The Dead Zone (1983) reviews and overview

The Dead Zone is a 1983 American horror-thriller film based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. Directed by David Cronenberg (Shivers; Rabid; Scanners), the movie stars Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, and Tom Skerritt.


After a horrific car crash, high school teacher Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) awakens from a five-year coma with the ability to see into people’s future. This extrasensory perception enables him to avert several impending disasters and earns him celebrity status.

However, those missing years have cost him his job and his fiancé and he longs for his former existence minus his new “gift”. That is until he meets local politician and would-be Presidential candidate Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen) and sees future events of genuinely cataclysmic proportions. It is only then that Johnny must come to terms with his powers, his conscience and his destiny…

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One of only three David Cronenberg films that do not have a score by his friend, composer Howard Shore. This was due to studio politics in which Paramount wanted a more familiar composer to write the music for the film. Michael Kamen, who had written the music for the film Venom for the studio, was chosen instead.


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Director David Cronenberg had to re-shoot the scene in which John Smith has his first premonition. It showed a little girl’s room burning and a small E.T. doll could be seen on one of the shelves. The scene had to be re-shot when Universal Pictures threatened to sue.

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Reviews [click links to read more]:

“Looking at the film history of Stephen King adaptations, The Dead Zone holds its head up high above the rest. Perhaps because the film deals more with sadness and the terror that comes from loss than it does with pure blood and guts shock value, the film carries an unusual power. With its lonely vistas the film plays more like an Andrew Wyeth painting that has been brought to life than it does a horror shocker from the modern master of terror.” DVD Verdict

The Dead Zone, a completely transitional film, is one of Cronenberg’s most emotionally warm films, even at the same time as its devastating sense of topographical isolation remains at absolute zero… it stands shoulder to shoulder with all the other masterpieces in King’s first round of film adaptations—a line stretching from Brian De Palma’s Carrie to John Carpenter’s Christine...” Slant Magazine

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