Tuesday, May 31, 2011


(October 1983, U.S.)

From the time I was about sixteen years-old right into my adulthood, I was an avid reader of Stephen King novels. I mean, it seems I read EVERYTHING! Somewhere around the start of the new century, though, books like HEARTS IN ATLANTIS, FROM A BUICK 8 and CELL began to alienate me. As a result, I haven't picked up a King book in many years. But I still recall the glory days of the 1980s when his novels were being made into films around every corner. Some were great, like THE SHINING (1980). Some were just okay, like CHRISTINE (1983). Some of them really sucked, like CUJO (1983) and FIRESTARTER (1984). THE DEAD ZONE came out somewhere in the midst of all that King rage and it's not only one of the better adaptations, but also one of the better films of director David Cronenberg, in my opinion.

Johnny Smith (played as eccentrically-as-ever by Christopher Walken), after being involved in a car accident and awakening after a 5 year coma, discovers that his life has completely changed since he last knew of consciousness; his girlfriend Sarah (played by Brooke Adams) has long since married and had a child. Johnny's transition back to life is made more difficult when he discovers that he has the ability to learn a person's secrets (past, present and future) through making physical contact with that person. However, this ability leaves him an outcast in his hometown despite helping the citizens like a young boy he prevents from a drowning accident and helping to catch the town serial murderer. Later, Johnny discovers through a handshake that U.S. Senatorial Candidate, Greg Stillson (played by Martin Sheen) will later become President of the United States, and through that same handshake he ees Stillson ordering a nuclear strike against Russia, thus presumably bringing on a nuclear holocaust. There is a poignant moment when he asks his doctor if he could go back in time, knowing what the world knows now, would he murder Adolph Hitler before he came to power. That moment clearly outlines the fact that Johnny will attempt to assassinate Greg Stillson to prevent the horrible tragedy he envisioned. The attempt fails and Johnny will die, but the chain reaction of results will ultimately lead to Stillson's own suicide and the world will be saved.

THE DEAD ZONE is technically classified as a horror film, but I would hardly consider it that. There is almost no blood involved. However, it's the general concept of what would happen if a man could not only see the future but could also change it at will that creates a feeling of fear and chills when watching the film, particularly during the sequence when Johnny is prepared to identify the town's serial killer when touching the dead victim's hand. Besides somehow preventing the events of September 11, 2001, I sometimes wonder what I would do with such a power. Something selfish, probably.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Johnny Smith: "The ICE is gonna BREAK!"


  1. This is my favorite Steven King adaptation (after Shawshank). The murder story was creepy as hell, but the bittersweet romance was really important to the political story that is the resolution of the film. Martin Sheen as President, whoa, I saw that show, it did not end like this.

  2. Sheen was, however, just awful in FIRESTARTER. Hell, everyone was!