The Dead Zone

Screening on Film
Directed by David Cronenberg.
With Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerritt.
US, 1983, 35mm, color, 103 min.
Print source: UCLA Film & Television Archive

Within Cronenberg’s beautifully composed horror film, Adams once again provides a kind of grounding security, light and love—even if it is not to be fully realized—for Christopher Walken’s Johnny, who is unmoored by the psychic powers he acquires after a car accident. Their burgeoning romance is cut short by his prolonged coma, and he awakens to find her married to someone else. Here, as elsewhere in this program, Adams and her onscreen paramour enjoy a sweet chemistry, exposing his vulnerability and longing to be without the burden of his “gift.” Their scenes provide a cozy contrast to the horrors of Johnny’s disturbing visions—and their accurate outcomes—which begin to carry increasingly heavier moral responsibility. As with Invasion of the Body Snatchers, this film spikes its thrills with genuine pathos and scary politics. When Martin Sheen appears as a truly terrifying demagogue in the making, Johnny’s tormenting premonitions are amplified to a global scale as he must attempt to change the fate of this charismatic madman.

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