Monday, November 3, 2008

The Dead Zone Review

The Dead Zone is a 1983 movie featuring a more serious Christopher Walken and provides a very scary story, if you allow yourself to stick with it, because it is another Stephen King slow burner.

The movie surrounds a school teacher who finds himself in a car accident and sits in a coma. He then wakes up and 5 years have passed by and all of his former life situations have passed on and are different. He also notices he has a new power, the power to see a person past, present, and future by just touching them.

Here is a trailer for the 1983 Science Fiction classic The Dead Zone:

John Smith, our character, transitions into regular life however he’s nothing more than an outcast instead of a teacher. He is eventually thrown into a scary world when he helps track a serial killer who’s baffled authorities. After this he meets a politician who is going to cause a nuclear war, and he must stop him at all costs. He takes things into his own hands and even tries to get the future president Shot, and after failing at his attempt, he ends up touching him one last time to see that the future has been changed, but in the process he dies.

The Stephen King Novel “The Dead Zone” is a very large book to go through, as is most of Stephen King’s stories, and this film seems very long to me. Walken is way more serious in this movie than in recent years, and he tends to be hard to watch, considering that the movie has to take time to elapse time and show you Johnny’s transition from happy go lucky guy to fortune teller. (for lack of a better word) The length of the film is not over 2 hours, but it sure feels that way at times.

The director, David Cronenberg, definitely lends his hands to this movie with some great scenarios. He shows you the fear of human emotion is such a dry and often times lengthy transformations of human condition, and deep rooted psychological fear. One such time is the suicide attempt via a pair of scissor’s, where the camera slowly shows you the methodical and very much Asian ritualistic suicide that is to occur, but not necessarily showing you the gore that is to come.

Why The Dead Zone is Scary: The scariest part of this film is the fact that John has no control. He gets into the accident and lays there for 5 years and life goes on. One of my personal fears is that life goes on without me and I am not remembered or waited for. John’s girlfriend moves on and gets married and has children, she does not wait for him. It’s hard to ask someone to wait given the circumstances. Car Accidents so severe that you are in a coma are not TOO unlikely even today, and the reality of such things causes fear and separation amongst many horror fans.

If your visceral senses are not shaken at all by this, then consider Walken’s character and his NEW power of sorts. He now sees the future by touch, and unlike the movies where the hero is somewhat celebrated, he is shunned as a weirdo and even after he helps the Police find a killer he’s not the same teacher and tutor he once was. He’s lost his “normalcy”. Imagine if you couldn’t return to that which you were, and the focal point of your loss is due to a car accident?

Not scary for you? Then consider knowing that someone that is going to be going into power will cause the end of the world. Think of the anxiety and fear that you will have if you know something and no one believes you! Not only that, consider the pressure of having to do something, lest the world dies and you did nothing.

The Dead Zone is scary on a very human emotional level. It’s a piece of science fiction horror that doesn’t rely heavily on gore, and jump scenes but rather unfolds in a very odd and nightmarish way. It is a credit to Cronenberg for showing this film without relying on cheap ploys and letting the acting really carry the fear and shock value that is needed for this category. It’s scary to me to think that some might claim to know the future and really see the future to an extent that no one believes them. I for one would hate to know too much, because with great knowledge comes great sorrow. This is the epitome of the message found in The Dead Zone, a very scary film on an emotional level, not necessarily on a visual level. A strong adaptation to the Stephen King novel of the same name, but NOT a well paced movie. I recommend The Dead Zone for Stephen King fans and Christopher Walken fans alike, however it’s far too slow for my particular tastes. The Dead Zone offers enough science fiction and true human emotion to garner it a scary film, just not the most entertaining of films at times.

Bonus points: A great parody of The Dead Zone was featured on The Simpsons a few years back when Ned Flanders has the same ailment as our hero in this film. In the “Ned Zone” Ned Flanders must stop Homer Simpson from killing the world with a Nuclear Explosion and eventually shoots him, and doesn’t change the future after all. A much better presentation of the same idea, if you ask me.

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A writer first, cat lover second, and some other stuff too. Human, with lots of faults, and terrible communication.
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