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Reviewed by: JimmyO

Directed by: David Cronenberg

Christopher Walken
Brooke Adams
Martin Sheen

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What's it about
Johnny Smith is a regular man who loses everything after a car accident leaves him in a coma. Five years later, he wakes up with a "gift", a psycic abililty which helps him to change the future.
Is it good movie?
It is hard to imagine that Stephen King and David Cronenberg could create something like The Dead Zone. Aside from one bloody moment, this is a very human story about loss and the ability to change the future. When everyman Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) wakes up from a five-year coma, he begins to have visions. Confused and lost because everything he had before, including his fiancé, his job and his strength, have gone. In exchange, he has been given a "gift", a psychic ability to see things in the past, present and future. But this gift is more of a curse as it drives him away from his family and friends. Soon, he realizes that his visions can help others when he leads police to a serial killer who has been claiming victims in the peaceful community of Castle Rock, Maine. But with this, he also sinks deeper into loneliness. Imagine, the power to see somebody’s death and to feel like you are just watching it happen, yet you are helpless to stop it. Or is he? Can he change the future?

The Dead Zone is really two parts with two completely different monsters which Johnny Smith must face. One is the Castle Rock Killer (Nicholas Campbell) and the other is a dangerous politician played by Martin Sheen. And one of the qualities which makes both stories work, is a brilliant performance from Mr. Walken. Yes, over the years he has become the guy to go to for the over-the-top villain, but here he gives a multi-layered show of madness, pain, love and isolation. Even when he is not speaking, the weight of the gift is clear and every expression reads that. And to top it off we have many other wonderful performances including Brooke Adams as his love interest who moves on after Johnny’s accident, Martin Sheen as a frighteningly real politician with the ferocity of a killer and Tom Skerritt as a small town sheriff desperately looking for a murderer. I could go on, but there are far too many great performances here to mention.

David Cronenberg proves that he can tell a moving story without the grotesque images he usually relishes in. His subtle, yet powerful direction keeps the viewer involved in an atmospheric and deeply felt manner. There is nothing forced, only a natural progression told by an incredibly skilled filmmaker. He directs the wonderful script, adapted by Jeffrey Boam with cold yet striking images making Castle Rock feel like a very real place. And last but not least, the score by Michael Kamen is haunting and atmospheric, creating arguably one of the best Stephen King adaptations ever put on screen. This is horror film of a different kind. It is a very soulful and moving journey into a very dark and lonely place.
Video / Audio
Video: A very nice widescreen version enhanced for 16:9 televisions. The cold and atmospheric look of Castle Rock is represented well here.

Audio: The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround is very good especially with Michael Kamen’s brilliant score.
The Extras
Considering this is the Special Collector’s Edition, I think I expected a little more. Come on, where are the deleted scenes? Where are the commentaries? And where is Christopher Walken? Oh, well. We do get four short documentaries including:

Memories from The Dead Zone (12:17) is a look back at the movie, which includes interviews with David Cronenberg and Brooke Adams plus a few others. Surprisingly insightful, with some interesting stories about what Stephen King went through writing the book.

The Look of the Dead Zone (9:23) takes a look at the many sets used to bring Castle Rock to life. This includes a very cool story about the gazebo used in the film. I’m glad that Cronenberg was so involved in each of these documentaries. He is an interesting director to listen to and makes me miss the commentary even more.

Visions and Horror from The Dead Zone (9:42) is probably my favorite featurette here with a look at, well… the visions and the horror. It was interesting to see how they did the burning room sequence. And it also tells a great story about the final moments of Frank Dodd and the meaning behind those scissors.

The Politics of the Dead Zone (11:32). This featurette talks a bit about the political climate at the time the book was written. There is also a great interview from 1983 with Martin Sheen regarding his character Greg Stillson. Good stuff.

And to finish it all off we have the Theatrical Trailer (2:13) which is a really great look at the film. And finally we get a preview of the “Star Trek” 40th Anniversary DVD Collections with a look at “every” Star Trek episode in the franchise. And then a short preview for the second season of “The 4400”.
Last Call
In what is arguably one of the best Stephen King adaptations, The Dead Zone is a beautifully told and very poignant tale of power and loss. With a subtle and atmospheric eye, David Cronenberg gives us a compelling look at what having the vision to see into the future can do. And to top it all off, he brings in a wonderful cast which keeps you invested including the lovely Brooke Adams, Tom Skerritt, Martin Sheen and many more. And the most important element is the casting of Christopher Walken who delivers a brilliant performance filled with wonderful nuances that give little doubt as to why he has become a legend.
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