The Dead Zone

October 21st, 1983


The Dead Zone

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A man awakens from a coma to discover he has a psychic detective ability.

Release Year: 1983

Rating: 7.3/10 (23,862 voted)

Critic's Score: 69/100

Director: David Cronenberg

Stars: Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerritt

Christopher Walken wakes from a coma due to a car accident, only to find he has lost five years of his life, and yet gained psychic powers. Foreseeing the future appears to be a 'gift' at first, but ends up causing problems...

Writers: Jeffrey Boam, Stephen King

Christopher Walken - Johnny Smith
Brooke Adams - Sarah Bracknell
Tom Skerritt - Sheriff Bannerman
Herbert Lom - Dr. Sam Weizak
Anthony Zerbe - Roger Stuart
Colleen Dewhurst - Henrietta Dodd
Martin Sheen - Greg Stillson
Nicholas Campbell - Frank Dodd
Sean Sullivan - Herb Smith
Jackie Burroughs - Vera Smith
Géza Kovács - Sonny Elliman (as Geza Kovacs)
Roberta Weiss - Alma Frechette
Simon Craig - Chris Stuart
Peter Dvorsky - Dardis
Julie-Ann Heathwood - Amy

Taglines: In his mind, he has the power to see the future. In his hands, he has the power to change it.

Release Date: 21 October 1983

Filming Locations: Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada

Box Office Details

Budget: $10,000,000 (estimated)

Gross: $20,766,000 (USA)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

Hal Holbrook was Cronenberg's original choice to play Sherrif Bannerman, but Dino De Laurentiis rejected this idea as he had never heard of Holbrook at the time.

Continuity: After John and Sarah make love, they are standing outside the house and John puts his left hand behind Sarah's neck as he pulls her close for a good-bye kiss. As they separate, both hands are at his side.

[first lines]
Johnny Smith: [Johnny is reading "The Raven" to his class] And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting, on the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door, and his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming, and the lamp light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor, and my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor, shall be lifted... nevermore.

User Review

As far as King adaptations go, this one is ace

Rating: 7/10

"The Dead Zone" is one of the few King novels turned into really good movies. It is very true to the book in its first two thirds and integrates some nice new elements in the last. Making Sarah a supporter of Greg Stillson was a brilliant idea that adds a bit more intensity to the finale. Some details of the novel are only hinted at or cut out entirely (Johnny's mother's religious delusion, his first accident on the ice, the Wheel Of Fortune, etc), but compromises have to be made when turning a book with 500 pages into a feature length movie and I think the right editing choices have been made.

"The Dead Zone" is not only an overlooked gem when it comes to Stephen King adaptations, it's also one of Cronenberg's best directing jobs, not very typical of his work, but pretty timeless. Sure, nowadays the accident at the beginning, Johnny's visions and the shootout at the end would be made more gripping and spectacular, but those minor flaws don't really make the movie seem all that dated.

Of course, having read the book I enjoyed the movie as a portrayal of events I had pictured in my mind before. I don't know, if "The Dead Zone" is thrilling to first time viewers, too, since the plot leaps a little, being a series of episodes rather than one continuous story. After all, I believe that Christopher Walken's performance is strong enough to carry most of the story and make you care about this character and his fate. In fact, all the roles have been cast pretty accurately to my personal imagination.

This movie is an artifact of the times when Hollywood's most important directors would fight for the opportunity to adapt one of Stephen King's novels. It's every bit as enjoyable as "The Shining" as a movie, it's just based on an inferior model. Still, "The Dead Zone" can be recommended to King fans as well as those who are indifferent to his work.


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