Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Dead Zone (1983)

Seen: On dvd on our big screen/projector set-up, rented from Hollywood Express in Cambridge.

I'm having a real love affair with David Cronenberg lately, and am kind of in the mood to just watch his movies and nothing else. So I rented The Dead Zone because the premise sounds awesome and I was intrigued by Christopher Walken's dramatic leading role (something I haven't seen too often). When driving home from a visit with his soon-to-be-fiancée (Brooke Adams), mild-mannered English teacher Johnny Smith (Walken) crashes head-first into a huge truck and winds up in a coma for five years. He awakes to discover his girlfriend married to another man, his legs rendered nearly useless (though eventually he can get around with a cane), and also he has superpowers- he can see the future/past/present of people he touches. The third thing is what this movie is mainly about.

I haven't read the Stephen King novel this is based on but I can only hope it is as awesome as this movie. Cronenberg takes a cool premise and infuses it with his typical undercurrent of horror, tension, and weirdness. I loved the mixture of melodrama and gruesomeness, with Johnny attempting to get his life together while constantly hindered by various grisly deaths and horrific images of everyone's personal traumas. His visions are depicted in a neat way, too. I really liked Walken's portrayal of Johnny, and not just because he wears a kickass Dracula jacket- he's one of those overserious, tortured anti-heroes that I can't help but love. Especially since everyone around him sort of sucks. The standout performance is Martin Sheen's small but integral appearance as Greg Stillson, an unscrupulous politician running for Congress with aims at the presidency.

The Dead Zone's biggest flaw for me was its episodic structure and off-kilter pacing. It follows Johnny through a few different mysteries and crime-solving efforts, with each storyline wrapped up pretty quickly. I kept thinking, "Oh ok this is going to be the main plot" but then it would be over and we'd move on to the next thing. I can definitely see why this was turned into a tv show (I am now planning on checking that out), but for a film it's somewhat off-putting. As a whole it lacked cohesion, but I still really liked it! It even features a kid I didn't hate!


PS One totally amazing thing about this movie is that one of my favorite works by the inimitable installation artist/photographer Sandy Skoglund is featured on the set! It's actually my desktop background! I love her but she doesn't seem to be very well known so it was an incredibly exciting thing to see her art on the wall.

Pair This Movie With: Well I'm kind of still on a Scanners high so that's my first thought. All Cronenberg, All the Time!

1 comment:

  1. I read this book first, and it's my only favorite King book, or the only one I enjoy front-to-back. It is episodic, like this movie is, but I view this as one of its fine points, actually.

    A favorite "what if" genre entry...