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The Dead Zone is a 1983 horror-thriller film based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. Directed by David Cronenberg, the film stars Christopher Walken, Tom Skerritt, Martin Sheen, Herbert Lom, Brooke Adams, Anthony Zerbe, Ken Pogue, and Colleen Dewhurst.


The plot revolves around a schoolteacher, Johnny Smith, who awakens from a coma to find he has psychic powers.


Warning: this text contains details about the plot/ending of the film.
Johnny Smith is a young New England schoolteacher in love with his colleague Sarah Bracknell when he is involved in a serious car accident that sends him into a coma. He awakes under the care of neurologist Dr. Sam Weizak and counts himself fortunate when he notes no casts, bandages or visible signs of injuries on his body. However, the awakening turns rude when he is told that five years have passed since he last knew consciousness: his girlfriend has long since married and had a child. Johnny's transition back to life is made rougher when he discovers that he has the ability to learn a person's secrets (past, present, future) through making physical contact with the person. However, this ability leaves him an outcast in his hometown despite helping the citizens.

Later, Johnny discovers through a handshake that US Senatorial Candidate, Greg Stillson will later become President of the United States, and through the handshake sees Stillson ordering a nuclear strike against Russia, thus presumably bringing on a nuclear holocaust. Johnny feels it to be his duty to assassinate Stillson and attempts to do so at a rally in a church. Johnny attempts to shoot Stillson, but misses and is soon shot by Stillson's security detail. However, after Johnny's first shot, Stillson grabs Sarah's baby and holds him up in the air to shield himself. This act is heavily photographed and becomes instant political suicide. As Johnny is shot and falls from the balcony, he is confronted by an angered Stillson. Johnny grabs him and foresees Stillson committing suicide due to the destruction of his reputation. Johnny then says to Stillson "It's over. You're finished.". A satisfied Johnny then dies with Sarah by his side.

Background and historyEdit

The film was shot in the Greater Toronto Area and Regional Municipality of Niagara of Cronenberg's native Ontario, Canada where some temporary props and structures built for the film are still in place, such as the gazebo which still stands in the small town of Niagara-On-The-Lake, where most of the in-town shots were filmed. The so-called Screaming Tunnel, located in nearby Niagara Falls, Ontario, was also used as the backdrop for one scene. According to a David Cronenberg interview on the DVD, The Dead Zone was filmed during a relentless deep freeze in Southern Ontario which lasted for weeks, creating an authentic atmosphere of subzero temperature and hard icy snow packed surfaces, which made for great natural shooting locations in spite of it being almost too cold for cast and crew to tolerate at times. Canada's Wonderland (Canada's premier amusement park, formerly owned by Taft Broadcasting, and Dead Zone film distributor Paramount) which is 30 km north of Toronto's city limits was also used as a filming location. In an interview on the Dirty Harry DVD set, director John Badham said that he was attached to direct the film at one stage, but pulled out as he felt the subject matter was irresponsible to show on screen.

The music soundtrack, composed by Michael Kamen, was recorded by The National Philharmonic Orchestra, London at the famous EMI Abbey Road Studios. Michael Kamen conducted the recording sessions; the orchestra was contracted and led by Sidney Sax. This is the only Cronenberg film since The Brood (1979) for which Howard Shore did not serve as composer.

Cast Edit

  • Christopher Walken as Johnny Smith
  • Brooke Adams as Sarah Bracknell
  • Tom Skerritt as Sheriff George Bannerman
  • Herbert Lom as Dr. Sam Weizak
  • Anthony Zerbe as Roger Stuart
  • Colleen Dewhurst as Henrietta Dodd
  • Martin Sheen as Greg Stillson


Critical responseEdit

The Dead Zone was granted generally favorable reviews, holding an 89% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

External links Edit

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