The Dead Zone

The Dead Zone (1983)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Brooke Adams
Extras: Theatrical Trailer

Paramount Home Video has done a fantastic job with the transfer for the new DVD of ’The Dead Zone’. Considering that this is a seventeen year old film, that was shot on relatively low budget, this new digital transfer looks quite good. The film is presented in an anamorphic widescreen and is letterboxed at 1.85:1. The picture is very crisp and clear, with only a fine amount of noticeable grain. This grain is generally visible only during the daytime, outdoor scenes in which there is a great deal of snow on the ground. As usual, director David Cronenberg has given the film a sterile and realistic look, and the clarity of this transfer only adds to that feeling of ’being there.’ Also, at times, ’The Dead Zone’ almost appears to be in black and white, as Cronenberg uses dark shadows and the blindingly white snow to help set the mood for the film. These colors come across very nicely on this DVD. The framing of the picture appears to be accurate, as there is no overt loss of information at the extreme edges of the screen.

The audio on ’The Dead Zone’ DVD is a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. The surround sound is used sparingly, but creatively and, as with the film’s color scheme, is used to enhance the mood of the picture. The dialogue is very clear and audible and there is no hiss on the soundtrack. This audio mix gives Michael Kamen’s subtle but effective score a chance to shine through. The only extra on the DVD is the original theatrical trailer for ’The Dead Zone’, which is letterboxed at 1.85:1.

As for the film itself, ’The Dead Zone’ is easily one of the best screen adaptions of a Stephen King novel. Christopher Walken stars as Johnny Smith, a school-teacher who is involved in a car wreck and lapses into a coma for five years. When he awakens, he has the ability to know things about people, their future, their secrets, just by touching them. The film follows Johnny as he tries to rebuild his life, and as he discovers the many uses of his powers. The film takes King’s novel and breaks it down into episodes, as we see Johnny help others with his gift/curse. When Johnny learns of something that could threaten all mankind, he must decide is he has the power to change the future. Walken is wonderful in the lead role and director David Cronenberg puts aside his science driven horror films to create a very moody piece that works on all counts. While this DVD could have been improved with the addition of more extras (I would have loved to have heard a Cronenberg commentary with this film), the splendid transfer makes this one worth owning.