The Dead Zone (1983)

Note : this review is a contribution to the Kingathon hosted by Movie Reviews 101 and Movie Rob.

The Dead Zone (David Cronenberg, 1983)
A man awakens from a coma to discover he has a psychic detective ability.

After a series of successful best-selling horror novels, author Stephen King sold many of his stories to Hollywood and they were adapted with many different levels of successes. Put apart King’s disdain for Stanley Kubrick’s free adaptation of The Shining, of course. It is quite a unique film and I’ve already written a lot about it here and here. The Canadian director, David Cronenberg was handed his first Hollywood studio picture produced by the legendary Dino De Laurentiis.

Staring Christopher Walken as Johnny Smith and Martin Sheen as Senator Stillson, The Dead Zone is another paranormal story about a gifted individual. It’s funny because both actors were leads in Vietnam War pictures in the 1970’s. Walker with The Deer Hunter and Sheen in Apocalypse Now. Both with intense characters and outstanding performances.

 Much like Firestarter, Carrie, or The Shining the main character owns a special gift that he must use to save the conservative balance of the society. They are all characters dedicated to use their power but also are doomed characters.

With The Dead Zone, Cronenberg is directing a thriller that keeps a constant intensity with moments of calm and many sound clashes. It was far from his body horror that the audience knew him for but a great entry for him into the major film market.

As with many adaptations of Stephen King novels of the 1980’s it displays winter, solitude, reclusion, and the talent of a big name director. In this case, Cronenberg brings just a little to elevate and direct a true to the original material movie. This is a strong film for the director and a very convincing thriller. Despite not being Cronenberg’s best film or even his best film of 1983, Videodrome was a far superior film, it showcased his restraint and talent as a hired for the job inspired director. With a subtle but widely convincing and intelligent mise en scène The Dead Zone sits comfortably among the cream of the 1980’s movies.

If I was going to make a top of the Stephen King adaptations, The Dead Zone would easily be alongside Misery as one of five best.

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