Friday, May 31, 2013

THE DEAD ZONE (1983) movie review

Dead Zone, The (1983) d. Cronenberg, David (USA)

Driving home from his girlfriend’s house one rainy night, Christopher Walken crashes into a runaway jackknifed milk truck canister (certainly a genre first), ending up in a coma for the next five years. Upon awakening, he discovers that his sweetheart has married another man, but even more dramatically, he now possesses the ability to know people’s past, present or future simply by making physical contact with them.

One of Cronenberg’s most accessible and emotional films, this adaptation of Stephen King’s thriller captures the spirit of the printed page while also succeeding as deeply emotional and ultimately heartbreaking drama. Jeffrey Boam’s well-crafted script imparts the story of a man blessed/cursed with a remarkable gift, and the price exacted as a result. Meanwhile Walken, not yet the clichĂ©d (if enjoyable) collection of bizarre mannerisms he would become, turns in one of his most human performances, capturing perfectly the essence of an alienated character trying to make peace with a world he now sees too deeply within.

Cronenberg has surrounded his star with a superb supporting cast: Herbert Lom as a kindly doctor, Tom Skerrit as a conflicted sheriff, Martin Sheen as a psychopathic politician, Anthony Zerbe as a business tycoon trying to connect with his son, and Brooke Adams is simply terrific as Walken’s lost love. Michael Kamen supplies the wistful, melancholy musical score.

For viewers intimidated by the Canadian auteur's wild body-horror reputation, this and 1986's The Fly might be the shallow end by which to enter, because ultimately you gotta get in the pool. You just gotta.

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