Halloween Moviefest 2020 – Movie #9 – The Dead Zone

Updated: Oct 23


Streaming Service – Hulu (but we had to get a 7-day free trial for an add-on channel)

Watched: 10-9-2020

There is a time when it seemed like every Stephen King novel was immediately optioned and made into a film. Some of the movies were really good. Some were really bad. The Dead Zone is definitely one of the better films adapted from a Stephen King novel.

The premise of the film is fairly simple. Johnny Smith is a teacher with a passion for his job. He obviously cares a lot for his students. He’s also very in love with another teacher named Sarah and is planning a future with her. After an outing at an amusement park, Johnny is in a terrible car accident. He does survive, but ends up in a long-term coma. Upon awakening, he discovers that he has become psychic.

The film could’ve just been a series of vignettes of him saving people from terrible fates, but the writing and the acting in the film elevates the story to a whole different level. Johnny is a man out of time and burdened with a gift that he considers a curse. Christopher Walken as Johnny is perfection. He really makes you care about the character. The depression and pain he endures because his life is so completely derailed permeates the film. His reluctance to use his abilities makes sense and his journey to finally embracing what he’s capable of is heart wrenching. When his powers finally reveal that he has to save the world, his actions make complete sense for man who in essence lost his life in that car accident.

I hadn’t seen The Dead Zone since I was a kid. I remember thinking it was really boring. I appreciate it much more as an adult especially because I understand the gravitas of Johnny’s journey.

Spoiler Section

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Martin Sheen is very good in his role of a third-party candidate that is appealing to the common people and drumming up unprecedented support for his run for senator. Greg Stillson seems like a pretty normal guy who wears a white hardhat to his rallies to show his blue-collar roots and he talks a very good game. But what lies beneath is a scheming man with a belief that his rise to power is destiny. It’s interesting that when Johnny meets Stillson the first time and shakes his hand there is no indication of what may happen in the future. It’s not until Stillson has broad support that Johnny witnesses a very different future. It’s obvious that power is already corrupting Stillson.

Brooke Adams is solid as Sarah. She comes across as a really sweet and good person, but at the same time some of the decisions she makes about her relationship with Johnny angered me. It felt as though she loved him so much she wanted to make him happy, but in the end that happiness could only be fleeting which made it much crueler when she spends one lovely day with him and then leaves.

Johnny’s death is very sad because you want more for him, but at the same time there is a victorious aura about it because he has stopped the end of the world.

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