Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Movie #486: The Dead Zone

The Dead Zone is a 1983 horror movie based on the novel by Stephen King, and directed by David Cronenberg, starring Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerrit, Herbert Lom, and Martin Sheen. Weirdly, I had never even heard of this movie until we picked it up in a collection.

Johnny Smith (Walken) is a teacher who's doing pretty well; he's dating a fellow teacher (Adams) and plans to marry her, and then gets into a car wreck and is in a coma for five years. When he wakes up, Sarah has moved on and married, and he has the ability to see the future by touching people. He winds up helping the local sheriff (Skerritt) catch a serial killer (Nicholas Campbell), becomes a private tutor in an attempt to cut himself off from people generally, but winds up learning that the crooked-ass candidate for Senate, Greg Stillson (Sheen) is eventually going to become president and plunge the world into nuclear holocaust, so he goes all Taxi Driver on him. He dies in the process, but does manage to ruin the guy's political future.

I enjoyed this movie. Walken was suitably scared and creepy as Smith, and it was nice seeing Martin Sheen playing a nutcase (really, that doesn't happen enough). Likewise, great supporting performance by Lom as Walken's doctor. I also enjoyed that Smith having psychic powers isn't something that people, in general, have a hard time believing; for the most part there's some skepticism but they believe it when it works (which is nice because skepticism in the face of obvious results is tiresome in movies).

If I have a complaint, it's that the movie is paced strangely, and it kind of skips from plot point to plot point without building up a lot of momentum. Like, the serial killer plotline is set up like it's going to occupy the last third of the movie...but then it's resolved in one scene. The plotline with Sarah and her new life is nice, and actually does provide some throughline for the movie, but we don't actually see much of her and she's just a device to get John out of the house. The election and Stillson are mentioned early on, but the real meat of the conflict comes out late and there's a scene with Stillson blackmailing a reporter that makes him look crooked, but not as full-on deranged as he really is.

All in all, it's a funny adaptation of a King novel and has some good performances.

My Grade: B+
Rewatch value: Medium-low

Next up: Graveyard Shift