1983 - 103m.
For some reason, when I think of Stephen King adaptations, this one always slips under my radar. Perhaps it is because when I was younger and first saw this flick, it did not deliver the hyperbolic horrors that were featured in Creepshow, Maximum Overdrive, and others from the 80's era. Instead, this is an intelligent thriller that does not have any big set pieces and is more of a supernatural drama than a popcorn flick. My eyes lit up when I saw David Cronenberg's name during the opening credits as I completely forgot that he directed this between Videodrome and The Fly. It is strange how some movies can exist on such a quiet level while others in the genre take all the glory. What is neat about the experience is that watching this as an adult is like watching it for the first time because aside from a grim scene involving a pair of scissors, I remembered nothing.
Christopher Walken stars as Johnny Smith, a teacher who goes into a coma after getting into a car accident with a rig. Five years later, he wakes up to find that his girl has remarried and he has a psychic ability which allows him to see events in the past, present, and future. These visions occur when Johnny makes physical contact with someone. This gift wreaks havoc in Johnny's life as people see him as a fortune teller and come to him for guidance and hope. Eventually, Johnny becomes a recluse as he does not feel safe but his conscience begins to take over when he realizes that he can use his power to do some good in the world. This includes working with the police to help track a serial killer. Johnny's actions lead to questions of morality as he begins to understand his power and his ability to not only see the future but to have the ability to change it.
The ethical questions that this film poses have been seen in a number of movies including Back to the Future and The Butterfly Effect. The main dilemma is that if we have knowledge of something that is going to happen and have the ability to prevent it, it is our obligation to do so? Material like this is complex and Cronenberg is certainly a name that comes to mind as someone who can handle these types of questions. The choice of Walken to play Johnny is perfect casting as I do not think there is anyone else who could play this role and bring both intense yearning for the past and understanding of the present together in a character. In a way that only Walken can do it, we feel the frustration that the character is faced with as he becomes more familiar with his power and the effects it has on his life.
The tone of this flick is what makes it a horror movie. Throughout the plot, there seems to be an unrelenting bleakness for Johnny. Even when he experiences a few moments of happiness, they are short-lived and he is reminded very quickly that the good feelings are fleeting. Watching the way he deals with his chronic limp reminds us that Johnny will always have pain and discomfort in his life no matter how much he tries to escape it. There is a creepy air to everything almost like there is a ghost in the room as you are watching. It is unsettling in that nothing ever seems right and Johnny is trapped in a world that is constantly shattered by visions that he must endure when he connects with people. The great supporting cast includes Brooke Adams (Shock Waves) as his former girl, Herbert Lom (Mark of the Devil) as his doctor, Martin Sheen as a shifty politician, and Tom Skerritt (Alien) as a sheriff. (Josh Pasnak, 8/6/10)
Directed By: David Cronenberg.
Written By: Jeffrey Boam.
Starring: Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerritt, Martin Sheen.