The Dead Zone

1983, Movie, R, 103 mins

Review

DEAD ZONE, THE
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Arguably the best adaptation of a Stephen King novel, THE DEAD ZONE stars Christopher Walken as Johnny Smith, a shy schoolteacher who leaves his fiancee's house one night during a rainstorm and suffers a near-fatal auto accident. Five years later Johnny comes out of a deep coma, his life forever changed. His fiancee has married another man, his mother has become a religious fanatic, and he has developed the power to see people's futures by touching their hands. After helping to solve a murder and saving the life of a child he "saw" drowning in a vision, Johnny attends a political rally. There he shakes hands with local candidate Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen) and has a spontaneous vision: Stillson will become President and precipitate a nuclear war. As the politician gains power and influence through his calculated right-wing populism, Johnny resolves to assassinate him.

David Cronenberg's first mainstream film, THE DEAD ZONE alienated some genre fans who missed the director's trademark gross-out effects (which made an unforgettable reappearance in his 1986 masterpiece, THE FLY). Here, Cronenberg's well-known obsessions with the human body, disease, and aberrant sexuality take a back seat to another very personal theme--social alienation, as expressed through unconventional ways of seeing. It's also an attack on the destructive impulses associated with masculinity: Sheen's aggressively potent Stillson is insistently contrasted with Johnny, a crippled, anemic Cassandra brilliantly embodied by Christopher Walken. leave a comment

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