After five years in a coma following a car crash, schoolteacher Johnny Smith discovers he has the gift of second sight, and is able to prevent several fatal accidents. However, every time he uses this power, he becomes closer to death himself.
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It's too bad Christopher Walken isn't offered more leading roles, instead of being pigeonholed into quirky character acting. The Dead Zone reveals his presence on screen to be quite captivating and he's able to convey subtle emotions effectively.
I tend to think that Cronenberg is not the most sympathetic handler of actors, but he, Walken and Brooke Adams do a good job here. Sheen is also hammily terrifying, as the politician who is left holding the baby at the end, in all the wrong ways for his career. Its belief in the input of normal people into changing the world is oddly touching, even quaint, whereas Sheen's demagoguery still seems chillingly relevant.
***1/2. I remember well the cinema and the seat I sat on back in 1984 when I first saw this film and I could have sworn yesterday that The DEAD ZONE was a blockbuster filled with fury and colours. How wrong was I ! The DEAD ZONE is a piece of chamber music filmed in a snowy country with a Christopher WALKEN managing to persuade us that what's happening to him is just bad luck. Nothing else. Highly recommended.
Cronenberg has a great sense of space and visual style. His films almost feel staged, but not in a bad way, almost in a sort of menacing, off-kilter style that makes it feel unsafe and doom-ridden. They carry around a feeling of something about to go horribly wrong, and they carry it through recognizably urban environments, only adding to that feeling of unease.
The Dead Zone bares the scars of a lot of growing pains in Cronenberg's aesthetic development. His most effective tactic is his insistent low angles for interiors, which wonderfully portray the psychological burden of these domestic spaces. At other points however, Cronenberg seems lost visually. Certainly the patchwork script, not quite episodic but far from flowing, does nothing to ease his Hollywood transition.
Love the fact that Christopher Walken is reading the book Sleepy Hollow, movie where he play Hessian Horseman 15 years later, and that Martin Sheen is running for for President election, character he actually played in The West Wing.