“The Dead Zone” (1983) – Director David Cronenberg and writer Jeffrey Boam bring Stephen King’s 1979 novel “The Dead Zone” to life on the big screen in a gripping supernatural tale that spawned a six-season television series as well. Here, Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) was enjoying a happy life as a schoolteacher and a relationship with Sarah (Brooke Adams), but gets into a car accident and falls into a coma for five years.
Sarah has moved on and Johnny laments the time and relationship that he lost, but he gains something else, a power to see the future through physical touch with another.
Walken is masterful and completely believable as Johnny. A half-broken man coping with this new ability and struggling to use it due to his physical and mental anguish. He’s lost, but can he be found?
Cronenberg only utilizes his twisted body horror trademark in one scene, but it is actually what we imagine and almost – not actually – see on-screen. What he plays down in gore, he raises in tension and especially with U.S. Senate hopeful Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen). Stillson is nothing like Sheen’s President Jed Bartlet from “The West Wing”, as one will see or remember.
Adams, Herbert Lom, Tom Skerritt, and of course, Walken are excellent pieces in a twisty, highly memorable thriller that more than stands the test of time. Thirty-five years in fact, and yes, this movie is very much alive with anyone who has seen it.
Image credits: Paramount Pictures; Trailer credits: Movieclips