Old 10-09-2003, 12:12 PM
The Dead Zone

I laughed, I cried, I was moved . . .
. . . then I turned off Donnie Darko and decided to pop in The Dead Zone. I happened to read the book, and absolutely fell in love (we're getting married in November). The main reason for this was because I have been through a startlingly similar experience to that of Johnny Smith--no coma, though. Everything Stephen King managed to tap into was surprisingly knowledgeable, and hit way too close to home for me. I almost shed a tear during the memoirs at the very end of the novel. Why am I mentioning this? Because I may or may not be biased. I was very effected by this movie, yet I cannot say that everyone will share my feelings.
Onto the review . . .

Where was I? Right, right--I turned off Donnie Darko and decided to give The Dead Zone a shot. After soaking up all the positive reviews, the wonderful cast (can't beat Walken), and the lauded director, I was expecting something that would, quite simply, blow me away.
As usual, I was wrong.
The movie follows John Smith, the oddly named protaganist. Johnny has a great girl who he just so happens to be madly in love with, and job that suits him and his needs. In other words, he's got it good. But, as fate usually does in situations like these, Johnny soon has everything he loves taken away from him.
Car crash.
Then, with a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am, Johnny wakes up. How long has he been under? A day? Two? Weeks? Months?
. . . years?
Check the latter on that one--five years, actually.
It doesn't take long for Johnny to realize that the world has gone on without him. Where's his girl, Sarah? Oh, right--she's married. With a child. His teaching career, for the moment, will have to be put on hold as well--he's got some recovering to do.
But that's not all. It seems that Johnny's awoken with a peculiar gift. With nothing more than the touch of a hand, Johnny is thrown into past/present/future horrors of that person.

What's a guy to do?

Christopher Walken does a spectacular job capturing Johnny Smith. He handles the visions like a pro (The ice is going to break!), and manages to tackle the emotion, which is where the heart of the movie is. Martin Sheen works as Greg Stillson, although the character himself is more of a sub-sub-sub plot that only managed to bring out some courage in Johnny, as well as the tear-filled conclusion. Everyone else is adequate, nothing spectacular, but they each fit nicely into their roles.

The direction certainly packs a whammy. The opening sequence, in particular, is mesmirizing. The rest is played very subtly, never arresting the viewer with sensational camera angles or fancy filters--an old fashioned direction if there ever was one.

But I'm tip-toeing around what really matters: is it a good adaption? Sadly, not so much so. The one thing that made the book so great was how Johnny's power was dwarfed by his inner emotions, as well as those of Sarah and his parents. In fact, a good hundred pages of the novel don't even revolve around Johnny, they merely go through Sarah's life as she struggles to get over Johnny. In the movie, we're always on Johnny. This leads to some confusion (especially the scene where Sarah has sex with Johnny--simply looking at it as a stand-alone picture, the scene makes the Sarah character out to be a slut).
Thankfully, we still have some emtional shit to sort through. Not only that, but the movie makes some clever connections that King never did. Even those who've read the book multiple times will constantly be surprised by what happens. Bravo. In particular, when we discover that Sarah's husband is, contrary to him in the novel, a spokesman for Greg Stillson. When Johnny first sees Sarah and her husband side by side, smiles-for-miles, then closes and door and begins to cry . . . well, I got all misty-eyed.

Same will the narration by Walken near the end:
. . . I will always love you, Sarah. It just wasn't in the cards for us, I guess . . .

Keeping with my track record (I either review underrated movies, or overrated), I'm going to stick The Dead Zone into . . . overrated. I'm trying to move past my bias and connection with the Johnny Smith character, and be fair. Admittedly, the movie isn't all that. The entire thing is basically numerous sub-plots thrown into into a slightly incoherent picture. I understood it well because I've read the novel. I was emotionally involved because of my feeling towards the subject matter. Can I honestly say the average viewer will be blown away?

The Dead Zone is widely regarded as a classic, both the film and novel. Everyone knows above them, whether they have seen/read them or not. Does the book deserve the praise? Yes. Does the movie? . . .
So putting aside some great peformances and a bland, yet unique direction, I need to be honest: it isn't bad, not by a long shot, but just doesn't deserve 'classic' status.


(In case anyone's noticed, I've been rambling this whole time. This review has certainly been different from my others, but it probably has to do with my connection with the story itself.)



28 Days Later : 7/10
8mm : 9/10
Alien : 6/10
Audition : 7/10
August Underground : 5/10
Battle Royale : 8/10
Cannibal Holocaust : 9/10
Dawn of the Dead : 5/10
Day of the Dead: 8/10
The Dead Zone: 7/10
Donnie Darko : 10/10
The Eye : 7/10
Elephant : 6/10
Freaky Friday : 8/10
Ginger Snaps : 7/10
Hardcore : 6/10
Hellboy : 6/10
House of 1000 Corpses : 4/10
House of Sand and Fog : 9/10
Hulk : 10/10
Irreversible : 8/10
Kill Bill Volume 1 : 8/10
Kung Pow! Enter the Fist : 7/10
Last House on the Left: 3/10
May : 10/10
Memento : 8/10
Mulholland Drive : 7/10
Near Dark : 6/10
One Hour Photo : 9/10
Perfect Blue: 9/10
Requiem For a Dream : 8/10
Se7en : 9/10
Terminator 2: Judgment Day : 10/10
Thesis : 6/10
Underworld : 7/10
Willard : 8/10

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (season 5) : A
Neon Genesis Evangelion - Perfect Collection : B-
End of Evangelion : A-

Stephen King's IT : 5/5 stars

Last edited by C-Desecration-; 09-20-2004 at 05:54 PM..
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Old 10-09-2003, 03:06 PM
Ramblings okay every once and a while. I think this is the only movie I've seen where Christpher Walken looks fairly young.
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Old 10-09-2003, 03:10 PM
Re: The Dead Zone

Nice review - I haven't read the book, although I've had it sitting on the shelf for some ten years now! But I've always loved the film, especially the performance from the always brilliant Christopher Walken. I especially love the finale - I always rememeber the first time I watched it: **SPOILERS**
When he missed the shot and Stillson survived, I was so relieved when Johnny grabbed his hand and you saw the magazine cover and Stillson putting the gun under his chin.

You mentioned that you have been through a similar experience to Johnny...Would you like to share it?
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Old 10-09-2003, 06:02 PM
I love the Dead Zone... definitely the best Stephen King adaptation. Cronenberg has one of the most flawless filmographies of all directrors.
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Old 10-09-2003, 06:37 PM
A subdued Cronenberg flick, but a good Cronenberg flick. Even as the protagonist, Walken is still a little creepy.
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Old 10-09-2003, 08:20 PM
This is mainly to Killer Klown, although applies to anyone: could you elaborate on your feelings? I'm very curious as to how people who had not read the book thought of the movie. In my opinion, what with the dozens of subplots, a normal viewer might get lost without some general knowledge of the material.
But maybe (probably . . .) I was (. . . no, definately) mistaken.

And about what happened to me . . . sure thing. Nothing spruces up your day like hearing the tragedies of others, right you sick son of a bitch?
I kid.
It all started on a dark and stormy night . . .
Actually, no. I'll be as brief as possible (God knows you schmoes don't need to hear about my shit): I'm sixteen. A youngin'. When I was fifteen, the summer after ninth grade (currently I'm in eleventh grade), things were pretty laid back. My girlfriend was visiting her somethingorother (damn my memory), and I was taking some me time. Road around, soaked up the sun, caught movies, yadda yadda yadda. Unfortunitly, I got a little too much sun, it seems. This soap I was using (normal, ordinary soap . . . I'm still baffled as to how it happened) happened to give me (particularly my face) an alergic reaction. Over the course of about a week I started getting little red dots on my face. Not acne or anything, just little dots. By the Saturday of that week, my face had done a weird, darkly-brown color (I'm white, by the way). In the morning it was black. Look like I got burned. Took a shower, freaked out . . . then the day after the color vanished.
What it left was a huge, blister-like thing on my face. It bled pus/blood (yummy details) constantly, and was so sensitive I couldn't take a fucking shower without the water cutting through it. So I went to see a dermatologist. Didn't know what the hell it was. Got on some medicine, and the whole thing (and my face) scabbed over, then the scabs fell off.
The whole thing took about five-ish months (ended by November, stared early August . . . so four, actually).
When the scabs fell, I had scars. Fiery-red scars, all over my forehead and temples (that hurt). I still do, although the color has faded somewhat--plus, I'm liking them. They aren't blotchy or anything, but kind of rugged looking . . . yes, that's what I've forced myself into thinking.
It turned out that whatever the infection was (something the dermatologist called 'posticular filiculitis') was so severe that it managed to scar me in a matter of two months.
Not only that, but I was uber-sensitive to everything. It took another six-ish months after the scabs fell off before I could really do anything (and I burned like a motherfucker). So everybody I knew (including my girlfriend . . . uh, ex, actually) kind of moved on. After all, I was bed-ridden and out of touch for a little over the year, which is quite a lot when you're a teenagers.
I related to Johnny mainly with how he felt meeting Sarah (ex-girlfriend) for the first time, seeing her with her husband (boyfriend), his feeling, so on and so forth.

So basically, I had a kickin' life. Good looks (and damn what an ego I got, huh?), healthy, good friends, good girl--and it all vanishes (except for my health looks, and . . . uh, friends . . .).
I think that was the third time that was mentioned on this site (in a condensed version . . . how the fuck does this keep coming up?!).

. . . and I just looked over that.
I meant to make it shorter.

Last edited by C-Desecration-; 10-10-2003 at 12:41 PM..
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Old 10-09-2003, 10:43 PM
This is one of those movies that is very painful emotionally for me to watch . Right up there with Cronenberg's The Fly. Ok, wait - what is it about him that can make the pathetic and sad even MORE pathetic and sad. Canada? OH well. This is very dreadful and painful because you can see the downfall of his life happen and it justs gets to you more and more. By the end, I'm tissue paper. I'm balling. I contemplate life and death and want to forget about the whole meaning of life and just hold my pillow.

It's one of Walken's best.And certainly Cronenberg's.
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Old 10-10-2003, 12:47 PM
very painful emotionally for me to watch

Looks like I might be wrong again.
Maybe I need to bump up the rating? I was assuming that the average viewer might not be very emotionall evolved or understand the entire (sub) plot.

Could I get some more viewpoints?
Specifically, if you were emotionally involved or (as mentioned above) could easily follow the course of events - without finding it kind of sloppily put together - if you haven't read the book.
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Old 10-12-2003, 12:06 PM
uh- YAH!
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Old 10-12-2003, 08:09 PM
Not as good as I remembered it to be. I think watching the tv show first and then watching the movie is a mistake. Simply put, not enough visions in the movie version. Walken is always fun to watch though.
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Old 10-13-2003, 11:20 PM
Again, guys stop watching the tv shows or the remakes FIRST! Yes, the USA show is not bad at all, but hopefully most people saw the orginal first before making a valid comparison.

I could have sworn the movie had AMPLE visions. But is that really the beef of the whole story? It seems to go into much deeper more dramatic situations that matter more than the visions. Like Johnny's tortured life, like his lost love, like the Stalin-like leader who could possibly become the next Hitler.
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Old 10-14-2003, 01:58 AM
I like his movie and the pessimistic feel it has to it makes me think it could have also been directed by Abbel Ferrara.
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Old 10-20-2003, 09:52 AM
is it just me, or did it just seem right that Walken was reading The Raven? it was just kinda creepy...
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Old 10-20-2003, 05:18 PM
This movie is a lot easier to follow if you've read the book already.

See, a lot of movie adaptations are like that.

Take "The Man Who Fell To Earth", for example. In the scene where he imagines the people of olden times watching their car drive by, I was totally lost and confused. However, my father, who had read the book before watching the film with me, knew what the character was thinking and could therefore EXPLAIN it to me. It is incredibly hard to adapt internal dialogue for the screen, and it is usually a miserable failure.

The movie, "The Exorcist 3: Legion", lost a lot of the charm that the book, "Legion", had to offer, because the lovable Lieutenant Kinderman was not able to express all of his thoughts (and his famous "Theory") in words. The average movie-goer would be unable to follow the long monologue of Kinderman's at the book's end if it were in the movie. Thus, the loss of internal dialogue hurts the story. "The Theory" was a sad, yet needed, sacrifice.

Not to mention the fact that adaptations are usually not as good as the book ("Manhunter", for example).

Sorry to go into all of that, folks.

Anyways, the book, "The Dead Zone", gets a 10/10, whereas the movie gets a 8/10. (The show gets a 10/10, as well! LOVE IT!)

Last edited by LoomisFan; 10-20-2003 at 05:29 PM..
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Old 10-20-2003, 06:34 PM
I havent read the book, but I was blown away by the movie. Specially that ending!

I guess Ill go down as saying that this is a good movie, even if it was faithfull to the book or not. I know that its sometimes hard to seperate a book you read from a movie they made out of it, but I really thought The Dead Zone was good- as a movie.
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Old 10-04-2009, 06:00 PM

I watched this one last week and was pleasantly surprised. Christopher Walken does a great job as the lead even though he still manages to bring his patented strangeness. Although it's still a solid story throughout I wasn't completely won over by the transition of Walken looking for a serial killer in the first half to attempting to foil a crooked politician. Maybe the change is handled more smoothly in the novel but I haven't read it. Well thats all for now GOoD JOURNEY my fellow schmoes.
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