Monday, 26 April 2010

Movie Psychic Monday

Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken)
The Dead Zone (1983)

Things are looking good for school teacher Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) he’s got a good job, he’s in love with his work colleague Sarah Bracknell (Brooke Adams) and better than that she loves him too, everything’s dandy until he is involved in a serious car accident and he ends up in a coma. Bloody typical, all’s going well for you, you meet the woman of your dreams, life’s good and then you’re hit by a truck and end up comatose. On the up side, during his bloody long and unwarranted timeout, Johnny is placed under the care of neurologist Dr. Sam Weizak (Herbert Lom) and when he finally wakes he thinks, all things considered, he’s’ come out of it pretty darn well, all his limbs are present and correct, nothing’s broken, brain functions seem good and he’s still got his preternaturally pretty Christopher Walken looks, everything’s coming up Johnny. Unfortunately this all takes a sharp incline towards rubbish when he discovers that he has, in fact, been unconscious for five years, and worse than that the world has moved on without him. In his absence his parent’s have aged, he’s become unemployed, and his girlfriend has married another man and has a family, and if that wasn’t bad enough he’s about to discover that he’s now got a head full of freaky psychic powers just to top it all off.

As if Johnny wasn’t suffering enough it now transpires that he has the ability to glimpse the past, present and future of a person by simply making psychical contact them. After his visions allow him to intervene and save the child of nurse, Smith becomes something of a reluctant local celebrity and local Sherriff George Bannerman (Tom Skerritt and Tom Skerritt’s moustache) approaches him for aid in his current investigation the hunt for the Castle Rock Killer and for a while Johnny merrily takes part in some crime solving and disaster averting as he endeavours to rebuild his life. But, as everyone knows, every psychic warrior needs an arch nemesis and it’s not too long before Johnny discovers his.

After finding himself on the receiving end of a handshake from US Senatorial Candidate, Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen) Johnny learns that he will later become President of the United States, which doesn’t sound too bad; Martin Sheen gives good president, but, Johnny also sees him ordering a nuclear strike against Russia and presumably bringing about nuclear war, which does sound bad, very bad, clearly can’t trust this man with our vote. Fortunately we have a psychic hero who now feels it is his duty to stop Martin Sheen and his inclination to incite nuclear holocaust.

Poor Johnny Smith, he’s a man whose life is out of control; his life was abruptly put on hold for a significant period of time and when he once again rejoins it everything he knew has changed without his active participation. He is a man grieving the loss of his own life, an echo of the past reverberating around a present he has no tangible control over and this situation is only exacerbated when he realises that no longer has control of even his own mind. Prior to his accident Johnny Smith was an average chap, subsequent to it he becomes a wholly different creature, he loses that comforting normalcy in every respect becoming entirely alien to himself and to society. The only thing that could possibly be worse that this is if you also found yourself charged with saving the world from nuclear disaster as well. Oh, no, Damn it! Ultimately his journey is of almost messianic proportions, he is an individual who loses everything, is denied by everything holds dear, rejected by society and burdened with the magnitude of the responsibility his power creates until he must eventually sacrifice himself to save humanity which ironically is already lost to him.

Johnny Smith is a tragic entry into the ledger of movie psychics, but it all kind of works out for him because he eventually becomes that kid from Breakfast Club, perks up a bit and continues foiling evil with his super psychic powers. (See how he rises again? I was totally right about the messiah thing).

Dead Zone: The Second Coming


  1. I love this film. It's one of Walken's best performances, which, considering how good he is, is really saying something. To my pleasant surprise, I even liked the TV show based on the movie.

  2. I completely agree, Jack. I hadn't seen it for ages till recently and I'd forgotten how good it was. And of course it's always a treat to see Mr. Walken. I must also confess to a bit of soft spot for the tv show.

  3. Nice review, Jinx. I enjoyed how deeply you analyzed Walken's character. He really does seem like the classical tragic hero in that movie.

    All deep thinking aside, I love the scene where the Castle Rock Killer offs himself with the scissors. Brutal stuff!

  4. Aw, thanks so much, Joe, yay for deep me! It has to be said that I'm totally loving the scissor death too.

  5. Definitely an underrated movie both in the Cronenberg and King filmographies. It's so chilly and sad. "The ice... is gonna... BREAK!"



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