Sunday, October 18, 2020

Don't Make a Scene: The Dead Zone

The Story: "The ICE...is gonna BREAK!" That's probably the second-most parroted Christopher Walken line (right behind "I NE-ED more COW-bell!").

The movie it's from, The Dead Zone, is Stephen King's little cautionary tale about sins of omission. If you knew—with absolute certainty—that something bad was going to happen, would you prevent it? Even at great cost? 

The trope is "Would you go back in time to kill Hitler?" (and it's even discussed in the story), but King reverses it—what if you knew, ahead of time, that something terrible would happen? Would you stop it then—without the safety and comfort of hind-sight?

Not much to add here; this scene is the beginning of the third act of the tragedy of Walken's character. It takes place at a political rally—one of those "bread and-circuses" events that feel more like mob-rule than reasoned political discourse. The fact that the candidate is played by Martin Sheen is why I didn't watch "The West Wing" it's first half a season...too creepy.

But, Johnny learns something about the candidate that won't "fly" with focus-groups, would be buried in the Friday night news-dump, and that would elicit a policy of "lie-and-deny" for as long as necessary for it to cool down. 

You wouldn't want the voters to know... (truth is, a lot of 'em would vote for him, anyway.)

'Nuff said.

The Set-Up: Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) has had the best of times and the worst of times. A traffic accident left him bed-ridden in a coma for five years, and when he awakens, all is different: his mother, distraught by his accident, has deep-dived into her religion, and become unhinged; he's is crippled and after months of rehabilitation, walks with a cane; the girl he was in love with (Brooke Adams) is now married and has a child; he can't return to his job, teaching, and can only tutor. And there's something else.

Some screwed-up wiring in his brain endows him with the power to see the future of the people he touches. It is a gift—he has saved lives, helped police catch killers—but it is also a curse, forcing him to isolate himself from the desperate and the crazy. One fateful day, he shakes hands with a political candidate (Martin Sheen)...and sees a terrible future.

Action...


CROWD (chanting):
Stillson! Stillson! 

CROWD (chanting): 
Stillson! Stillson! 

CROWD (chanting): 
Stillson! Stillson! 

CROWD (chanting): 
Stillson! Stillson! 

CROWD (chanting): 
Stillson! Stillson! 

CROWD (chanting): Stillson! Stillson!
CROWD (chanting): 
Stillson! Stillson!
STILLSON: Hi, how are ya? Thank you for your support! 
CROWD (chanting): Stillson! Stillson!
STILLSON: Good to see you. 
CROWD (chanting): 
Stillson! Stillson!
CROWD (chanting): 
Stillson! Stillson!
STILLSON:
 Hi. How are you? Thanks for coming!
CROWD (chanting): Stillson! Stillson! 
CROWD (chanting): 
Stillson! Stillson!
STILLSON: Good to see you. 
STILLSON: Hi. How are you? How you doing?
CROWD (chanting): Stillson! Stillson! 
STILLSON:
Hey! How are you?
CROWD (chanting): Stillson! Stillson!
STILLSON:
 Good to see you. 
CROWD (chanting): Stillson! Stillson!
CROWD (chanting): 
Stillson! Stillson!
CROWD (chanting): 
Stillson! Stillson!
STILLMAN:
Hey, thanks very much for coming! Good!
CROWD (chanting): 
Stillson! Stillson!
CROWD (chanting): 
Stillson! Stillson!
CROWD (chanting): 
Stillson! Stillson!
CROWD (chanting): 
Stillson! Stillson!
CROWD (chanting): 
Stillson! Stillson!
CROWD (chanting): 
Stillson! Stillson!
CROWD (chanting): 
Stillson! Stillson!
CROWD (chanting): 
Stillson! Stillson!
CROWD (chanting): 
Stillson! Stillson!
CROWD (chanting): 
Stillson! Stillson!
CROWD (chanting): 
Stillson! Stillson!
CROWD (chanting): 
Stillson! Stillson!
STILLSON:
Do it, General. 

GENERAL:
You're insane. I won't. 

STILLSON:
 Do it! 
STILLSON: Put your hand on the scanning screen....
STILLSON:
...you'll go down in history with me! 
GENERAL:
As what? The world's greatest mass murderers? 

STILLSON: 
You cowardly bastard! 
STILLSON: 
You're not the voice of the people! 
I am the voice of the people! 
STILLSON:
The people speak through me, not you! 
STILLSON:
 It came to me while I slept, Sonny... 
STILLSON:
 My destiny. In the middle of the night it came to me!
STILLSON:
I must get up now... right now...
STILLSON:
and fulfill my destiny! 

STILLSON:
 Now, you put your goddamn hand on that scanning screen... 
STILLSON: 
...or I'll hack it off and put it on for you!
STILLSON: Do it! 

GENERAL:
May God forgive me. 

STILLSON:
 Congratulations, General. 

ELLIMAN:
Complete the sequence, Mr. President. 

STILLSON:
 My destiny. 

STILLSON:
 Thank you, Sonny. 

STILLSON:
 Let them come up. 

VICE PRESIDENT:
 This is not necessary, Mr. President... 
VICE PRESIDENT:
 ...we have a diplomatic solution. 

STILLSON:
 Mr. Vice President...                 
STILLSON:
 
Mr. Secretary...the missiles are flying.                  
STILLSON:
 Hallelujah. 
STILLSON:
Hallelujah. 

CROWD (chanting): Stillson! Stillson!
CROWD (chanting): Stillson! Stillson!
CROWD (chanting): Stillson! Stillson!
ELLIMAN: You okay, Greg?
CROWD (chanting): Stillson! Stillson!  
CROWD (chanting): Stillson! Stillson!
CROWD (chanting): Stillson! Stillson!
ELLIMAN: Greg!
CROWD (chanting): Stillson! Stillson!
CROWD (chanting): Stillson! Stillson!
ELLIMAN: Get out!
CROWD (chanting): Stillson! Stillson!  
CROWD (chanting): Stillson! Stillson!
CROWD (chanting): Stillson! Stillson!
CROWD (chanting): Stillson! Stillson!
CROWD (chanting): Stillson! Stillson!
CROWD (chanting): Stillson! Stillson!
CROWD (chanting): Stillson! Stillson!
CROWD (chanting): Stillson! Stillson!
CROWD (chanting): Stillson! Stillson!
CROWD (chanting): Stillson! Stillson! 

The Dead Zone

Words by Jeffrey Boam

Pictures by Mark Irwin and David Cronenberg

The Dead Zone is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Paramount Home Video.