Stephen King 5-Film Collection: The Dead Zone (Blu-ray Review)

Starting my coverage of the Stephen King 5-Film Collection, I knew immediately I wanted to begin with The Dead Zone. There were a few reasons for my choices – 1983, because it’s a great era for thrillers; Christopher Walken in a starring role, because I’ve rarely seen it; David Cronenberg, because people always talk about him and admittedly, I’ve never seen a film of his.  As I delve in-depth to the collection, you’ll see updates from each film. Be sure to click the paid Amazon link at the end to grab yourself a copy of this 5-Film set!


In Castle Rock, New Hampshire, Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) has it all —  A rewarding job, a loving fiancé (Brooke Adams) and a promising future ahead of him. One night, Johnny is driving in a heavy rain when he collides with an overturned milk truck.  The accident puts Johnny in a coma. The coma lasts for 5 years and upon waking, Johnny discovers he has psychic powers.  Seeing what he does he is able to save people from accidents or death.

Though Johnny seems to use his power for good, his power is also a source of great stress. First, his doctor (Herbert Lom) is in disbelief of his gift.  Next, when he has finally proven himself, Johnny is asked by Sheriff Bannerman (Tom Skeritt) to help solve a series of murders.  With the stresses, Johnny even has to move away. The final straw, and most sinister, he encounters Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen) a third-party politician who is far more than he seems.  The final straw of course brings Johnny into the territory of a madman.

I tried above to give away as little as possible as I could of this film.  I went into the movie blindly and I was pretty much blown away.  The story set up is simple and that’s a comfort.  There is no convolution here.  The film is a work of horror fantasy but told with such a straightforward believable arc from Cronenberg that you’re sucked in immediately.

There is a comfort to the film, despite the subject matter too.  Walken’s aching performance is one of his best. Supporting Walken are the sensitive Brooke Adams, The quiet Tom Skerritt, and the Herbert Lom’s dedicated doctor.  Martin Sheen revisits shades of his characted Willard from Apocalypse Now as he becomes more and more unhinged as the film barrels forward.  That’s another plus —  The film gets going right away and hardly stops. The movie is never at a lull, and we are all the lucky recipients for some timeless storytelling.  Jeffrey Boam is the screenwriter and I believe his touch has the next biggest influence on how things are transferred to the screen. The music by Michael Kamen is another highlight, in one of his earliest scores.


  • Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Layers: BD-50
  • Clarity/Detail: The Dead Zone makes it’s US Debut on Blu-ray in this set. While my research showed Blu-ray editions in Australia and Spain, this set is the way to get it easily in the US.  I am not sure if Paramount went and did a remaster or sourced from one of those previously released discs. Regardless, the presentation is a quite nice for an 80’s catalog title.  The film opens with a grainy Paramount logo but opens up to a gorgeous filmic looking image.  There is no loss of detail or softness that often accompanies an old master for a film such as this.  The image retains a lot of great sharpness and interiors and exteriors look lovely throughout!
  • Depth: While not one for a 3D pop, the transfer carries a lot of weight depth wise, just showing out foreground and background textures and leaving everything in the depth of field category looking fantastic.
  • Black Levels: Blacks are nice and even, not looking like a film of this vintage. There is no crush and there aren’t any instances of greying to any black levels at all.
  • Color Reproduction: Colors look solid throughout. The look of Castle Rock and other locales often look wintery and cold, so the palette of the film is almost always firmly in the cool zone – no pun intended.
  • Noise/Artifacts: The transfer for The Dead Zone features a fine grain layer that adds to details in the picture quality.


  • Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Dynamics: Dynamically speaking The Dead Zone sounds great for an older film. While noticeably front heavy, music is a driving force of the film filling the sound stage with just the right amount of oomph! Sound effects are of their time adding a vintage quality to the sound design.
  • Height: N/A
  • Low Frequency Extension: As mentioned above, Michael Kamen’s haunting score comes alive in the subwoofer from time to time, adding some depth to the more dialogue driven film. The explosion heard early on also adds a bass moment to the fold.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: Surrounds play mostly to outdoor ambience and crowd scenes involving bands or loud groups. Other than that the mix remains true to its Dolby Stereo roots.
  • Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is the first and foremost of the mix and sounds great throughout.


There are no extras to be found on this US edition of The Dead Zone only leading me to believe that Scream Factory has something in the works for a more feature packed release hopefully in the near future… Not so subtle hint there Scream Factory!


What an incredible film The Dead Zone turned out to be.  The film balances the darker side with some sensitive drama and mixes the supernatural with the everyday for a very carismatic, down-to-earth thriller.   Everyone involved deserves a fair amount of credit and I personally was very pleased with this film.  An excellent entry into Stephen King’s film legacy, The Dead Zone is a must for supernatural thriller fans, and probably the most rewarding film in the 5-Film Collection!


**This is a paid Amazon link**

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