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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Dead Zone
The Dead Zone
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // November 5, 2002
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Phillip Duncan | posted April 25, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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One of Stephen King's first novels and one of the first to be adapted into a mildly successful film, The Dead Zone seemed as likely for the basis for a television show as Christine did. Imagine the surprise of critics, fans and likely the USA Network when the show proved to be a well-crafted and interesting series that became one of the more popular shows on cable. Filmed with the now standard 13-episode arc that most cable shows have, the first DVD of the Dead Zone is the first 2 episodes that were edited together to form a movie.

Similar to the film (and of course the book), Johnny Smith (Anthony Michael Hall) is injured in an accident and enters a coma. When he awakens 6 years later, he finds he can see things. It's an ability that's not new to him, but one that has manifested predominantly since the accident.

The doctors tell him he can now access a part of his brain that most people never use, a dead zone. It allows him glimpses of the future and past of those that he comes into physical contact with. In the 6 years that he "was away," things have changed significantly in Johnny's life.

His wife has remarried the local sheriff and they have adopted the child she had with Johnny. His mother passed away after he slipped into a coma and left her fortune to the Reverend Purdy (David Ogden Stiers). These all serve as obstacles as Johnny struggles to come to grips with what he has become.

A few quick fixes allow him to see what's possible with his newfound abilities as he reunites a Dr. with a mother long thought dead and he also saves a little girl from a fire. Things become slightly more difficult in the second hour when Johnny has a disturbing vision that a nurse at his physical therapy center will become the next victim of a local serial killer, the Bangor Strangler.

In an attempt to stop this before it happens, Johnny is forced to reluctantly team with his former wife's new husband, Sheriff Walt Bannerman. Wanting to believe Johnny, Walt lets him touch a piece of evidence that gives Johnny more than he bargained for in the process.

Since the film is actually the first two episodes of the series, there really no wrap-up or conclusion to anything other than the serial killer plot that was introduced. No real questions are answered and it leaves the viewer wanting more. Hopefully a full season box set will follow.

There are many things to like about the show. Anthony Michael Hall (of Sixteen Candles and Weird Science fame) does an amazing job as Johnny Smith. As it's written in the series, it's a role many actors would love to have as it let's Hall act out any of numerous roles as he's experiencing something through another's eyes.

Likewise, the show is never boring and it uses the idea of Johnny's power to the fullest. Rather than a simple vocal explanation or visual flashback, striking visual effects and camera angels are used to present the rush of a vision as they come flooding into Johnny.

Great acting and visuals combine with the interesting story, one that has enough mystery to keep viewers tuning in week after week. This is one of the highest rated original shows on cable and from this initial 2-hour effort; it's easy to see why.

Video: For a 4:3 television transfer, the video is nice and crisp. The blacks are strong, but not over saturated and overall brightness is good. Some of these spooky-type television shows seem to go low on the light, making actually watching the show an ordeal at times.

Audio: The audio has been increased to a Dolby 5.1 mix. It's slightly unnecessary, as there's wasn't much original information to move to the surrounds, but it's still done nicely and doesn't seem wasted. Stereo audio is also available for any purists who want to preserve the TV experience.

Extras: The disc has a few nice extras, the best of which is the commentary. Series creator/producer Michael Piller, director Robert Liberman, stars Anthony Michael Hall, Nicole de Boer and Chris Bruno all share commentary duty and provide a constant stream of intelligent and interesting comments. Piller discusses the ins and outs of the TV series as well as the problems in translating the idea to episodic television.

Mr. Piller has a short interview about what's coming in Season 2. Also included is an alternate ending, that's not as strong as the chosen one. Short behind-the-scenes promos and trailers are included, as well as a few Easter Egg features.

Overall: Lions Gate has done a great job with this disc and one can only hope the full season set will get the same treatment. The Dead Zone is a great show that has a perfect mix of all the elements needed to make a successful show.

Easter Eggs:
Trailers:
At the main menu, navigate to the lower right corner of the screen, highlighting the almost invisible Lions Gate logo. Press Enter to watch trailers for "Rose Red," "Storm of the Century," and "The Dead Zone."
Credits:
At the Special Features menu, this time navigate to the lower left corner of the screen, highlighting the Lions Gate logo. Press Enter for DVD credits.

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