The Dead Zone (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The Dead Zone
The Dead Zone.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed by David Cronenberg
Produced by Debra Hill
Dino De Laurentiis (uncredited)
Written by Jeffrey Boam
Based on The Dead Zone 
by Stephen King
Starring Christopher Walken
Brooke Adams
Tom Skerritt
Herbert Lom
Anthony Zerbe
Colleen Dewhurst
Martin Sheen
Music by Michael Kamen
Cinematography Mark Irwin
Editing by Ronald Sanders
Studio Lorimar Productions
Dino De Laurentiis Company
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
(USA & Canada)
De Laurentiis Entertainment Group
Release dates October 21, 1983
Running time 103 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $10,000,000 (estimated)
Box office $20,766,616 (Domestic)

The Dead Zone is a 1983 American horror thriller film based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. Directed by David Cronenberg, the film stars Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Brooke Adams, Herbert Lom and Tom Skerritt.

The plot revolves around a schoolteacher, Johnny Smith (Walken), who awakens from a coma to find he has psychic powers. It became the basis for a television series of the same name in the early 2000s, starring Anthony Michael Hall.


In the town of Castle Rock, Maine, Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken), a young schoolteacher, is in love with his colleague Sarah Bracknell (Brooke Adams). After having a headache following a ride on a roller-coaster, Johnny politely declines when Sarah asks if he wants to spend the night with her.

As he drives home through stormy weather, Johnny has a car accident that leaves him in a coma. He awakens under the care of neurologist Dr. Sam Weizak (Herbert Lom) and finds that five years have passed and that Sarah has married and had a child.

Johnny also discovers that he now has the psychic ability to learn a person's secrets (past, present, future) through physical contact with them. As he touches a nurse's hand, he has a vision of her daughter trapped in a fire. He also sees that Weizak's mother, long thought to have died during World War II, is still alive.

As news of his "gift" spreads, Johnny is asked by a sheriff (Tom Skerritt) for help with a series of murders, but he wants to be left alone and therefore declines. Sarah visits with her infant son and the two make love. Having a change of heart, Johnny agrees to help the sheriff and through a vision at the crime scene, he discovers that the sheriff's own deputy is committing the murders. Before they can arrest him, the deputy commits suicide. Johnny is then shot by the man's mother.

A disillusioned Johnny, now barely able to walk, moves away and attempts to live a more isolated life. He takes on tutoring jobs for school children, working from home until a wealthy man named Roger Stuart (Anthony Zerbe) implores him to come visit his son. Johnny and the boy, Chris, quickly form a friendship but, after seeing a vision of a boy falling through a pond's ice during a hockey game, Johnny warns Stuart not to let the boy go. Stuart ignores him, but Chris believes him and stays home. Two boys die during the trip, proving Johnny right. Johnny then realizes he has a "dead zone" in his visions, where he can actually change the future.

Johnny attends a rally for Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen), a US Senatorial candidate whom Sarah is volunteering for. Johnny shakes Stillson's hand and has a vision of him becoming President of the United States and ordering a nuclear strike against Russia that brings on a nuclear holocaust. He seeks Weizak's advice, asking, by way of example, if he would have killed Adolf Hitler when he had the chance, knowing in advance the atrocities Hitler would commit. Weizak replies that he would have no choice but to kill him.

Johnny loads a rifle and takes aim at Stillson at a rally held in a church. His shot misses the target, but Stillson grabs Sarah's baby and holds him as a human shield. A photographer snaps a picture just as Johnny is gunned down by a security guard. Confronted by an angered Stillson, a fatally wounded Johnny grabs his hand. He now foresees Stillson's reputation being ruined after his cowardly act is revealed in the photograph for all to see, and committing suicide. Johnny says to Stillson: "It's over. You're finished." He dies peacefully with Sarah by his side.



The film was shot in the Greater Toronto Area and Regional Municipality of Niagara of Cronenberg's native Ontario, Canada where some of its temporary props and structures are still in place, such as the gazebo which still stands in the small town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, where most of the in-town shots were filmed. The so-called Screaming Tunnel, located in nearby Niagara Falls, Ontario, was also used as the backdrop for one scene. The school where Johnny teaches in the beginning of the film is Summitview P.S., located in Stouffville, Ontario.

According to a David Cronenberg interview on the DVD, The Dead Zone was filmed during a relentless deep freeze in Southern Ontario which lasted for weeks, creating an authentic atmosphere of subzero temperatures and icy snow-packed terrain, which made for great natural shooting locations in spite of its being almost too cold for cast and crew to tolerate at times. Canada's Wonderland (Canada's premier amusement park, formerly owned by Taft Broadcasting, and Dead Zone film distributor Paramount), which is 30 km north of Toronto's city limits, was also used as a filming location.

In an interview on the Dirty Harry DVD set, director John Badham said that he was attached to direct the film at one stage, but pulled out as he felt the subject matter was irresponsible to show on screen.

The music soundtrack, composed by Michael Kamen, was recorded by The National Philharmonic Orchestra, London at the famous EMI Abbey Road Studios. Michael Kamen conducted the recording sessions; the orchestra was contracted and led by Sidney Sax. This is the only Cronenberg film since The Brood (1979) for which Howard Shore did not serve as composer.


The Dead Zone was granted generally favorable reviews, holding a 90% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Dead Zone". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2014-02-01. 

External links[edit]