The Dead Zone (1963)

Rating: 15
Length: 1hr 43
Release: 13.1.1984
Director: David Cronenberg
About: A man awakens from a coma to discover he has a psychic ability.

The Good

  • The story is strong, making sure that elements are cleverly dropped into the narrative and actually really pay off towards the end of the movie. For instance, Johnny’s psychic abilities are triggered by Sam, his clinic doctor. It seems its just there to provide a bond between the characters and someone who believes through experience rather than belief. However, it not only does it pay off in the final act, but it gives the viewer one of the most heavily debated ethical conundrums, but Sam gives one of the best answers to the question I’ve ever heard.
  • While episodic in its delivery, it doesn’t feel disjointed. Again, this is to do with clever plotting and delivery. The introduction of senator candidate Stillson reminds me so much of how Prime Minster Saxon was developed in Doctor Who. At one point in the film, you might be forgiven for thinking that the focus of the whole film was going to be on Johnny assisting the detectives in town, but when that’s resolved you don’t feel like the rug has been pulled.
  • Speaking of Stillson, its rather chilling how much like President Orange-face he is. It’s also a little unsettling to know that Martin Sheen goes on to play a president so well received on tv that people still call for him to be real. Yes, I know he’s an actor, but its not lost on me that all politicians are not themselves either.
  • A weird thing to like, but its a really green film on the most part. Yes, I feel like it means something. No, I don’t know what it is. I suspect it’s to do with Johnny’s ability, but it draws me in rather than frustrates me.
  • Christopher Walken as Johnny. Bloody hell, I’m invested and he’s a hero. A blessed or cursed one, I’m not sure I’ve decided on that yet. It’s a testament to Walken as an actor that I went into this thinking he was going to be a bad guy and be completely creeped out for him to win me over.
  • There’s so much else that I loved about this film; the themes, the questions raised and that science versus mysticism that automatically comes with this sort of story.

The Bad

  • The only part I found a little disjointed was the parent’s watching the televised interview and what happens to the mother. It’s slightly unclear (I’m nitpicking) and I’m not sure if that’s because I was already preparing for a flash from Johnny or if it just lacked the physical words.

The Ugly

  • Stephen King can’t write women for shit! Beverly Marsh has a gang bang with all of the Loser’s Club (albeit both the tv movie and the modern remake have the sense to leave it out), Donna bangs her husband’s tennis partner and now we’ve got Sarah who during Johnny’s five-year snooze gets married and has a baby. Okay, maybe that’s okay given Johnny’s dad has already moved on 2 minutes after mama’s death, however to take the baby to johnny’s house and lay it down to sleep before offering your tits to the man you abandoned. Bull shit! No!

Final Thoughts

It’s a film I’d watch again in a heartbeat. You can’t really take you’re eyes of the screen for a minute and the questions it leaves you with will invite you to return for another viewing.