The Dead Zone (film)
|The Dead Zone|
|Directed by||David Cronenberg|
|Produced by||Debra Hill
Dino De Laurentiis (uncredited)
|Music by||Michael Kamen|
|Editing by||Ronald Sanders|
Dino De Laurentiis Company
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures
(USA & Canada)
De Laurentiis Entertainment Group
|Release date(s)||October 21, 1983|
|Running time||103 minutes|
|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 his girlfriend 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 Dr. Weizak's mother, long thought dead from the war, is still alive.
As news of his "gift" spreads, Johnny is asked by a sheriff (Tom Skerritt) for help with a series of killings, 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 deduces that it's the sheriff's own deputy who 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 the father. Stuart ignores him but Chris avoids the tragedy, although two other boys are killed. Johnny then realizes he has a "dead zone" in his visions, where he can actually change the future.
Johnny discovers through a handshake that a US Senatorial candidate whom Sarah is volunteering for, Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen), will become President of the United States, with a vision of Stillson ordering a nuclear strike against Russia, thus presumably bringing on a nuclear holocaust. He seeks the advice of Dr. Weizak, asking, by way of example, if one could foresee the atrocities of Adolf Hitler, would it justify murder before the acts themselves?
Johnny concludes that the assassination of Stillson is his duty. He 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 committing suicide due to the destruction of his reputation after his cowardly act is revealed in the photograph for all to see. Johnny says to Stillson: "It's over. You're finished." He dies peacefully with Sarah by his side.
- Christopher Walken as Johnny Smith
- Brooke Adams as Sarah
- Martin Sheen as Greg Stillson
- Herbert Lom as Dr. Sam Weizak
- Tom Skerritt as Sheriff Bannerman
- Anthony Zerbe as Roger Stuart
- Nicholas Campbell as Deputy Dodd
- Colleen Dewhurst as Henrietta Dodd
- Simon Craig as Chris Stuart
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 an 89% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
- List of American films of 1983
- The Dead Zone (TV series), a television series also based on the novel.
- The Dead Zone at the Internet Movie Database
- The Dead Zone at AllRovi
- The Dead Zone at the TCM Movie Database
- The Dead Zone at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Dead Zone at Box Office Mojo
- "The Dead Zone". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2011-07-23.