reminding myself that this is a Cronenberg movie. Doesn’t really feel like it much at all. AT ALL!
- So Walken has to touch or hold the hand of someone? Seems like a weird limitation to his powers. He touched his dad’s shoulder but didn’t have a vision. Why would it only work for hands?
- I know it makes sense for him to lose his girlfriend and his job in the five years he was in a coma but did he have any friends? He’s completely alone with his dad.
- Why is his ex-girlfriend who eventually got married with a young son keep visiting him? That’s got to be tough on
- So she visits Walken with her boy and sleeps with Walken? Did I miss something? Did she leave her husband? What a harlot!
- What is this tunnel? It’s one car wide and is about 10–12 feet high. What is the purpose of this tunnel? And how is there snow in it?
- So there’s a serial killer in town and Walken is helping the police by using his visions. On the most recent victim Walken gets a vision from her cold dead hand. But how will they really know if he’s the serial killer or just one random murder? Real tough, legally anyway, to make a case with a psychic’s supposed visions.
- Man, I was never a fan of Tom Skerritt at all. AT ALL!
- Why on earth would the deputy, who is the serial killer, go home when he realizes that Walken knows it’s him and told the sheriff?
- The deputy’s mother is not acting suspicious at all. AT ALL!
- The deputy commits suicide by planting his face on a pair of scissors. How ridiculous. Couldn’t he just slice his wrists or since he’s a cop, just shoot himself? And how would simple hair shears kill him if he stabbed himself in the mouth?
- And now why is the mother trying to shoot Walken and Skerritt? I understand she’s trying to protect her son, but he’s already dead. She should’ve tried to kill them before they went upstairs. It really doesn’t mater anyway since he killed himself with a pair of small scissors.
- Why would psychic visions weaken the body? It’s not like he’s jogging in place while he’s seeing these visions.
- Wait a minute. Walken claims he won’t leave his house in a new town or answer “fan mail” because he doesn’t want to be hounded by people asking for help. Yet, his name is on his house and he tutors children. That makes very little sense.
- Anthony Zerbe. Eeh.
- Martin Sheen is a national treasure.
- On TV they watch Sheen, who plays senate hopeful Greg Stillson, count to 100 during push-ups. Did the people coming out to hear Stillson campaign actual watch and wait for him to complete 100 push-ups?
- Hahaha. Stillson just asked his crowd why they’re out here in the cold on a work-day and why aren’t they working!
- Stillson says he’s had a vision of him becoming president one day. Sheen’s played how many presidents in TV or film since this movie?
- More “The Raven” reciting? He sure loves that poem.
- So now the hand touch vision thing doesn’t matter since Walken sees his tutor drowning in a frozen lake by embracing his shoulders.
- So the next day the tutor’s dad tells John that he’s organized a hockey team for his kid and friends. Of course Walken freaks out since he foresaw the accident. But he’s trying in vain to tell the dad to cancel the whole thing. But A. How does Walken know that the accident happens today and B. It’s because the frozen lake breaks and the kids fall in which, to me, is an easy enough tragedy to overcome. They can take necessary precautions is what I’m saying and not cancel the whole hockey endeavor.
- “THE ICE! IS GONNA BREAK!” I always loved that Walken delivered warning back when I first saw this in college.
- And incidentally, Zerbe knows about Walken’s abilities yet doesn’t care about the warning about his son. Again, he can be skeptical and still take greater precaution.
- I know this film obviously takes place in Maine but do they really get that much snow in October? Stillson is campaigning so it’s got to be before November. The ground has been white with snow for a long time now.
- Man, I’ve never seen Sheen hamming up the performance like this. There’s less ham in a Heavenly Ham store.
- Walken shakes Stillson’s hand and foresees Stillson as president in his pajamas ranting about destiny and wanting to launch nukes. Is this 1983 or 2017?
- I find it interesting that whenever someone has a moral dilemma about knowing something and doing something about it they always bring up “if you could go back in time and kill Hitler knowing all that happens because of him, would you?” Hitler truly is the greatest villain in history. Hands down. No one ever says this about Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun or Pol Pot.
- So now Walken is bent on planning to kill Stillson since he knows for certain that Stillson will be the cause of millions of deaths. I could argue that instead of shooting him he could try harder to oppose him politically and try to alter the future for Stillson getting elected. Maybe hire someone to ruin him politically with a scandal perhaps instead of violence. But eh whatever, assassinating him is way easier.
- They actually did the campaigning politician kissing a baby. C’mon Cronenberg, you’re better than that.
- Hahahaha. As Walken takes aim at Stillson, his exgirlfriend who is helping with the campaign notices him and calls him out, thus distracting him and makes him miss Stillson. In a panic, Stillson grabs her baby to use as a human shield!
- If only someone tried this with Trump. I’m sure as anything that if he was being shot at he would grab his own kid (Eric I’m sure) to use as a human shield.
- Hahahahaha. Now Walken foresees Stillson’s future death by suicide when his political career is over because he used the baby as a human shield. Hilarious twist ending.
Scare Level: This is less horror and more sci-fi thriller I guess. It’s not scary at all. Unless you count Walken’s haircut.
Gore Level: I think the only blood you see is when the deputy serial killer cuts his own throat on a pair of scissors.
Nudity Level: Nada.
Best Line: It’s tough to be beat the “ICE! IS GONNA BREAK!!” line. It’s the perfect Walken performance.
Best Scene: I usually don’t care much for King endings but this one is an exception. Having the ending be that Walken seeing no other way to stop nuclear armageddon from a crazy president was to try to kill him was great but then having the twist of him misfiring but causing the same outcome with Sheen’s cowardly deed of using a baby as a human shield destroy his political career was icing on the cake.
Worst Scene: I could easily see how Walken, with his abilities, be of great service and help to the local police and fill up a whole movie’s running time of solving mysteries (it’s no fluke that the TV series ran for 6 seasons), however, the whole deputy killing himself with small cosmetic shears in the mouth was really dumb and unnecessary. And then having to kill his mother who was trying to kill Walken and Skerritt was even more unnecessary.
Stephen King References: Castle Rock; Sheriff Bannerman
Overall: As dated and non-polished for its time (Cujo and Christine also came out in 1983 and they look better in my opinion), The Dead Zone is one of the better King adaptations. It’s less horror and more mystery and science-fiction/fantasy and maybe that helps as most King horror stories are about some sort of monster or entity that gets ridiculous by the finale. Walken is a great King protagonist and he’s equally creepy and heroic in this. It’s tough to really root for him since he is so tormented by his power but at the same time he’s probably the most sympathetic King hero also. Plus his name is the absurd Johnny Smith. Cronenberg is great filmmaker and that’s another reason this film excels. If you made a list of King movie adaptations the better ones are the ones directed by acclaimed directors (DePalma, Kubrick, Carpenter, Reiner, Darabont). This movie was entertaining enough for repeat-viewings and I remember seeing it about 20 years ago in college and while I didn’t recall every detail, I do remember it being a worthwhile movie. If you’ve never seen it, it may be a good idea to check it out.
Score: 8 Recitings of The Raven (out of 10)
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