Film review: The Dead Zone

Walken: super-cool in The Dead Zone

Title: The Dead Zone
Released: 1983
Director: David Cronenberg
Starring: Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Martin Sheen

Adapted from Stephen King’s book of the same name, The Dead Zone accomplishes three impressive feats. One, it is possibly the best film adaptation of a King novel; two, it is probably Christopher ‘the undisputed king’ Walken’s most fantastically engaging lead role; three, it sees Cronenberg adopt an absorbing maturity in a more mainstream effort than lots of his other work. Of course we all love Cronenberg for his resplendent, quirky, surreal, black humour (The Fly, Scanners, Videodrome), but The Dead Zone shows us that there is also substance bolstering his unique style. And Walken is simply, pardon my french, fucking amazing. It was the role he was built for. Playing Johnny Smith, he acquires psychic abilities after a car accident leaves him in a coma for five years. By touching people, he sees into their past or future. This is then played out upon a plot involving local mystery murders and political commentary, with the subplot including a surprisingly heartfelt and genuine emotional pull between Walken and his girlfriend, who married someone else while he was comatose. In one of the most memorable moments he ‘sees’ a boy playing on thin ice, which then cracks. With the walking stick he has used since his accident (giving a strange, sickly edge to his character – a physical devise prop which works incredibly well), he tries to convince the boy’s parents to stop him going onto the ice. So he smashes a glass vase and shouts …’the ice is gonna BREAK’, in the most Walken-esque manner you have ever seen. Exemplifying the exact reason we all love him so much – his undeniable cool and individualistic parlance. This is a psychological thriller which address’ notions of morality, personal responsibility, existentialism, and political corruption (Martin Sheen does a great turn as the dodgy politician). Ultimately it addresses huge, very real themes through a sci/fictional story which is imbued with life thanks to Walken and a well-adapted, entertaining screenplay by Jeffrey Boam (The Lost Boys, Indiana Jones). Artistically The Dead Zone may not be the best film ever made. But in true Cronenberg style it’s lots of fun, pretty creepy, it stays with you forever, and it has dated wonderfully. Oh, and it is (did I mention?) the one-and-only Christophen Walken in perhaps his best ever form (ok, ok, aside from The Dear Hunter). Ab fab stuff.

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