Fiona and I love this time of year. Here’s one of the most autumnal things I know, Wayne Fitzgerald’s credits for Cronenberg’s THE DEAD ZONE with haunting music by the late Michael Kamen.
Lovely stuff. The film itself is perhaps a little overstuffed, with guest stars in every role, and it has a dash of soap opera to it, but it’s the first film Cronenberg made after VIDEODROME…
VIDEODROME, unlike its predecessors, had a really strong leading man, and marked the first time Cronenberg’s horror shifted from the biological to the psychic/psychological (SCANNERS is on the cusp, but lacks a strong lead), and the first time subjective experience became central to his storytelling. As he explains it, VIDEODROME departs from consensus reality part-way through, as James Woods gets infected by the pornographic video signal.
THE DEAD ZONE doesn’t play unreliable narrator games, but it takes us along out of normal society along with its protagonist (early Cronenbergs followed a redundant genre stereotype by positioning some useless embodiment of normality in the centre, though they were ALWAYS shoved out of the spotlight by the person with the penile armpit growth or the external womb). A very particular kind of Cronenberg lead is established with Christopher Walken — actors who play villains in other films often play heroes for this director. Walken is pretty weird and uncomfortable as Johnny Smith in the opening scenes, but fortunately he soon sinks into a coma and comes out of it five years later as the Walken we know and love.
If you’re watching it for Halloween, which I recommend, check out Walken’s reaction to the news that his psychic powers are going to kill him. He GRINS.
Walken evinces a similar unexpected response in A VIEW TO A KILL just as he realizes he’s about to fall from a helicopter to his doom. In both cases, it’s like he’s spotted the Grim Reaper looking at him and can’t help mirroring its smile.