Stephen King always was the Master of Horror. Most of his books have translated to films, and television min series. In the 80’s he had a nice run of film adaptations. Films like Firestarter, Christine, Salem’s Lot and more were all horror classics. One film however really stood out. The 1983 Dead Zone film, adapted from the novel of the same name and directed by David Cronenberg and starring Christopher Walken in an Oscar worthy performance. The popularity of both of these lead to a television series, and a remake is even being considered now. It’s a complex story that is just fantastic to watch. Its Kings best book in my opinion, and its definitely one of the best film adaptations to date.
Walken stars as Johnny Smith, a schoolteacher who, in the beginning is on a date with his girlfriend Sarah. He drops her off at her home, but on his way back to his house he crashes his car during a thunderstorm and falls into a deep coma. He does awaken but its five years after the fact. He sadly learns that Sarah is now married with a family. If that was not hard enough for Johnny to cope with he develops a strange power. When he touches someone’s hand he can see into their future. He warns a nurse that her house is on fire with her child trapped inside. He sees that his Doctor, Sam Weizak’s mother, long thought dead is actually still alive. As that’s a pretty amazing talent it doesn’t take long for word to spread about Johnny’s newly acquired gift. In fact the local sheriff asks Johnny to use his powers to help him find the Castle Rock serial killer who has been stalking the town.
I wont spoil the serial killer storyline if you have not seen the film but it leads to Johnny leaving town to try and lead a more reclusive lifestyle as a private tutor. After using his gift to save the life of a child he is teaching he realizes his gift has a “Dead Zone” meaning there is a part of the future that you can alter. This comes in handy when Johnny meets a campaigning senator named Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen in a fantastic role) and when shaking his hand at a rally sees that he will be elected president in the future and stars a nuclear war. Its then that Johnny knows he can use his Dead Zone to try and prevent that from happening.
The film is about as suspenseful as you can get. From the opening to the ending Christopher Walken shines. He expresses anger, frustration, and heartbreak so perfectly. Its one of his best performances to date. To say the film is 100 percent his is an understatement. He really makes the character of Johnny Smith not only a character you care about, but one that you come to believe in as well. Cronenberg did a marvelous job in directing the film. He did trim out a good chunk of the book for run time but everything flows perfectly. In fact the film adaptation I believe to be better than the book itself. With tight directing, a great screenplay and a fantastic score combined with the performance by Walken this film became a hit. In fact its also a highly regarded film by critics as well, and believe me when I say not a lot of 80’s films were. In fact Siskel and Ebert both praised the film especially Walken’s performance.
A bonified classic to say the least its only fitting that Scream Factory give this the collector treatment it deserves. From the amazing transfer that is breathtaking to say the least. All the dark shots and night scenes are perfect. No blue tint, just a crisp clear picture. The audio is amazing as well. Crisp and clear. I mentioned the score being well done, and I can say when Johnny and Sheriff Bannerman are going after the killer the sound from my speakers really made the scene even more tense. It really does bring this to life in your living room. And as its from Scream Factory you know it’s loaded with special features.
Overall 4 out of 5 Stars!