If I were producing a film, I’d choose David Cronenberg to direct, Stephen King to write and Christopher Walken to star. Which pretty much makes The Dead Zone my ideal movie.
After a car crash, a five-year coma and a drastic change of hairstyle, a teacher (Walken) wakes up with psychic powers. It sounds silly, but Cronenberg’s assured direction makes for a masterful combination of supernatural horror and sci-fi thrills, teeming with atmosphere and ideas.
The Dead Zone explores the moral implications of knowing the future; picture Minority Report as told by Stephen King. The film is imbued with a great sense of sadness and loss, with a note-perfect score by Michael Kamen (rather than Cronenberg’s regular composer Howard Shore. He was on Shore leave).
Walken is eerily captivating in the lead role. With his gravity-defying hair, alien eyes and Dracula collar, the man clearly belongs in a Cronenberg movie. He’s joined by Herbert Lom as a scary doctor (it wouldn’t be a Cronenberg film without a scary doctor) and Martin Sheen as an odious politician (who’d go on to become president in The West Wing).
Interesting, arresting and intriguing, this is up there with the best Stephen King adaptations – and there are a lot to choose from. Presidential election season is the perfect time to catch up with this 1983 thriller. You’ll never trust President Bartlet again!