The Dead Zone (1983)
The Vision King
Things were going well for Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) as he was in love with Sarah (Brooke Adams) and could see them marrying one day. But then he was involved in a major car crash which left him in a coma for 5 years and confused when he came round. In those 5 years things changed; Sarah met someone else and had a child but Johnny also changed as somehow he now has the ability of second sight, when he touches someone allowing him to see the person's past, present and future. But whilst some see it as a gift with great potential Johnny finds it a burden as he yearns for the peace and quiet and normality of his previous life. But when Johnny experiences the future events in the life of flamboyant politician Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen) Johnny must decide whether it is right for him to alter the future by intervening in what he can see will happen.
The more movies I watch the more I come to realise that no one shares the exact same taste in movies as I do and so whilst I might agree with the opinions of a reviewer most of the time there will be times when we will disagree. Usually this is the case when they rate a movie highly and I wonder what they've been smoking not when they rate a movie poorly which I think is great but this was the case when it comes to the movie "The Dead Zone". I must admit I had my doubts as whilst based on a Stephen King story the fact this was directed by David Cronenberg made me cautious.
Now for me "The Dead Zone" is almost drama rather than horror or thriller as this is the story of Johnny Smith, a man who finds himself with a supernatural gift and struggling with all the ramifications of it. That goes from being seen as a freak by those who find it a novelty to be exploited for the public bemusement to the dangers of what happens when he starts using it for good such as when he decides to help the police with an investigation having tried to shut himself off from the world. And this drama is effectively worked with just the right amount of depth so it is interesting but not so much that causes the movie to crawl along under a too weighty narrative. And it nicely builds up with the weight of this gift causing Johnny to face a big decision when it comes to what he sees.
Whilst for me the focus is more on the drama of what Johnny goes through due to this gift it does have moments of tension especially towards the end as Johnny faces up to a big decision. But it also has moments of horror with his visions being presented as flashes such as an early one in the hospital where he touches the nurse's hand and he can see her daughter in danger in a burning room. It is a nicely handled scene as it elaborates on the visions but has a horror slant with Johnny finding himself in a burning bed in the vision.
Now at the heart of "The Dead Zone" is the brilliant writing of Stephen King and following that is the simple but effective handling of it by David Cronenberg who doesn't over crowd it so that it becomes dominated by the visual aspects of it. But then there is Christopher Walken as Johnny and Walken makes it all seem so natural as if other than putting on the physical aspects of his character such as the limp is just playing the character as if it was him who was the focus of the movie and it makes it so good and so engaging.
What this all boils down to is that "The Dead Zone" is another of those Stephen King movies which works exceptionally well as a movie with as much of it being about the drama of the story and the characters as it is the horror of what happens. But it is a movie which really comes to life thanks to the fantastic performance from Christopher Walken.
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