Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Dead Zone, The

US movie (1983). Dino De Laurentiis/Lorimar. Pr Debra Hill. Dir David Cronenberg. Spfx Jon Belyeu. Screenplay Jeffrey Boam. Based on The Dead Zone (1979) by Stephen King. Starring Brooke Adams (Sarah Bracknell), Herbert Lom (Dr Sam Weizack), Martin Sheen (Greg Stillson), Tom Skerritt (Sheriff George Bannerman), Sean Sullivan (Herb Smith), Christopher Walken (Johnny Smith), Anthony Zerbe (Roger Stuart). 103 mins. Colour.

Johnny Smith is almost killed in a highway accident. Five years later he awakens from coma to discover himself possessed of precognitive/clairvoyant Talents. These he uses to help others and in due course to help identify a Serial Killer. He comes into contact with Stillson, a corrupt demagogue who has his sights on the White House. Johnny "flashes" a future scenario in which a megalomaniac President Stillson unleashes WWIII. All his predictions have a "dead zone", comprising those bits that can yet be altered; sensing a dead zone in this one, he attempts to assassinate Stillson. Although he fails and is himself shot, a final "flash" tells him photographs of Stillson using a toddler as a shield against the bullets will be widely published and lead to Stillson's suicide.

TDZ represents an interesting middle ground between Cronenberg's cheaply produced exploitation movies and his more commercial work. In the later parts of the movie there is a definite sense of budgetary restraint; this clashes oddly with some richly – and presumably expensively – conceived scenes earlier. There is also an episodic feel to the movie, the section concerning the serial killer being unconnected with later elements. TDZ is enjoyable, if occasionally irritating in that it pretends to a profundity it does not possess. [JG]


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.