The Dead Zone – Blu-ray Review

Available as part of:Amazon Commissions Earned

Film Title: The Dead Zone (1983)
Release Date: 2020
Rating: R
Runtime: 103 minutes
Region Coding: Region Free
Distributor: Paramount
Audio Formats: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Version Reviewed: Blu-ray Disc
Blu-ray Release Date: 9/15/20
Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Christopher WalkenBrooke AdamsTom Skerritt, Herbert Lom, Anthony Zerbe, Nicholas Campbell, Martin Sheen

Jump to Sections:
| Video | Audio | Bonus | Closing | Screenshots
Full Blu-ray Tech Specs at bottom

click to view a 1080p Blu-ray Screenshot

The Movie

“The Dead Zone” was a 1983 film adaptation of the 1979 novel (of the same title) written by Stephen King. The film was directed by David Cronenberg. Cronenberg is best known for directing films such as “Shivers” (1975), “The Brood” (1979), “Scanners” (1981), “Videodrome” (1983), the remake of “The Fly” (1986), “Naked Lunch” (1991), “Crash” (1996), “A History of Violence” (2005), and “Eastern Promises” (2007).

The screenplay adaptation of the Stephen King novel was done by Jeffrey Boam. Boam is best known for writing or co-writing screenplays to some very well-known films like “The Lost Boys” (1987), “Inner Space” (1987), “Funny Farm” (1988), “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989), “Lethal Weapon 2” (1989), “Lethal Weapon 3” (1992), and “The Phantom” (1996).

It is most certainly worth mentioning that this film was produced by the late Deborah Hill, best known for her work on other films such modern classics as “Halloween” (1978), “The Fog” (1980), “Escape from New York” (1981), “Clue” (1985), and “The Fisher King” (1991). The film was also executive produced by the late Dino De Laurentiis, best known for also producing such memorable films as “Flash Gordon” (1980), “Dune” (1984), “Silver Bullet” (1985), “Blue Velvet” (1986), and “Army of Darkness” (1992). It’s safe to say that a lot of talented people worked on the film adaptation of this Stephen King novel.

The story of The Dead Zone involves a protagonist named “Johnny Smith” (Christopher Walken), who when we first meet him is a school teacher. Johnny also has a girlfriend “Sarah” (Brooke Adams), also a teacher, when we first meet him. The two go on a rollercoaster ride, literally, one day after school when something just feels odd to Johnny. In his white little Volkswagen Bug, he goes on about his way, dropping Sarah off at her house. The young couple embraces and kiss, and Johnny says to Sarah that he plans to marry her someday. It’s just that he doesn’t feel comfortable spending the night — despite it raining horribly. The two say their goodbyes, she reminds him to drive safely, and Johnny drives off on his way. It’s only a matter of time before he ends up in a very unusual traffic accident with a large tractor and trailer.

As a result of his accident, Johnny ends up in the hospital and immediately his girlfriend Sarah comes to his side, crying and promising him (as he lay unconscious) that everything is going to be okay. Eventually, five years pass as Johnny lies in a coma until one day when he awakes. He’s as upset, as anyone would be, to realize that five years of his life have been lost and things have changed. Johnny also starts to realize that he has a newfound ability, when making hand-to-hand contact with a nurse, to be able to see past, present, and future events that have or will occur involving death — henceforth the title The Dead Zone. Some may call this “second sight” or a type of psychic ability of sorts, but it’s quite different than that. With this newfound ability and the fact he’s spent the extended amount of time in a coma, it’s a tad bit much to all deal with at once.

Luckily, for Johnny, he has a great doctor taking care of him named “Dr. Sam Weizak” (Herbert Lom) who helps him try to make the most sense of out all of the new things going on in his life. He will have to deal with the local press finding out and questioning him about his newfound abilities and even have the local Castle Rock police ask for his help in a case.

Later on, Johnny will really try to avoid this life and attention but it just continues to follow him, no matter where he goes. He will eventually cross paths with a man that is destined to do some very, very bad things when he is given the highest office in the land: President of the United States. That man is an aspiring politician named “Greg Stillson” (Martin Sheen), and Johnny will have to decide if he should do the right thing and attempt to prevent this man from doing what he has seen.

The Dead Zone is one very intense story and involves some very difficult moral choices, that could offend certain people. I, personally, find this film to be one of the more underrated Stephen King film adaptations out there and it comes with an excellent performance from Christopher Walken.

Movie Rating: 4.75 (out of 5)

click to view a 1080p Blu-ray Screenshot

Video Quality

“The Dead Zone on its debut to Blu-ray is presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio — despite being originally shown during its 1983 theatrical run in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, according to IMDb.

The film starts up exhibiting a decent amount of film grain right after the Paramount logo. It looks clean on the title sequence with sharp text and a very slight bit of movement. It’s not at all bothersome, just something I noticed. There are some occasional imperfections left on the film print such as hair, scratches, and dirt but it’s pretty minimal. The amount of film grain here proves to be pretty impressive, with a somewhat decent amount of detail found behind it. It has a few issues and isn’t perfect, but it’s a solid HD presentation that comes as an undeniably upgrade to the original (2000) DVD. The colors can be pretty vibrant at times, the flesh tones appear accurate, and the HD presentation comes with a solid black level.

Now, let me get technical for a bit here in regard to the Blu-ray itself here. This is using a BD-25 (25 gigabytes) disc, with 22.10 gigabytes total used, and 21.2 gigabytes for the film itself. That really doesn’t impress me much: at least, as much as it might have around 2007. I can’t help but be honest there, from a tech standpoint, set in 2020, where hindsight sadly hasn’t been too kind to discs at the half capacity (BD-25) of that we have come to expect (of a BD-50). This presentation found here seems to be a previous 2K scan of the film, however, it still proves to be an obvious upgrade in 1080p HD (high definition) when compared to the previous DVD in 480i/p SD (standard definition).

Overall, it’s a pretty decent Blu-ray debut for this film, worthy of a solid 4 rating for video quality. I think it’s pretty obvious that the movie itself is in need of a new scan and/or restoration next time around when it gets a standalone Blu-ray or 4K UHD Blu-ray release. It feels this movie could look a considerable bit better than it does here, next time around. For now, though, this will surely do and it leaves fans of the film (like myself) who owned the DVD happy with the upgrade.

Video Quality Rating: 4 (out of 5)

click to view a 1080p Blu-ray Screenshot

Audio Quality

Audio here on the Blu-ray debut of “The Dead Zone” comes in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround. The 2000 DVD of this film featured a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix, so it’s nothing new for this film to get 5.1 treatment, however, it is the first time it has received a lossless surround mix. There’s also a French Mono mix in Dolby Digital. I don’t usually mention other language tracks unless it’s a foreign film but that’s the only other language included, aside from English. According to IMDb, this film originally was released theatrically with a Dolby Stereo mix.

This has a decent amount of bass presence, via the subwoofer at times, and a light but effective use of the rear channels — mostly for the film’s sound effects and some music. Dialogue is delivered spot-on from the center channel here and no volume adjustments were needed throughout my viewing experience. It’s a solid 5.1 lossless mix and has a few moments that are somewhat impressive, despite only being from a 2.0 stereo source. One scene early on that proved to make use of the rear channels effective involves a rollercoaster ride and you’ll feel the sound effects panning from the front (left & right) channels towards to rear (left & right) channels.

It’s a pretty nice 5.1 surround sound mix, and it has its moments. The film’s beautiful original musical score, composed by Michael Kamen, gets a nice amount of rear channel presence but is admittedly front-driven for the most part in this mix. All and all, The Dead Zone on Blu-ray in its lossless 5.1 surround sound mix is enough to earn it a pretty impressive 4.25 rating for audio quality.

Audio Quality Rating: 4.25 (out of 5)

click to view a 1080p Blu-ray Screenshot

Bonus Materials

No bonus materials are included on this Blu-ray Disc debut of the film. Literally, there is nothing here in terms of extras. I’ll get to ranting about that, don’t worry, further below.

Bonus Materials Rating: 0 (out of 5)

click to view a 1080p Blu-ray Screenshot

Closing Thoughts

“The Dead Zone” was a great David Cronenberg film and adaptation of a Stephen King novel, equally as much. It also delivered one amazing performance from the always impressive Christopher Walken in one very memorable role, as Johnny Smith. The antagonist played brilliantly here by Martin Sheen, proves to disgust you, and reminds me very much of what’s wrong with the world right now. I’ll leave it at that, to avoid getting into politics, as he should have. Let’s just say that this film is a bit much to take, so be prepared. But, then again so is real life. A bit much to take at times, that is, here lately especially. We could all use a little bit of escapism right now and this film proves that.

The video transfer here, in the film’s debut to the Blu-ray Disc format, proves to certainly be a little rough at times, undeniably. Still, I can’t help but remind you that the film didn’t receive a restoration or new scan, that I’m aware of it. It’s pretty soft in terms of detail, for the most part, but it does undeniably prove to be an upgrade over the previous (2000) DVD release that I still own to this very day. Overall, the video quality is what I’d call pretty good, for the most part, but could certainly use a new scan or perhaps restoration effort next time around, perhaps for a standalone release. The Dead Zone earns a solid 4 rating for video quality.

The audio mix here is delivered in a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix and comes as a definite improvement over the previous Dolby Digital 5.1 found on the original (2000) DVD release of the film. It’s a solid mix, that manages to do the film a bit more justice than the visual presentation, I have to say with all due respect. It actually earns a somewhat impressive 4.25 rating for audio quality.

Finally, last and certainly least here, the bonus materials for The Dead Zone were D.O.A. (dead on arrival) it seems. That honestly doesn’t come up as a surprise, as the film’s director (David Cronenberg) likely didn’t want to contribute anything new to the release unless it was for a bigger stand-alone release and restorative effort. And, of course, it’s sad to say but the film’s lead actor (Christopher Walken) is getting older in age and probably didn’t really want to take the time to look back on this film. I can’t blame him, at this point in his career, as he’s accomplished so much — just as with Cronenberg, and the author of the story (Stephen King). I don’t think any of these three men would probably ever do any extras for this, nor would Martin Sheen probably. In all reality. I’ve actually given you more here than the non-existent extras themselves do, and that should tell you that it sadly earns a 0 rating for bonus material. Sorry.

Now, the real question to a lot of you, I’m sure, happens to be is “The Stephen King 5-Movie Collection” Blu-ray set really worth buying? Well, that depends on one thing majorly: How big of a fan are you of “The Dead Zone” (1983) [this film]? Because, in all due honesty, that’s all that is exclusive to this release, is the Blu-ray debut of it. Most King fans likely owned a few of these films previously on the format, sure, but it’s justifiably worth making the purchase to get even more Stephen King films or TV mini-series adaptations in the process. Just this film [The Dead Zone] and “The Stand” (1994 TV mini-series) are worth the price that the set sells for, in my own honest opinion — if you don’t already own the latter. Hell, if you do, buy another copy of it to have when shit hits the fan.

In terms of Blu-ray release, this gets:
4 (out of 5) for video quality
4.25 (out of 5) for audio quality
0 (out of 5) for bonus materials

Overall Verdict:
Great Film / Solid Presentation

Available as part of:

2020 Stephen King 5-Movie Collection Blu-ray set

Blu-ray Disc Screenshots:


Blu-ray Technical Specifications:

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Exact Runtime: 1:43:42
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (with a DTS 5.1 core), Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: English, French
Disc Size: BD-25
Disc Use: 22.10GB total / 21.2GB for the film