- Movie Rating -

The Dead Zone (1983)

| October 21, 1983

What would you do if you could see the future?  Imagine what a joy it would be to be able to prevent bad things from happening, but also consider what a terrible thing it would be to have such fore-knowledge.  The Dead Zone is a consideration of what such power could do to an intelligent, literate man who struggles to convince people that his visions are real.

His name is Johnny Smith, played in a very good performance by Christopher Walkin, who experiences a heart attack, decides to drive home in bad weather and then has an accident that puts him in a coma for several years.  Waking up from the coma, he touches the nurse’s hand and has a vision that her daughter is trapped in a burning building.  Not only does he discover that he can see the future but that he can also keep those terrible things from happening.

I wasn’t initially sure that this plot would work.  I tend to dislike most supernatural thrillers because the agenda is always skewed toward the oddity itself, leaving the actors to hang on material that feels ad-worthy but generally superfluous.  The greatness of this film it really gets involved in the problems inherent with such a power.  Not only can he see the future and then prevent it, but he then has to explain how he knew what he knew.  That’s a surprising step because most screenwriters wouldn’t seem to want to do that legwork.  This movie goes all the way with its premise.

The film is a collaboration between three very talented people.  Jeffrey Boam, who co-wrote Straight Time; David Cronenberg, a director who knows this area very well; and Christopher Walkin who can project intelligence and vulnerability in a very special way.  They know the story that have here and they understand that it needs to come from the character, not the gimmick.  He is so grounded as a character that our minds leave the idea that it’s simply a man with a terrible gift and begin thinking of it as this man with a terrible gift.  He’s an individual dealing with what he can do.

The Dead Zone does something that most movies along these lines fail to do – it leaves you thinking.  It leaves you thinking about this power, this ability and what you might have done if you were in Johnny’s shoes.  To see the future is a great but terrible thing, and since the future is always moving and always evolving, you’d always be running to keep ahead of it.  What a terrible thing.  It is why they say that ignorance is bliss.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1983) View IMDB Filed in: Horror