A Stephen King Journey

Reading every book, watching every movie, binging every TV show, listening to every podcast related to Stephen King

The Dead Zone (1979) – Part 1

Journey step started: Feb 17, 2023

Journey step ended: June 4, 2023

Click the Google sheet to the right to see every item covered on this step of the journey.

The BookThe MovieThe TV Series

The Book

Day 413: Feb 17, 2023

It is a glorious day when I get to start the next book in my multi-year journey. Today, I celebrate the beginning of “The Dead Zone” – King’s 1979 follow-up to his magnum opus “The Stand”.

I’ll be on this book for at least 4 months thanks to the 6-season TV series based on this novel. But I plan to plow through ever last minute.

Now, onto page 1!

The days of McCarthyism were not long over in Washington; in the Midwest Joe McCarthy’s star had not yet set, and Margaret Chase Smith of Maine was known as ‘that bitch’ for her famous Declaration of Conscience.

One of the side-benefits of reading older books is the unexpected history lesson. I had no idea who Margaret Chase Smith was, but I do now! I think I would have liked her.

Greg Stillson appears to be the bad guy protagonist here. He meets the criteria that’s often seen in King books:

✅ Daddy/Mommy issues
✅ Headaches
✅ Bipolar (sweet with sudden violent outbursts)
✅ Evangelical Christian background
✅ Lots of speaking out loud to themselves
✅ Violence towards animals

She had noticed that with a warm, secret delight, and the ache in her own loins—the unfulfilled ache—had also delighted her, and that night she hadn’t killed it with a douche.

Um… Would a kind lady mind explaining that last part to me?

The main opening scene – the string of luck at the carnival’s Wheel of Fortune – was some grade-A Stephen King gripping narrative. The pages really flew by with intensity, even though though not much happened other than Johnny winning $500 from his predictive abilities.

But I started to feel dizzy from the telling of that story.

“Oh, yeah? So you know what I mean. What the hell’s wrong with these kids, anyway?”

Well, they ate a bad hot dog called Vietnam and it gave them ptomaine. A guy named Lyndon Johnson sold it to them. So they went to this other guy, see, and they said, “Jesus, mister, I’m sick as hell.” And this other guy, his name was Nixon, he said, “I know how to fix that. Have a few more hot dogs.” And that’s what’s wrong with the youth of America.

Day 414: Feb 18, 2023

I’m on my second day of reading The Dead Zone.

Johnny was just in a tragic car wreck. Tragic not because of the coma he would be in for the next few years but tragic because the poor guy was just about to get laid by his adorable sweetheart.

Let’s hope better things are in store for Johnny as I head into Chapter 3.

Vera uttered another shriek, and he saw with some alarm that she had grabbed her hair, rollers and all, and was pulling it. “It’s a judgment! A judgment on the way we live, on sin, on something! Herb, get down on your knees with me …”

I have a feeling Vera and Carrie’s mother, Margaret, would get along very well.

Dr. Strawns closed the door, lit a cigarette, and dropped the burned match into one of the ashtrays that marched up and down the table.

Can you imagine today if a hospital surgeon lit up a cigarette in a conference room? I wonder what practices from today will be considered shocking 50 years from now.

She paused. “What about insurance? I mean, this must be costing a Denver mint …”

“Johnny had the standard Blue Cross, but not that new Major Medical. The Blue Cross will cover some of it, though. And Vera and I have our savings.”

Sarah’s heart sank. Vera and I have our savings. How long would one passbook stand up to expenses of two hundred dollars a day or more?

Depressing to think that in 50 years our country still hasn’t figured out affordable healthcare.

The first snow fell—just a dusting—then a second dusting, and ten days before Christmas there was a storm that closed area schools for the day and she sat home. looking out at the snow as it filled Flagg Street.

…Vera had begun to correspond with… The American Society of the Last Times. They were led by Mr. and Mrs. Harry L. Stonkers from Racine, Wisconsin. Mr. and Mrs. Stonkers claimed to have been picked up by a flying saucer while they were on a camping trip. They had been taken away to heaven, which was not out in the constellation Orion but on an earth-type planet that circled Arcturus.

Just a couple of decades before Heaven’s Gate!

And that wraps up Chapter 5 for me and I’m about 25% of the way through the book.

Now I get the pleasure of listening to Two Guys to the Dark Tower Came as they’re also reading through this book at the same time I am!

The Two Guys have an interesting take on King’s portrayal of mothers in his books. From Carrie’s mom to Frannie’s mom to Johnny Smith’s mother and the serial killer’s abusive mother – it’s a pattern for sure!

Day 415: Feb 19, 2023

Continuing to read The Dead Zone.

Johnny has been in a coma over the past two chapters. His mothers falls for every Christian cult out there. Chapter 3. Sarah moves on and gets married. There’s a serial killer who’s popped up in Castle Rock. There’s also a random lightning rod salesman who has been introduced.

And with that, I head into Chapter 6.

“Here I am,” Johnny Smith croaked to no one at all. He was shocked by the weakness of his voice. There was no calendar in the room, and he had no way of knowing that he had been out of it four-and-a-half years.

I had to check out what’s the longest time someone was in a coma and woke from it.

29 years. Damn.

“Carmel. By the sea. But I couldn’t tell which street. It was there, but I couldn’t tell. It was in a dead zone. Like the picnic table and the rowboat. But she’s in Carmel, California. Johanna Borentz. She’s not old.”

That’s real interesting! The “dead zone” are areas of Johnny’s brain where he can’t see things. Good to have the book title’s meaning out of the way early.

I’ve reached the lengthy conversation between Johnny and Dr. Weizak about Johnny’s new “powers” and I’m reminded how much I love King’s dialogs, especially the ones that confront uncomfortable topics head on.

“I think of Edgar Cayce. And Peter Hurkos. I tried to tell Dr. Brown about Hurkos and he scoffed. He doesn’t want to talk about it; he doesn’t want to know about it.”

I know of Edgar Cayce but I’ve never heard of Peter Hurkos before. I wondered if it was one of King’s made up “facts” that he like to sprinkle in his novels every now and then.

She crossed the room and suddenly he saw himself as she must see him—too thin, his body slumped a little to one side in the chair by the window, his legs stuck out straight on the hassock, dressed in a Johnny and a cheap hospital bathrobe.

“As you can see, I put on my tux,” he said.

“You look fine.” She kissed his cheek and a hundred memories shuffled brightly through his mind like a doubled pack of cards.

No, YOU just teared up a little at this reunion!

Day 416: Feb 20, 2023

I’m well into The Dead Zone.

Johnny has now come out of coma with some mad powers. His former chick came by to cry at him. His mother is rapturous in the power of Jesus and his dad suggested that he was better off in the coma.

Haven’t heard from the serial killer, the budding politician or the lightning rod dude in quite a while. Maybe I’ll encounter all three here in Chapter 10.

Johnny looked at him dumbly, lips quivering. He was still in shock but beginning to understand. Oh yes. He was beginning to understand. The TV reporter tried to smile and could only produce a death’s-head rictus.

“Just don’t touch me, Johnny. Please.”

I’ve had plenty of people ask me not to touch them and I don’t even have any psychic powers! 😂

“All right, Daddy,” Johnny said, almost in a whisper. “Yes. Cumberland General. I know where it is. Just above Jerusalem’s Lot. Okay. All right. Daddy …”

Having just read Chapter 12, I turn to Two Guys to the Dark Tower Came for a brief wrap-up.

Day 417: Feb 21, 2023

Nearly halfway done reading The Dead Zone.

Johnny mad-flexed his new psychic powers in front of the media. But then his mother died and left him some God-guilt with her dying breath.

Now onto Chapter 13!

He looked down at the Pepsi bottle in his hand, and suddenly he swung it savagely against the corner of the steel cabinet. It shattered, and when the kid saw the scatter of glass on the floor and the jagged neck in Greg’s hand pointing toward him, he screamed.

An interesting anachronistic passage. Someone born in the past 20 years might be confused as to how a plastic soda bottle shatters into glass.

I think I held my breath during that whole scene where Johnny relived the death of a man by quicksand after touching an object sent to him in the mail. I will be avoiding the outdoors at all costs from now on.

“You can reach me at Steph’s number, 814-6219, any time between Oct. 17th and the 23rd.”

It actually struck me as odd to see a phone number that doesn’t start with 555 in a work of fiction. I wonder how many times a year the poor owner of this number with the Kennebunk, Maine area code gets called. I’m half-tempted to call it myself!

There was a long silence in the pine-panelled office after Gendron’s initial harsh gasp for breath. It was unbroken except for the faint hum of the digital clock on the banker’s desk and the hiss of a match as Greg lit a Phillies cheroot.

“Phillies cheroot”? I’m not a cigar smoker so I had to look this up.

Having reached the halfway point in the book, I turn to Derry Public Radio for their review of the story so far.

Day 418: Feb 22, 2023

Entering the second half of The Dead Zone.

Johnny went batshit crazy and beat up a guy who bothered him.

Meanwhile, a hundred miles away, bad guy Greg Stillson went batshit crazy and beat up a guy who bothered him.

I’m guessing there will be some UFC match between them as a climax? And we haven’t heard from the Castle Rock Strangler nor the Chekhov’s lightning rod salesman in quite a while.

Now onto Chapter 15!

When the baby put his arm around Johnny’s neck, a confused rush of feelings had washed over him like mild warm water. There was nothing dark, nothing troubling. Everything was very simple. There was no concept of the future in the baby’s thoughts. No feeling of trouble. No sense of past unhappiness. And no words, only strong images: warmth, dryness, the mother, the man that was himself.

It never occurred to me to consider what would happen if he touched a baby!

“Most of the people he’s meeting with think that if Reagan is nominated over Ford next year, it’s going to mean the death of the party,” Sarah said.

Interesting. This book was published in 1979, well before Reagan actually became president. I know that he had challenged Ford for the nomination in 1976, but I wonder if King ever imagined Reagan would actually become President. Or if he even cared at that point.

A little song began to run maddeningly through his aching head, little more than a jingle, really. A Sunday-school song from his early childhood: This little light of mine … I’m gonna let it shine … this little light of mine … I’m gonna let it shine … let it shine, shine, shine, let it shine …

This is the fourth book in a row where King used that phrase in reference to a person’s supernatural powers.

Day 419: Feb 23, 2023

Johnny has helped himself to a taste of infidelity with Sarah, figuring the universe owed him a romp in the sack.

And now he’s gone off and agreed to help the po-po figure out who’s been killing those women (and now a little girl too) in Castle Rock.

He seized the bench in both hands, and sudden weirdness flooded him—he had felt nothing so intense before and would feel something so intense only once ever again.

This is the bench the serial killer sat on. But normally I would have read this too fast and missed the foreshadowing statement “only once ever again”!

He (I) am sitting here, smoking, waiting, feeling good, feeling like he (I) could jump right over the roof of the world and land lightly on two feet.

“Roof of the world” I *knew* I had heard King use that phrase before!

Johnny’s eyes were cool and somehow inhuman. His dark hair blew wildly around his white face, and overhead the winter wind screamed through the black sky.

I thought Johnny’s hair had turned white from the coma back in chapter 5?

She sat and listened to the wind and looked at Johnny. The bandages were gone. The scar began on his forehead an inch above his right eyebrow and twisted up under the hairline. His hair had gone white…

This book is absolutely incredible. Such tight, gripping storytelling. If I weren’t deliberately pacing myself, breaking up the chapters with various podcast episodes, I could easily finish this through the night.

It was like King took all the excess of The Stand and said, “I’ll show YOU how to write a perfect, fast-paced thriller!”

Now listening to Two Guys to the Dark Tower Came recap those last few chapters I just read.

Day 420: Feb 24, 2023

In the most thrilling section of the book so far, Johnny comes out of hermitage to solve the case of the Castle Rock Strangler in front of the media’s eye. Can this intensity continue towards the climax of this book?

Picking up now at Chapter 17…

“That sound like dyslexia to you?” Stuart asked.

“No. It sounds like a general reading phobia.”

Chatsworth had winced a little. “Jackson’s Syndrome?”

Johnny had been impressed—as he was no doubt supposed to be. Michael Carey Jackson was a reading-and-grammar specialist from the University of Southern California who had caused something of a stir nine years ago with a book called The Unlearning Reader.

Had to look this up. No such person or book or syndrome.

Stephen King seems to have this awesome pattern of including made-up scientific research that sounds completely plausible. Back in the 70’s, before the internet, I’m sure 1000s of people accepted them as fact!

For example, in “The Stand”: Glen Bateman tells this story about a researcher named James Staunton whose research showed that passenger cancellations spiked for trips (planes, trains, etc) just prior to disasters, demonstrating a type of psychic anticipation.

If God had given him a talent, it was teaching, not knowing things he had no business knowing. This was the sort of thing he had been made for, and when he had been teaching at Cleaves Mills back in 1970, he had known it. More important, the kids had known it and responded to it, as Chuck had done just now.

As a former teacher myself, this made me tear up a little.

Standing by the gate in the cyclone fencing was Jimmy Carter, shaking hands with the men and women going on shift. They were carrying lunch buckets or paper sacks, breathing out white clouds, bundled into heavy coats, their faces still asleep. Carter had a word for each of them. His grin, then not so publicized as it became later, was tireless and fresh.

Awwww. Touching, considering the latest news about Carter.

Chatsworth laughed. “Oh. you gotta see this guy, Johnny. He’s as crazy as a rat in a drainpipe. But I do believe the sober-sided electorate of the third district is going to send him to Washington this November. Unless he actually falls down and starts frothing at the mouth. And I wouldn’t completely rule that out.”

This hits a little too close to home with Trump and the lunatic candidates that have followed. Think a movie remake would be timely?

“Third board!” Stillson roared. “We’re gonna send all the pollution right into outer space! Gonna put it in Hefty bags! Gonna put it in Glad bags! Gonna send it to Mars, to Jupiter, and the rings of Saturn! We’re gonna have clean air and we’re gonna have clean water and we’re gonna have it in SIX MONTHS!”

I mean, how is this any different from the crazy BS that Trump or MTG puts out there? King was definitely prescient on this one!

Day 421: Feb 25, 2023

Johnny earns the Teacher of the Year Award with the one whole student that he has. He gets to meet Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter and shakes his hand (and soul in the process). He also gets to see batshit candidate T̶r̶u̶m̶p̶ Stillson on TV. I bet the climax of the book will involve those two somehow. 🤔

He watched Ngo walk away, small, slim, and lithe in blue jeans and a faded chambray work shirt.

Fun (maybe a) fact: King introduces a chambray shirt in every one of his books.

And there we have it: The famous handshake between Johnny and Stillson, masterfully told. Johnny has a vision of Stillson being sworn in as President by a fearful Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. It makes me want to go back and watch Trump’s swearing-in ceremony, just to focus on Justice Roberts’s face.

“I think he’s dangerous,” Johnny said. “I … I know he’s dangerous.”

“Do you?” Ngo remarked. “Yes, I believe you do know it. Your fellow New Hampshires, they see him as an engaging clown. They see him the way many of this world are seeing this black man, Idi Amin Dada. But you do not.”

Seriously, I just can’t. 1979. 2023. Paragraphs like this fit in either time like a hand in a glove.

Still: The Question.

He had written it in one of the notebooks and kept coming back to it. He had written it in neat letters and then had drawn a triple circle around it, as if to keep it in. The Question was this: If you could jump into a time machine and go back to 1932, would you kill Hitler?

He said: “You want to stay away from that place. There are no lightning rods.”

“Johnny …” Chuck looked at his father, frightened. “It’s like he’s having some kind of … fit. or something.”

“Lightning,” Johnny proclaimed in a carrying voice.

I hadn’t forgotten about the lightning rod salesman from earlier in the book. Will he be making a reappearance?

“Are there lightning rods on this place?” Johnny asked.

Carrick threw his hands up. “I tell this guy the facts of life and he wants to discuss lightning rods! Yeah, I got lightning rods! A guy came in here, before I added one, must be five years ago now. He gave me a song-and-dance about improving my insurance rates. So I bought the goddam lightning rods! Are you happy?”

Ok then. This must be the same place from earlier! I think I can let this subject go now.

Roger stood up slowly and turned around. “I suggest,” he said, “that we find the soberest people here to drive and that we all go down to the hospital. They’ll need blood donors.”

Maybe it’s a 70s thing, but would hospitals accept blood from drunk people? I mean, I know pregnant women smoking was still common, but this?

After an action-packed batch of chapters, Two Guys to the Dark Tower Came review what they’ve just read.

Day 422: Feb 26, 2023

Having saved a whole bunch of high schools kids from getting burned alive in a lightning-rod free restaurant, Johnny sets his sights on killing Hitler/Congressman Stillson.

I’m feeling frisky and am considering finishing the book today as I start on Chapter 24.

Chapter 24 was a refreshing change of narrative – a collection of letters to Johnny, whose has skipped away to the Southwest to get away from the publicity and wrestle with some demons. The different points of view, including the newspaper clipping at the end, were a really creative way to keep the story going about Stillson in Johnny’s absence.

Chapter 25 was quite a few pages of Johnny reasoning out the various options he had to stopping Stillson. It has very strong “The Stand” Boulder Committee vibes. A bit too much of the sausage-making.

The time was now, indisputably now, and every human being on earth suddenly had a stake in what happened in this backwater meetinghouse.

That thudding sound in his head, like poles of destiny coming together.

Stillson was mounting the steps to the podium. The area behind him was clear. The three men in their open topcoats were lounging against the far wall.

Johnny stood up.

I want to meet the person who could put the book down at this point!

My thoughts on the ending of The Dead Zone:

To be honest, I was underwhelmed. The mini-stories about the Castle Rock Strangler and the lighting striking the restaurant were such gripping reads, they surpassed the actual climax of the novel.

It felt like King was writing under a deadline and had to put his pen down by the stroke of midnight. It wrapped up too fast in my opinion. I hate to say it, but it gave me strong vibes about the climax of The Stand.

There was a bit of cleverness in that the final confrontation between Johnny and Stillson didn’t go quite the way one expected.

But the technique of using excerpts of interviews from the FBI to backfill some plot points felt too borrowed from Carrie’s ending with the “White Commission” or whatever it was they called it.

But overall, this might have been the finest King book I’ve read so far. I’m going to have to let it settle to see how it truly stacked up.

Day 423: Feb 27, 2023

The book is now behind me, so I move on to the various reviews and analyses of this work (and then to the movie and the TV series!).

I start off with Derry Public Radio and their hilariously titled podcast episode.

Glad to see I was not the only one disturbed by the eerie parallels between how King wrote Stillson’s insane political rallies and recent events.

And now the hosts are debating whether Stillson held his child-shield vertically or horizontally. 😂😂😂

“This whole book is a goddamn bummer.”

Good thing King never asked these guys for a quote to print on the back of the printed book!

Day 424: Feb 28, 2023

The Losers’ Club dropped a 3.5 hour length podcast episode about this book! I’m going to listen to the first half of it today.

Just learned that The Dead Zone was Stephen King’s first to reach the top of New York Times’s bestseller list!

The Loser’s Club are completely off the rails as they imagine (and re-enact) a raging Mel Gibson as Johnny Smith making an angry phone call to Sarah. 😂

Day 425: Mar 01, 2023

Now listening to the second half of The Losers’ Club 3.5-hour epic podcast about The Dead Zone.

I’m pausing about 30 minutes from the end because they’re about to cover the movie, which I haven’t seen yet.

Day 426: Mar 02, 2023

Just two more days until I begin watching the famous Cronenberg film! But today, Two Guys to the Dark Tower Came finish their read of the classic novel.

Was Johnny Smith a hero? Sure, he sacrificed himself to prevent a global disaster. But he was already dying with only a short time to live. He didn’t have a wife and kids to leave behind. Do you think his “sacrifice” was lessened in any way because of his circumstances?

Next up to review the book is Chat Sematary.

Huh. James Franco narrated the audiobook of The Dead Zone? With voices?

Day 427: Mar 03, 2023

Who’s left to talk about the book? Ah, yes – Stephen King Cast would like a few words on the topic.

I was about to give credit to the host for being the only podcaster not to bring up Donald Trump as a comparison to Greg Stillson. But then I checked to see when this episode was released… 2014.


Several years later, Stephen King Cast revisited The Dead Zone to focus specifically about its ending. Now, he’s in the middle of the Trump years and spent a few minutes at the beginning of the episode with a number of trigger disclaimers.

Day 835: Apr 14, 2024

**circling back**

Kingsize spent quite a few episodes reading The Dead Zone. I join them now just for the first two.

Day 836: Apr 15, 2024

***circling back***

I’m taking another step into The Dead Zone with Kingsize.

The 1983 Movie

Day 428: Mar 04, 2023

I’m finally sitting down with great anticipation to watch the David Cronenberg adaptation of “The Dead Zone”.

I don’t think I’ve actually seen this movie before, but it is such a pop culture icon, I feel like I have!

I’m aiming to get through the first half today and conclude it tomorrow.

I used to get excited when seeing a production company’s opening logo at the movies when a film begins. It always indicated “something big” “something important” was about to happen.

And nearly immediately, my excitement diminishes a bit.

The past few King movies I’ve seen produced by Dino De Laurentiis (Maximum Overdrive, Cat’s Eye) didn’t exactly leave me with a good taste in my mouth.

This is a very long opening credits scene. The scenic slideshow is rather dull. The gradual appearance of “The Dead Zone” movie title is taking forever!

I mean, it’s been 3 minutes of this. I’m glad modern movies put most of these credits at the end, or at least give you something interesting to look at while rolling through this stuff.

OMG – what is with the haircut they gave to Christopher Walken? It’s like he should be in a 15th century monastery copying and illuminating manuscripts!

I imagined Johnny Smith to be a decent looking guy, but this? This is a travesty!

You can see for yourself that Christopher Walken isn’t thrilled with the haircut his character was given.

An attractive lady invites him to come in and spend the night and he says no?

I can’t say I’m liking Cronenberg’s artistic liberties here. Some things are just too implausible to believe!

So the book’s opening was cut much, much shorter. No county fair, no Wheel of Fortune. No hot dog poisoning. No drag racing cars and a taxi cab. No romantic start of a relationship that’s about to start.

It feels like we go from opening credits and bad haircut right to coma.

At least Wiezak gets promoted in the film. He was just a hospital doctor in the book but here he gets his own clinic!

Fun fact about Herbert Lom, the man who plays Dr. Weizak: His birth name is Herbert Charles Angelo Kuchacevich ze Schluderpacheru

This was a well-crafted scene. I especially love Walken’s “HURRY UP!” line at the end in a style that is uniquely and identifiably his!

Creating a WWII battle scene just for one of Johnny Smith’s flashes must’ve been expensive.

I can only imagine the debate that went on in the producer’s room when going over the budget for this script!

I’m really appreciating the increased intensity Cronenberg adds to this scene. Walken brings an extra darkness to the press conference, more so than the book had.

I can only assume they’re praying for forgiveness for the sinful infidelity that just occurred under that roof not just two hours prior.

What a beautiful shot!

I’m stopping here, where Johnny just identified Frank Dodd as the Castle Rock Strangler. No – that’s not right. That was the book. I guess in the movie, Dodd is the Castle Rock Scissor Stabber?

From IMDB trivia: Bill Murray was Stephen King’s choice for the part of Johnny Smith.

Could you imagine how different this movie would’ve been?

Day 429: Mar 05, 2023

Finishing off this classic movie today. The first half was a mixed bag for me – a rushed start, lacking character depth. But there were moments of intensity that had gripped my attention.

Haven’t seen the bad-guy, Greg Stillson, yet. Unlike the book where his backstory was being filled in during the first half, he’s not yet been formally introduced in the film – only briefly mentioned.

Will that take away from the ending?

The serial murder segment was fairly faithful to the book, with a bit of Cronenberg uncomfortable body gore. They cut out Sheriff Bannerman’s initial disbelief in Johnny’s identification of who the murderer was. I felt that was the strongest part of that section in the book – having to convince the Sheriff of the truth.

After the serial murder segment – the story has come to a crawl.

But 1:04 into the movie, we finally get to meet Senator (a change from the book) Greg Stillson.

This was a fun fake-out. You fully expect this is the moment when Johnny gets his full vision of Greg Stillson’s future.

But no…

So it’s a kid, not a teenager, who Johnny is given to tutor.

Maybe it’s not healthy for me to see the movie so close to having read the book. It always throws me when a change is made that seems arbitrary.

I get it when characters are combined or entire segments are left out. But why a boy in this case? I liked the bond that Johnny had with the teenage son in the book.

Here’s a good example of a change that didn’t bother me: Combining the banker with the newspaper editor into a single character that Stillson can blackmail: Two birds with one stone.

Instead of a teen party at a restaurant that will catch on fire, we have a young boy and his ice hockey team falling through the ice.

Is this an improvement over the book? I don’t think so and it’s just distracting.

Well, at least the most famous line from the movie was NOT a disappointment! Great scene!

Are those the Khaleesi’s dragon eggs on the coffee table???

The flash forward scene when Johnny does finally shake Stillson’s hand was… underwhelming.

Is that a Simon game “President” Stillson is using to launch nukes?

When the director gives the cue for all the extras to duck, don’t be like the short guy in the middle.

Time to play tug-of-baby.

And the movie ends right after the assassination attempt. No postscript. No federal inquiry.

I thought the book had ended abruptly, but the movie took it to another level.

My final grade? A B-. It had decent acting from Walken and Sheen. A few scenes were memorable. But for the most part, it was a made-for-TV movie that’s close to ‘Salem’s Lot in its hokeyness than it is to Carrie as a classic.

I’m finishing off that epic episode from The Loser’s Club about The Dead Zone. After 2.5 hours of talking about the book, they started to cover the movie and I had hit pause.

Let’s do this and see if they had any of the same observations that I did.

I had forgotten about the South Park spoof of The Dead Zone movie! Cartman was perfect as a psychic detective!

The Losers’ Club also turned me on to a couple of Saturday Night Live skits with Christopher Walken riffing on his Johnny Smith character. Here’s the first one:

Another classic! This time, it’s Jay Mohr impersonating Walken with precision.

“Christopher Walken’s Celebrity Psychic Friends Network”

Day 430: Mar 06, 2023

A long line of people want to weigh in on this movie. Let’s start with Derry Public Radio and their outrageously titled episode.

C.M. mentioned her disappointment in the movie having expected something more outrageous from David Cronenberg. It’s tough to keep in mind that this was an early Cronenberg film, before The Fly and Dead Ringers and everything else that came after. But I too came into this film with great anticipation because of Cronenberg’s name attached to it and walked away feeling this was just an average movie at best.

I have to concur: Christopher Walken and Brooke Adams (Sarah) had such little chemistry, it indeed was like watching “two brothers kissing”.

According to IMDB trivia, the term “Dead Zone” was mentioned briefly in the film but its meaning was never quite explained like it was in the book.

However, in thinking back upon the opening credits scene as the movie logo slowly came into view, black shapes blocked out the scenery which very closely matched the brain’s “Dead Zones” that Johnny described in the books.

I have better appreciation for the opening credits now.

A lot of time (perhaps too much time?) was humorously spent on the possible romantic relationship between Stillson and his bodyguard, Sonny.

Day 431: Mar 07, 2023

The Losers’ Club delivered a Ka-mmentary track for listening over top Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone.

The movie itself was a bit long, so I’ll only be listening to the first half of it today.

Drinking game included taking a sip every time:

* Tacky wallpaper is seen
* A button or sign for Gregg Stillson
* Johnny is wearing a new sweater

Full shots to be taken when he screams: “THE ICE… IS GONNA BREAK!”

I think I’d be in my own coma before we got to that line… 😂

Day 432: Mar 08, 2023

Now listening to the second half of The Losers’ Club Ka-mmentary track for the movie The Dead Zone.

Day 433: Mar 09, 2023

Alex Winter (of Bill & Ted fame) join The Kingcast to discuss The Dead Zone.

Alex Winter shared a story of how he ran into Martin Scorsese on the street in New York struck up a conversation about David Cronenberg.

That must’ve been a surreal conversation!

Unlike many of the off-the-wall special guests that The Kingcast invites to the table, Alex Winter brings a very cerebral, student-of-his craft point of view to both the book and the movie. It is very refreshing!

He made a great point about how the movie feels like a Reader’s Digest condensed version of the book. That it didn’t take the story and make it its own. I think he said it felt like a “greatest hits”. This is exactly how I felt!

How cool would it have been had Jimmy Carter made a cameo appearance in the movie for the scene that featured him in the book?

Day 434: Mar 10, 2023

Chat Sematary reviews the movie version of The Dead Zone.

Martin Sheen’s son was the photographer in this scene? How old, exactly, was Sheen when this move was made?

Answer: He was 43. His son, Ramon Estevez, was 20 at the time.

Day 435: Mar 11, 2023

Another day, another discussion about the movie adaptation of The Dead Zone. The Kingcast goes deep into this topic with actor Patrick Fischler.

I missed this particular Trump comparison back when it happened.

Day 436: Mar 12, 2023

The Stephen King Cast gives his review of the Cronenberg/Walken movie.

I learned that the original The Dead Zone script had the serial murderer, Frank Dodd, escape and Johnny survive at the end. This indeed would have set things up for a wonderful sequel!

Zach Dionne has a amazing series of written reviews of Stephen King movies for Decider. He includes the best gifs of film clips and some deeply research trivia.

Here’s Streamin’ King’s review of The Dead Zone.

“THE GIST: Endearing English teacher Johnny Smith crashes his car into an overturned milk tanker, going into a coma for five years, during which his beloved gets married and has a baby. He awakes with the most chapped lips in America…”


“1983 yielded three SK adaptations in four months: August’s Cujo, which made $21.1 million, October’s The Dead Zone ($20.8 million), and Christine in December, earning a freakishly similar $21 million.”

What a year for classic adaptations!

Day 437: Mar 13, 2023

I continue to work the plan and tune in to The Losers’ Club with an epic episode about The Dead Zone. Their guest is author and film critic Gretchen Felker-Martin.

The original script to The Dead Zone had a “trick” ending: The Castle Rock killer isn’t killed but is instead arrested and sent away. Johnny receives a call from the sheriff that the killer has escaped. After Johnny’s attempted assassination of Stillson, he survives (albeit riddled with bullet holes). While Johnny recuperates in the hospital, the killer brutally murders Sarah in the parking garage. But SURPRISE! She wasn’t actually killed, it was just a Johnny vision.

With this knowledge in hand Johnny’s father then heads to the garage and just before Sarah is murdered, Herb (the father) beats up the killer with Johnny’s cane.

The end.
Now – how pissed would YOU have been if they had actually changed the ended this way?

Day 438: Mar 14, 2023

The Kingcast watches the movie The Dead Zone and provides commentary along the way. I’m aiming to get through the first half of this today.

More than one podcast pointed out the “Hot Buttered Cheerios” recipe suggestion on the back of the box.

But nobody thought to mention the open bottles of beer on the breakfast table? Is that considered a normal breakfast-time drink?

Jordan Hoffman, the guest on this The Kingcast episode, observed that there was not a SINGLE BLACK ACTOR to be found anywhere in The Dead Zone. Not as a supporting actor. Not even as an extra somewhere.

Is this true? At first glance, he appears to be correct.

Day 439: Mar 15, 2023

Listening to the second half of The Kingcast’s commentary track to the movie The Dead Zone.

Day 440: Mar 16, 2023

I complete my step involving the Cronenberg adaptation of The Dead Zone. Tomorrow, I get to start on the TV series!

But for now, the last word (for now) goes to the Kingslingers!

“Cronenberg really stuffs this movie with religious imagery.”

Really? As someone who grew up Catholic and went through 12 years of parochial school, I feel like I’m rather in tune with religious allegory. I really didn’t see any of that throughout this film. The book, sure! You’ve got the whole subplot with Johnny’s mother.

But the movie? Just didn’t see it.

At last, I encounter a podcast that courageously points out the absolutely horrid haircut that Christopher Walken opens the movie with!

Day 515: May 30, 2023

***circling back***

Listening to Two Guys to the Dark Tower Came discuss The Dead Zone movie.

Day 516: May 31, 2023

***circling back***

The Kingcast held a live screening of The Dead Zone and then had a discussion right afterwards with David Farrier.

Day 518: Jun 2, 2023

***circling back***

The Kingcast (yet again) has on a guest who wants to review the Cronenberg “The Dead Zone” adaptation.

Day 574: Jul 28, 2023

***circling back***

My last item for today, and before I begin reading Cujo tomorrow, is to read from “Creepshows: The Illustrated Stephen King Movie Guide” about The Dead Zone movie from 1983.

I didn’t realize how many different directors were once attached to produce or direct The Dead Zone before David Cronenberg.

We could have had John Peters (The Eyes of Laura Mars). Sydney Pollack (Tootsie), Michael Cimino (The Dear Hunter) and Stanley Donen (Singin’ in the Rain).

What could’ve been!

I’m surprised I hadn’t heard this tidbit before:

“…years later, the wide of ‘renowned’ psychic Peter Hurkos claimed that her long dead husband was responsible for Stephen King being hit by a minivan in 1999, because he had ‘stolen’ Hurkos’ life story for his novel”

I did mention Hurkos back when I read the novel, but didn’t realize he tried to kill King from the afterlife!

Day 709: Dec 10, 2023

***circling back***

Moving on to the next book in this “circling back” endeavor with Tower Junkies and their exploration of The Dead Zone.

Day 710: Dec 11, 2023

***circling back***

Just King Things opens up their episode of The Dead Zone with a little SNL-type sketch that was quite humorous.


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