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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After the early body horror films culminating in 'Scanners' and 'Videodrome' this adaptation of the Stephen King novel heralded a move into the mainstream for Cronenberg and yielded rich rewards. Walken was perfectly cast as 'Johnny Smith' and by scaling back the horror element and concentrating on the personal cost to the character Cronenberg made a film to be remembered.
TV, re-rating. How i didn't see in this extraordinary film a metaphor for the power to create images and editing them according to fiction's variations? The visionary is the filmmaker who dies by the images (see René Vautier's "Mourir pour des Images") and through it elaborates an architecture of the world. Walken is the most vurnerable of the tormented ones that recent cinema has given us (also with Ferrara).
***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.
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.
The cast is great, but the plot moves at such accelerated pace it seems to suffocate the atmosphere of the movie at times, I wish Cronenberg would have hold on to some scenes a bit longer, still, the result is excellent nonetheless.
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.
The woman who played Christopher Walken's mother in this movie creeped me the hell out. She looked like Crispin Glover if he had been locked in a closet for 10 years. But seriously I thought that this was one of Cronenberg's better efforts. There are a few areas I wish would have seen more development, and other areas I wish would have been approached with more subtlety, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Definitely not one Cronenberg's more autuerist works, but certainly one of his most fun. He may be just cashing in a check for Hollywood, but he certainly made a great thriller.
It's worth it just to see Martin Sheen play one of the biggest scumbags in history and to check out Christopher Walken in a role that's not a parody of himself. It also features one of the most insane suicides I've ever seen in a film.