The Dead Zone (1983)
More Stephen King for our latest helping of Halloween Horror Fest movie madness. The Dead Zone, directed by David Cronenberg, is based on the King novel of the same name.
In this film, we meet Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken), a down to earth school teacher who falls into a five year coma following a horrendous car accident. When he comes to in hospital, Johnny finds that he has gained psychic powers.
Johnny’s new-found abilities lead him to intervene in some potential disasters, and help the police in their search for a serial killer.
But an encounter with dodgy politician Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen) leaves Johnny with a vision of Stillson becoming the US President and causing mass destruction. Smith has no choice but to ensure that this never happens…
Walken is superb in the lead role, always believable despite the fantastic premise. The audience can’t fail to empathise with the character- Johnny has lost everything following his accident – and Walken’s performance is spot on. Johnny Smith isn’t a hero, he’s just a normal guy who has found himself thrust into bizarre circumstances.
Sheen is chilling as the unhinged senatorial candidate. Brooke Adams, as Johnny’s lost love Sarah, is very moving and Tom Skerrit is note perfect as the beleaguered Sheriff.
Cronenberg gets the best out of his cast and manages to distil the novel into an authentic and highly entertaining thriller. The Dead Zone is not the scariest Halloween movie, but it is immensely watchable.
King’s original novel is also highly recommended. For a book nearly 40 years old, it’s unnervingly relevant in showing how a political outsider manages to gain mass appeal. Almost like the writer had psychic powers…