THE DEAD ZONE (1983)
****/**** Image C Sound A
starring Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerritt, Herbert Lom
screenplay by Jeffrey Boam, based on the novel by Stephen King
directed by David Cronenberg
by Walter Chaw Michael Kamen's score for The Dead Zone sounds so much like Howard Shore's work that if I didn't know better... Maybe something about Cronenberg inspires doomed Romanticism in his collaborators. What's sometimes lost in the focus on body-horror in his pictures is how like opera they are--so like opera, in fact, that The Fly was eventually turned into one. Each is in some way about the loss of the self to love and all those elevated metaphors for love like body transformation, breakdown, decay, death. He is a poet of liebestraum. His films are suffused with it, as well as--here's another German term for you--overwhelming waves of Weltschmerz. The Dead Zone was the first Cronenberg feature since 1979's Fast Company not scored by Shore; the two would never be separated again. In a CINEFANTASTIQUE article published at the time of The Dead Zone's release (1983), Cronenberg tells of producer Dino De Laurentiis desiring a "name" composer and discarding Shore before landing on Kamen, then fresh off Alan Parker's Pink Floyd: The Wall. I don't think Cronenberg gave up that kind of control again. The Dead Zone is an adaptation of a Stephen King bestseller and home to one of only a handful of lead roles for Christopher Walken, who's idol-handsome but, you know, off-tempo. A curious affliction for a trained, gifted hoofer, you'll agree. I used to refer to Cronenberg as an insect anthropologist, an alien observer, and that's true, I think. But as I grow older and, minute-by-minute, devastation-upon-devastation, immensely, geometrically wearier, I'm seeing Cronenberg as afflicted by a certain Proustian lost time. The more I know of grief, the more I hear that edge in Cronenberg's voice echoed in my own.