The Dead Zone Reviews

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Super Reviewer
January 21, 2011
Johnny Smith:  If you could go back in time to Germany, before Hitler came to power, knowing what you know now, would you kill him?

"In his mind, he has the power to see the future. In his hand, he has the power to change it."

The Dead Zone is one of many films to populate the genre of Stephen King adaptations. These films end up normally being hit or miss. We've had our share of great movies adapted from King's books, but we've also had a huge amount of terrible King adaptions. The Dead Zone is one that falls into the top category, and is one of the top King adaptions of all-time. It isn't my favorite, but it is a great movie with excellent direction from David Cronenberg and a performance from Christopher Walken that goes down as my personal favorite of his.

Johnny is a school teacher, who is close to marrying his girlfriend. After a date one night, he decides to go home instead of staying the night with his girl. There's a storm going on, which causes a semi to crash, leaving part of the truck in the road. Before he can realize it is there, Johnny crashes into the truck. Five years later he awakes from a coma to find out that he hasn't only lost five years, but his girl and job too. He also gained something through it all; he had the ability to see the past and future events that will surround a person when he touches their hand. 

There's a lot to love about The Dead Zone. From Walken as a psychic to Martin Sheen as a candidate running for the senate, the movie doesn't miss the mark much. The development of Johnny is extremely well done, as are the changing situations in the story. The story from King may be one of the smartest of his career, and Cronenberg found the genius in the story and let it out perfectly.

The Dead Zone is a classic film, that I myself consider as a must watch. It's an early film in Cronenberg's filmography, but of all the movies I have seen from him; this would have to be my favorite. It's one of those thrillers I could watch over and over again. The story is just so intriguing, and Cronenberg and Walken almost flawlessly continue to suck the viewer in deeper and deeper. 
cosmo313 cosmo313
Super Reviewer
November 12, 2012
Based on a novel by Stephen King, this is easily one of David Cronenberg's more straightforward and accessible films.

Christopher Walken stars as Johnny Smith- a schoolteacher whose live goes to pieces after a terrible car accident leaves him in a coma for five years. When he wakes up he discovers that he has the ability to see someone's future simply by touching their hand. It could be a blessing, or a curse, but either way, Johnny's new ability definitely gives him a new lease on life, for better...or worse.

Yeah, this might be just a studio gig for Cronenberg, but I think it's still a pretty solid and entertaining thriller. It's more toned down than most of his work, but he still manages to gt in some effectively creepy and unsettling moments here and there.

Plus, Walken is great. The seeds for his creepiness were sowed with The Deer Hunter and Annie Hall, but they come to full bloom here. Tom Skerritt, Martin Sheen, Brooke Adams and Herbert Lom all give some really good supporting performances, but this is clearly Walken's show.

The cinematography and music are great, I like the way they portray Johnny's visions, and, though this might be a fairly conventional film, it's still quite a fun thrill ride.
garyX garyX
Super Reviewer
November 15, 2006
A teacher involved in a near fatal car crash reawakens from a coma five years later with the power of second sight. David Cronenberg's most restrained and mainstream movie is based upon a Stephen King novel, but don't let that put you off. The Dead Zone, along with The Shining, is one of the very best examples of his numerous adaptations and is a fine exercise in supernatural suspense. The inventive plot sees a man haunted by images of future events, finely played by Christopher Walken in one of his least flamboyant performances. His hollow eyed, almost shell shocked interpretation strikes the mark perfectly and he is ably supported by Herbert Lom as a pragmatic doctor and holocaust survivor and Martin Sheen as an insidious senatorial candidate. The score also deserves a mention, providing exactly the right mix of the otherwordly and oppressive and the film as a whole is a perfectly engineered, tightly plotted and tautly paced chiller which still stands as one of Cronenberg's best.
Super Reviewer
September 6, 2010
An interesting story from King, and a good cast too, but Cronenberg made this movie slightly too weird, so some of the less interesting scenes are pretty boring. Overall, I liked this movie, though, the story is cool and Walken is perfect in the lead.
Dan S
Super Reviewer
January 8, 2011
A meandering, slightly disappointing film from the master of body horror David Cronenberg, who adapts a Stephen King novel about a teacher (Christopher Walken) involved in a horrific car accident, and how he tries to get his life back on track after awaking from a 5-year coma with a rare psychic ability. Walken's performance makes this movie almost worth seeing, since he does a phenomenal job really sinking his teeth into the character and going all-out for it. Sadly, an over-the-top Martin Sheen, some very noticeable plot holes, and a sometimes slow pace hamper this film from becoming a solid, respectable thriller.
TheDudeLebowski65 TheDudeLebowski65
Super Reviewer
June 9, 2010
The Dead Zone is a departure from David Cronenberg's previous works such as Scanners and Videodrome. This is a departure for Director David Cronenberg because this film unlike his previous repertoire of work, does not deal with the Body Horror genre. Instead, Cronenberg Adapts a Stephen King Novel, and does it with quite the flair that he is famous for. Even thought it doesn't deal with themes such as body horror, The Dead Zone just by viewing it you know it's a Cronenberg Oeuvre, just because it has his sense of style to it. The Dead Zone is really a horrifying film to watch, and the cast is brilliant, this is one of the best casts to act in a Stephen King adaptations. Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen are superb, no words can describe how great they are in this film. The Dead Zone is a a solid Horror film from David Cronenberg and is actually, one of his best films that has not spawned from his own imagination.
FilmFanatik FilmFanatik
Super Reviewer
May 5, 2007
A decent adaptation of the novel, but not all that great.
Conner R
Super Reviewer
November 16, 2009
Amazing in every sense of the word. Christopher Walken gave such a great performance and made Stephen King lines seem completely normal. It's such a great story and concept, fitting perfectly into the directing style of David Cronenberg. It has a very great tone to it, mystery thrown in with horror.
Stephen M
Super Reviewer
½ January 10, 2009
I'm pretty sure this was the first Cronenberg movie I ever saw and I still have a soft spot for it, even if I'm now old enough to appreciate that the story is kind of flimsy and the director is flirting with the mainstream by watering down his trademark body horror. As usual, Cronenberg assembles a fine supporting cast (Herbert Lom, Anthony Zerbe, Tom Skerritt, Martin Sheen) and the sensitive performances of Christopher Walken and Brooke Adams give the movie an emotional pull generally lacking in this director's work, making it, if not one of his best films, certainly one of his most moving. The Dead Zone also stands out in Cronenberg's filmography as being his only movie since The Brood, in 1979, not scored by Howard Shore; Michael Kamen did the music here. Ironically, Walken quotes Sleepy Hollow and went on to play the Headless Horseman for Tim Burton, and Martin Sheen, who plays a senatorial candidate hell-bent on the US presidency, ended up in The West Wing.
Cassandra M
Super Reviewer
½ July 27, 2009
A schoolteacher Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) a survivor of a road accident awakes from a five-year coma to discover he has psychic abilities, which he gets visions of the past, present and the deadly future. And how he does it, is through the use of touch. But life has changed within that time with his girlfriend (Brooke Adams) being married; he's basically crippled and no longer having a job. So now he uses his abilities to help a sheriff (Tom Skerritt) solve a murder case, to save a child's life and predicting world's fate from an evilly corrupt politician (Martin Sheen) who plans to be president.

It's definitely one of my favourite King adaptations and you could say Cronenberg at his best. This time around Cronenberg has taken a more mainstream (even though depressing) approach with none of his grotesque and disturbing visuals evident, but that doesn't take away from the experience - as on show is good story telling, performances and film-making. Visually the film does hold strong imagery (especially the vision scenes) and also the picture truly captures the unsaturated colours of the wintry backdrop, which makes the bleak atmosphere such a dour affair. Though the sharp stabbing sounds when Johnny gets a vision truly knocks you, but it's the stinging outcome that made the film for me. Distinctive photography by Mark Irwin was beautifully constructed and pretty smooth in the detail of the settings. While, the driving score stood out and was particularly on the spot with capturing the right mood. Sound performances are given by the likes of the sympathetic Christopher Walken and the innocent Brooke Adams. Martian Sheen delivers a rather hammy performance and Tom Skerritt's performance is the total opposite, being rather toned down. Cronenberg's solid direction paces the film swiftly and also creates some well-staged sequences of tension that stick in your head. In all you can always expect dashing film-making by Cronenberg and that's what you get in this picture.

The story is what I had some gripes with. At times it felt like writer Jeffrey Boam was trying to squeeze too much into the story. Some interesting and intelligent sub-plots (murder investigation) felt hurried and rather contrived - it was like it was concentrating and building more towards the final act instead. But then again time is money and it didn't take away from my overall enjoyment of this film. The plot is basically a portrait of a man coming to grips with his pain and accepting the fate his been chosen and also throw in some social commentary into the mix. Also added is the occasional dabbing of dry/witty remarks, but for me it was uncomfortable humour. That being pretty much the state of the film. One thing I noticed, but don't know if this symbolism was intended but the way Johnny is always wearing the black coat reminded me of death (fate). Especially with touch his can see into the future and actually alter what can happen (say death). Perhaps it was just I?

It isn't gut wrenching stuff we've come to expect by Cronenberg, but still he nails down a well drawn up and gripping drama/thriller.
Luke B
Super Reviewer
April 17, 2009
One of the best Stephen King movies. One of Cronenberg's best movies. Both Walken and Sheen giving two of their finest performances. The Dead Zone is a simple idea that has been complicated. Walken is a man who can get glimpses of the past and the future by touching people. This leads to all sorts of problems which conflict with Walken wanting to live a normal life. He's already lost the girl of his dreams because of a 5 year coma. Cronenberg is very, very restrained in this film. He uses violence and gore only when absolutely necessary, which isn't that often. The film manages to escape it's episodic narrative by some clever editing techniques and time jumps. It plays out more like biopic than your average thriller. Sheen is gloriously manic on screen. Tearing it up and becoming a terrifying villain. That's only half the story though, as The Dead Zone has two distinct plots and two very separate cases. It's no surprise that this has been adapted into a TV show. This film is brilliant and really makes me want to watch the TV show and read the book.
Michael G
Super Reviewer
October 25, 2006
Reading Stephen King's work to me is just like watching paint dry in a Midwestern state and for the most part, the film adaptations of his work resemble that sentiment even more so. But David Cronenberg's adaptation kind of had me curious and I haven't seen The Dead Zone (or the pieces of it I remember) in decades. It's kind of fitting that the USA network turned The Dead Zone into a TV series because that's all this movie felt like--a few TV episodes tied together. Christopher Walken was alright and Cronenberg managed to put enough of his twist on it to make The Dead Zone interesting. It's no Shawshank Redemption, Carrie or The Shining but it's no... anything else of King's that ended up on a screen.
Gx7 Gx7
Super Reviewer
½ November 4, 2007
Chistopher Walken plays Johnny Smiths character almost to perfection in this 1983 film adaptation of Stephen King's The Dead Zone. However, like most film adaptations of books, the imagination and the amount of information the reader has about the story will always surpass book-based films.

The Dead Zone was one of my most favorite books while growing up and I dont know what I was thinking when I expected to see the whole story on film just like how I pictured it in my head years ago. Nonetheless, they did get certain parts right on the nail and Oh wow! Walken really is just one heck of an awesome actor!

Im just left wondering why Jeffrey Boam (the screenwriter) and Cronenberg decided to delete the history scene about Johnny playing Ice Hockey as a kid and that day at the carnival with the wheel of fortune, they skipped a whole bunch of interesting stories from the book which most S.King Fanatics are complaining about, but overall I think this was a pretty decent adaptation than the 2002 TV series (Which I also have but never bothered finishing because it was a total snoze).

It took me about 2 years to hunt this movie down and Im pretty happy to have found this rare thing at the video store (It was the last copy too!) --- If it werent for the great performances of Walken, Herbert Lom and Martin Sheen this movie wouldnt be worth collecting.

Get the book if you want to be truelly blown away, but watch the film to see the super-rific Walken in his Early years as an actor.

Non-related Sidenotes1: Its funny how Walken continues talking about Ichabod Crane and Sleepy Hollow throughout patches of the film, I wonder if it was really included in the script or did he just mesh that in there, its like he really likes that story.

2: Time seems to be in love with Walken, Martin Sheen is 3 years younger than him. Directed by: David Cronenberg
Ken S
Super Reviewer
½ May 9, 2007
My new favorite "office supply plunged into someones face" scene of 2008

1) The Dead Zone
2) Dark Knight
3) The Furies

This was back in the day when Walken was still an actor, before...whatever it is that happened.
Lady D
Super Reviewer
½ November 17, 2006
Dated, yet enjoyable, I like the idea of obtaining future telling abilities from having been woken from a long coma. It's a little weird, but it wouldn't be Stephen King if it wasn't now would it?
366weirdmovies 366weirdmovies
Super Reviewer
½ January 31, 2008
High school English teacher Christoper Walken falls into coma while sporting an awful bowl haircut, and wakes five years later with a slightly better 'do. Oh, and the ability to tell the future. A nicely doomed performance by a bedraggled Walken and a strong finish make this pyshcological horror film loom in the memory longer than it perhaps deserves.
puffchunk puffchunk
Super Reviewer
½ October 23, 2007
Knowing that Walken quotes the Raven in this movie alone should make you forget to pick up your children from school and go rent this movie. Classic Walken getting visions by touching people. A must see for all fans out there.
SilentWarProductions2009 SilentWarProductions2009
Super Reviewer
½ December 5, 2006
Directed by: David Cronenberg.
Starring: Christopher Walken, Tom Skerritt, Anthony Zerbe, Brooke Adams, Martin Sheen.

I am hearing the sentence said about this film....'Arguably, the best Stephen King adaption'....and the key word there is 'arguably', because many will say yes and others will say no....I am the latter.

The story, based on the Stephen King novel, follows Johnny Smith, a young school teacher with his whole life ahead of him and a women to share it with. When a car accident puts Johnny into a coma, he awakens 5 years later to find his love has married, his job is gone and he now has a power to see past and future, but does he have the power to change it? There are two sides to this story, one of them more thriller/horror based and the other being a character drama and a romantic melodrama and The Dead Zone doesn't quite balance the two. I have always been intrigued by Stephen King, but never have found the time to read his books, so I take the closest source and watch the recommended adaption's. What I felt The Dead Zone should have been was a mini-series. The pacing too fast and the running time too short to translate the material to brilliance, instead it turns in very well as a character drama, but lacking in the depth on the horror and thriller elements. David Cronenberg moves the film at a fast pace and keeps us very engrossed despite the flaws. Although its a change from his usual style, he works the editing brilliantly to create some thrilling sequences....and of course, technically, there are key scenes that are staged beautifully and they are memorable. The supporting cast are great, with Martin Sheen delivering an intensely chilling performance, but its Christopher Walken who is in one of his best roles of the 80's. His charisma is here, but not as quirky as his most recent efforts, but he channels a rather chilling and memorable entity.

Had it been made at least an hour longer or made into a mini-series, this adaption could have been brilliant. Still, its a great adaption of the novel that is engrossed from first frame and delivers both some memorable sequences and performances. Really good, but not great.
Aaron N
Super Reviewer
October 26, 2006
Johnny Smith: "Bless me"? Do you know what God did for me? He threw an 18-wheeled truck at me and bounced me into nowhere for five years! When I woke up, my girl was gone, my job was gone, my legs are just about useless... Blessed me? God's been a real sport to me!

Now here's a good combination, sci-fi/horror maestro David Cronenberg, Christopher Walken, and a good Stephen King premise with an ending that doesn't suck.

Walken stars as Johnny Smith, easily one of his best roles. He starts off as a teacher, in love with one of his fellow colleagues, but all of that changes after he goes through a terrible car accident resulting in a five-year coma, a permanent limp...oh and he has mental powers allowing him to change the future.

Johnny Smith: Your house is burning! There's still time!

After awakening, Johnny views what he has gained as a curse, but still makes some good use out of it, in an effort to save lives. He becomes involved in a murder case with town sheriff, played by Tom Skerrit, but later moves on to another town to avoid using the power he has.

Johnny Smith: It reminds me of a line from "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" the last story I read to my class before... the accident. Ichabod Crane disappears... the line goes: "As he was a bachelor, and in nobody's debt, nobody troubled their head about him anymore."
Sarah Bracknell: Is that what you feel?
Johnny Smith: Is what I want... what I want.

Eventually Martin Sheen comes into the fold as a seedy politician with his own predictions and aspirations, and Johnny becomes involved.

This movie works because like most Cronenberg films, the movies are about the characters that must deal with the extraordinary situations. Walken is great in this role, combining his sadness, his intensity, and his Walkenness to Johnny Smith, making it work all the better.

This is also just a well made movie at that. It takes a high concept and moves with it, but doesn't dumb things down to standard thriller cliches. It also has a good musical score, a few thrilling scenes, neat premonition stuff, some good supporting characters, and a little humor to brighten things up.

This is a well made movie, with a great performance from my man Walken, and one of the best Stephen King adaptations I have seen.

Johnny Smith: The ice is going to break!
Daniel H
Super Reviewer
½ October 22, 2007
Well done adaptation, with enough star-power to dispel the lingering aftertastes of a rather simplistic plot and altogether mellow mood for a psychological horror film.

It's the acting that makes the film creepy, with Walken giving a restrained, spot-on performance and Sheen hamming it up to enforce his dislikability. More of a creepy drama than a modern horror film... but then again, creepy dramas WERE horror films back in the day, such as Frankenstein. Not Cronenbergs best, but he works well with what he has.
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