DAY SEVEN OF 31 DAYS OF HORROR
THE DEAD ZONE - 1983
"It reminds me of a line from "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" the last story I read to my class before... the accident. Ichabod Crane disappears... the line goes: 'As he was a bachelor, and in nobody's debt, nobody troubled their head about him anymore.'"
The Dead Zone, directed by David Cronenberg, is based on a novel written by Stephen King. The film came out in the early 80's and stars Christopher Walken in the lead role of Johnny, Brooke Adams as Sarah and Martin Sheen as our bad guy, Greg Stillson.
Johnny is a teacher who has a great life, he's met the love of his life and is planning on marrying her, but one night he gets into a horrible car accident and goes into a coma for 5 years. When he wakes up, Sarah has moved on and married, and Johnny suddenly seems to be having visions of the future.
I loved the book, and I've read it quite a few times, but never delved into the movie adaptation. I'm so glad I did though because I really enjoyed it. The cast is perfect and Walken is really great in the role of Johnny. He handles the role with patience, Johnny is recovering from an accident and a coma and also dealing with heartbreak, loss and pressure from the public to use his ability. It could be overwhelming for any actor to balance this, but Walken does it naturally.
Martin Sheen is a standout though as this corrupt politician that seems even more relevant in this day and age. His fits of anger and his obsession with his "calling" is played to perfection. You can truly believe that a politician like this could get as far as he did and have the public on his side. Mostly because that's currently happening in America, but even back then in the 80's, you can believe it based on this performance.
While obviously a lot has been taken out of the book, it's still a pretty fluid story that makes sense. This is one of those horror films that can be both a drama and a horror. The supernatural is so natural in the story, because it mostly focuses on Johnny's recovery and the relationships around him, that you just naturally believe in his psychic abilities and don't question it. Cronenberg handles the horror and the drama perfectly and this is absolutely one of the better King adaptations.
Is it scary? No. It's not meant to be. But it does fill you with a sense of dread and tension as we near the climactic ending.
Overall it's a great supernatural thriller that stands the test of time.