Blu-ray Review: The Dead Zone (1983)

August 9, 2021

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

Schoolteacher Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) has it tough; he’s been comatose for nigh on five years after a surprisingly milk-related car crash, and as soon as he wakes up he discovers his gal-pal Sarah (Brooke Adams) has shacked up with another dude, and he’s developed the ability to tell things about people’s lives by merely touching their hand. That had to be the milk’s fault…
Now you may guess that Johnny would keep this new ability to himself, but he doesn’t… it’s just public knowledge our hero can do this amazing ass shit… so naturally folks begin showing up asking for all sorts of freaky favors like finding the local serial killer, or tutoring the young son of a wealthy fat-cat… well, that last part doesn’t have much to do with his arcane abilities, but it is his day job… until it isn’t because of those pesky powers.
Speaking of which, that groovy gift of Johnny’s has a few surprises up it’s hypothetical sleeve, and if he doesn’t learn how to master them the entire world may pay the price!
I should only have to write this next sentence to entice those of you that have never set eerie eyeballs on The Dead Zone flick  to do so post-haste: This is David Cronenberg directing an adaptation of a Stephen King novel!
So, yeah… you get: snowy New England environs, a bit of Lovecraftian damaged hero facing the unknown spice, some surreal “psychic vision” set pieces (this is where the Cronenberg style comes forth the most)… not to mention some rock solid performances from Walken, Adams, Herbert Lom (as Johnny’s physician… and to be honest, his scenes packed the most emotional punch in the entire picture), and an over-the-top Martin Sheen as a crazed politico (who’s demeanor may ring a bit true in the very recent past)… it’s all amazing as one would imagine, but there is a slight (and I mean very slight) catch…
For a Cronenberg pic… especially from this era… there is no body horror imagery… I expected at least some of that ghoulish goodness to make the scene, but alas, it was not to be… maybe the studio was like “Hey man do you, but let’s shit-can the tumors and VCR bellies, okay dude?”
Anyway, what we are left with is a rather tense tale of a man spinning further out of control, in a manner he can’t control no matter how much he tries. It’s engaging, at times nerve-racking material and it’s pure horror biz goodness through and through!
Speaking of goodness (ain’t we just always ’round here boils n’ ghouls?) the fine folks over at Scream Factory have shoved a ton of shit on here… I mean like a lot of stuff, not like shitty stuff…
First up we get three commentary tracks (featuring director of photographer Mark Irwin, author/film historian Steve Haberman & filmmaker/film historian Constantine Nasr, and film historian Michael Gingold) which exhaustively cover the film’s production from every conceivable angle, followed by an isolated score track featuring an introduction to the works of composer Michael Kamen courtesy of film music critic Daniel Schweiger.
Next comes interviews with Adams, production manager John M. Eckert & associate producer Jeffrey Chernov, Trailers From Hell‘s look at the film’s trailer (with horror maestro Mick Garris), an archival retrospective examining the film’s production, and archival featurettes covering the film’s production design, the themes of Johnny’s visions, and the film’s political overtones.
Also included are the film’s theatrical trailer, TV spots, and a behind-the-scenes image gallery.
The Dead Zone is Cronenberg, King, and Walken at damn near their finest and is an absolute essential for your sinister shelf!


You May Also Like…