It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Hallowe'en 2 - part 1. The Dead Zone (1983)

I've decided to kick things off this Hallowe'en season with a classic of sorts.
Stephen King's Dead Zone directed by David Cronenberg, is a supernatural thriller that isn't exceptionally thrilling and it only boarders on being a horror film.
It is, however, an exceptionally well made and entertaining film.

Christopher Walken plays Johnny Smith (really?), a high school teacher who gets a headache on The Great Canadian Minebuster and then drives his girlfriend home. He turns her offer of coitus down, kisses her goodnight and drives on his way home home only to drive smack into the middle of a milk truck.
Johnny wakes up from a coma five years later to find that his girlfriend is now married to another man and has a child.... oh and if he touches you he gets visions, mostly pertaining to your forecoming death. The idea being his five year coma brought him close enough to death that he could see things. Catch is whenever he uses his "gift" he feels like he's dying a little more inside, as told dramatically as only Walken could deliver it.

Filmed mostly in the GTA and surrounding areas in Ontario during the dead of winter the film carries a deathly but beautiful ambiance. Cronenberg utilizes the harshness of winter to make his scenes feel crisp and photographs it like a Canadian can, gorgeously.

The story was slower than i hoped it would be. After watching Dario Argento's Inferno i had a blood lust in me that needed to be fulled and sadly The Dead Zone didn't deliver the goods in that department. It was also unlike everything else Cronenberg was doing at the time which threw me off. This wasn't a body horror gore fest, it felt more like today's Cronenberg. i guess it's like a hybrid of Videodrome Cronenberg and Eastern Promises Cronenberg, somewhere in the middle.
Still, Christopher Walken as a limping wild haired psychic is just too much fun to pass up. I'm I the only one who can't help but laugh when the man gets over the top dramatic? In one scene Walken is trying to warn a man of the consequences that await him if he takes his son to ice hockey practice on the local lake, when the man dismisses Walken he takes his cane, smashes everything around him and yells "THE ICE.... IT'S GOING TO BREAK!" In that broken silly manner we've all come to love. I couldn't help but skip back to that bit a few times and chuckle it up.
An also great, but too small of a, turn by Martin Sheen as crooked politician Greg Stillson.

All in all, The Dead Zone wasn't particularly what i expected but it turned out to be a great experience all the same. A beautifully shot, quiet, supernatural story with a lot of heart.
Oh, and the music was just fantastic.


the coelacanth said...

i've always championed this one, even though it remains much maligned. you hit the nail on the head - i think people are confused by dz, wanting one end of the cronenberg extreme, but getting neither. walken's touching and (mostly) uncharacteristically quiet performance is what anchors the film. a truly sad - but ultimately necessary - conclusion gives you the sense that this was the only way for walken's character. contemporizes the interesting moral dilemma found in the oft-asked question "if you could go back in time and kill hitler (e.g...any monster will do) before he rose to power, would you?"

awesome review mannnnnzzzzz, gotta rewatch this one....this winter.

Dropkick said...

is it just me or is the box art misleading? To me it looked like Christopher Walken was a zombie.. or a vampire or something.

the coelacanth said...

totally. totally dead.

La Sporgenza said...

Great post, great movie.