The Dead Zone
--Reviewed by Lindy Loo
Plotline: Johnny (the main character) is involved in a terrible accident that leaves him in a coma for five years. As he slowly recuperates after waking from this deep sleep, he finds that he is able to see into the future with the simple touch of a hand.
Scariness factor: In reviewing Suspiria, I mentioned the notion of what scares a child as opposed to what scares an adult. I found The Dead Zone interesting in light of this as well--I hadn't seen this movie since I was young, back in middle school or so, and I loved it when I was little. And I think one of the reasons why is due to a child's ability to suspend his/her disbelief (which is a lot more lax than an adult's, I might argue). As are a lot of Cronenberg's movies, The Dead Zone is replete with non-complex characters, flat ones and uncomplicated ones that stand in transparently as symbols for bigger things. And as a child, flat characters are good because they are easy to understand. So what am I getting to in all this seemingly urelated-to-scariness rambling? Well, it is hard to be scared in the face of an evil politician that is so over-the-top (threatens journalists with guns, blocks himself from harm with a baby, insanely detonates bombs as a president without anyone else's support) that he just doesn't seem real. And The Dead Zone is full of these kinds of characters. It's a lot more terrifying to stumble into the face of normalcy only to find that there is madness hidden behind it. That being said, although my suspension of disbelief doesn't work quite as easily as it did when I was young, this movie DOES serve up sufficient scares and creepiness in the effective way it melds Johnny's visions with his reality (he sees a girl hidden in the corner of a burning room and looks down to find himself sitting in her bed which is full of flames, for example). And there are edgier moments than one might expect given the face of this movie--especially the scenes with the serial murderer. So it definitely serves up a bit of a creepfest, if not a full-fledged fright-fest.
Originality: Bah--I'm almost at the point of removing this criterion from the list if it weren't such a selling-point on some movies, simply because sometimes it's so hard to say. And with this movie, this is one of those cases--I'm not well-versed in "movies about second-sight and ESP," so I'm not sure if this was original at the time or not. But it definitely is interesting and original in its content (if not in relation to the other movies of its time-period), so in that respect, it would probably get higher marks in this category.
Complaints: Damn you, Saturday Night Live. I actually found myself trying to squelch grins and a bit of laughter in some of the more tense visionary moments of the movie, simply because of one of their goddamn sketches where Christopher Walken walks around, touching people's hands, and dramatically telling them about extremely mundane and trivial events that are about to happen to them (a cup of coffee spilled in one's lap, a bus missed, etc.). This ruined the movie a bit for me. But looking beyond that, I love Christopher Walken and all--his smile melts my heart into a big puddle. But man alive can his acting be a bit much at times. He sorta has that William Shatner stiltedness going on at times which makes his acting a bit forced. So that got to me a bit. But other than that, this movie didn't leave me with many complaints. It's a bit dated feeling, but that really didn't bother me too much.
High Points: Definitely Johhny's visions--they are creepy and spooky and eerie out the ass.
Overall: See the goddamn movie. It's a bit dated. It's one of those movies that is definitely creepier to watch when you're a child. But despite all that, it's a fun movie to watch and will give you a healthy enough dose of the supernatural to make your day just a BIT more creepy.
Labels: B movies