The Dead Zone

The Dead Zone
October 10, 2011 Constant Readers

Johnny Smith is in love with a girl, and she is probably totally going to bang him after the GENERIC SUBURBAN FALL CARNIVAL. Since he likes to push his luck, jokester that he is, he scares the hell out of the Girl Who Will Probably Totally Bang Him with a creepy mask. ALL IS FORGIVEN, SO THEY GO TO THE CARNIVAL. They have high hopes for the carnival! They are unaware that they exist in a Stephen King novel, where no carnival can ever be a good thing. No sir, this isn’t going to end well.

Tilt-A-World
Andrea: OKAY SO. Carnivals/fairs are inherently seedy/creepy, so kudos to Stephen King for setting the beginning part there.
Pat: It’s not really the beginning though. It takes like 75 pages to even get out of the carnival. And it’s mostly back-story and Jekyll and Hyde masks.
OMG MASKS ARE SYMBOLIC!?
Andrea: I thought he did a really good job of setting up the John/Sarah relationship, but yeah, the Jekyll and Hyde thing was a little heavy handed.
Pat: Sorry, did you mean John/Sarah or Ben/Susan?
Andrea: John/Sarah
Pat: Could’ve fooled me.
Andrea: That is why I didn’t know if I read this book! I kept confusing it with Salem’s Lot.
Pat: We will see Sarah/Susan again in Christine.
Andrea: Yeah it is SK’s good sensible smart and hot but in a wholesome way archetype
Andrea: Also, I think when the political stuff started I got bored and quit reading. How about the Stillman (?) foreshadowing?
OMG HE KILLED A DOG NOW HE IS GONNA RUIN THE WORLD
Is SK just generally commenting on THE NATURE OF EVIL?
Pat: That wasn’t Stillman, though, was it?
Andrea: I think so?
Pat: Well, here’s the thing: he doesn’t bother mentioning that the dog-kicking girl-raper ISN’T Stillman.
Stillson.
Andrea: So it isn’t?
Pat: I don’t think the dog-kicker is Stillson.
Andrea: So who do you think it is?
Pat: It’s the rapist, you lunatic.
Andrea: Oh, right
Pat: Or it’s Stillson, I don’t know.
Look it UP.
Andrea: OMG. I will when I get home.

Andrea: ANYWAYS. So Johnny gets in that car accident and it reactivates his frontal lobe ice skating injury or whatevs.
Pat: Well, here’s what I don’t get. Why didn’t he just stay over at Sarah’s? I mean, she had food poisoning, that’s a legit reason to stay.
Andrea: I know. Because then there wouldn’t be a story, and Sarah wouldn’t have been able to think “if only he just stayed over.”
Pat: I know, but stories predicated on UNLIKELY HAPPENSTANCE are annoying. He just leaves her to burst at both ends.
Andrea: It seems like sex was a bigger deal back then maybe? They hadn’t done it yet and she didn’t want him to see her all barfy.
Pat: I thought the whole burgeoning relationship thing was pretty good. SK is good at that shit.
Granted, it’s always the same thing.
Andrea: Agreed. It made me want to go on a date with Johnny! Even though he seemed really boring!
Pat: I really, really like the banter between them. Johnny trying to convince her people die of subdural hematoma or whatnot on Tilt-A-Whirls, and her giving it back to him later on the Ferris Wheel (?).
“Still sniffin’ that wicked cocaine?”
Andrea: Yeah, that was really good but also seemed kind of dated which I guess makes sense, since the book is older than we are.
Pat: Let’s discuss this fucking accident. Because, come on.
Andrea: I can tell you have beef with the accident, so just tell me what is your beef?
Pat: Do we really need the whole This Is Why They Crash Because This Dude Has OPINIONS About Commie Pinko Kids?
How the fuck did his knee hit the meter? Was he sitting in the passenger seat? HOW ARE THERE CAR SERVICES IN SMALL TOWN VERMONTSHIRE?
Andrea: There is a lot of that in this book. SK HAD LONG HAIR AND HE WAS OPPRESSED. AND LIKED COCAINE.
Pat: It’s just like he needed the kid to get into a car accident, but he made us watch him draw the car beforehand.
Andrea: How would you have preferred it went?
Pat: You skip the fucking car wreck, although you lose the “I’m so happy! HOPE I DON’T GET INTO A NEAR FATAL CAR CRASH AND END UP DESTINED TO KILL THE FUTURE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES WHO WILL BRING ARMAGEDDON TO BEAR!”
Andrea: lol
Pat: Go straight to the father, Herb, receiving the phone call, which is stronger than the car crash.
Andrea: That was awesome! “SHUT UP VERA!”
Pat: Both dropping Sarah off and leaving AND the call to the parents are way more moving and effective than the car crash itself.
The car crash adds nothing. Except that it’s car crashedy.
Andrea: It is ACTION ADVENTURE EXCITEMENT DAMN HIPPIES

Hope You Had On Clean Underpants
Andrea: Okay so now can we talk about the waiting room hospital scene?
Pat: I GUESS, OKAY.
You’re going to bring up dirty pillows at some point.
Andrea: Nah. So, Herb is a stand up awesome guy.
And he likes Sarah. Although their letter writing and visits through the years did not really ring true to me Maybe because now they would just Facebook each other.
OH OUR SOLELESS MODERN WORLD.
Pat: SOLELESS?
He is, although I didn’t get the thing with his topcoat later, after the coma.
Andrea: What was the topcoat thing? The modern world is devoid of shoes?
Pat: He’s looking for something in the coat closet at dinner with his dad, and he feels his topcoat and gets a flash of a man who is very quickly going insane. But then he doesn’t go insane, he starts poking that girl whose house he’s fixin’.
Andrea: Oh, right. Wait, it is not the dad that goes insane. He is feeling someone’s random coat in a coat closet when he is hanging his dad’s coat!
Cause then he is looking around the restaurant wondering who it could be.
Pat: I thought it was his dad’s.
Andrea: NOPE.
That is a me-level oversight, Hipp.
Pat: Suck all the dicks, bitchhead.
Andrea: omg

While You Were Sleeping And Gaining Uncanny Psychic Powers
Pat: So blah blah blah, he’s in a coma for years
Andrea: In a twist worthy of Castaway, Sarah is married, of course. Not only married, but married to a super-successful guy who is not quite right for her because he is not her ONE TRUE LOVE.
Pat: I guess she couldn’t think of a reason not to marry the other guy?
Andrea: Right. And she thinks that is just what you do. Actually, it is just what you do.
Pat: Meanwhile, a guy is raping and killing girls of all ages in Ridgeway, and we’re meant to think it’s Greg Stillson. Meanwhile, Greg Stillson is apparently a police officer and then an alderman or comptroller or some such shit, then mayor.
Andrea: But it is actually Frank Dodd whose spirit (maybe?) inhabits Cujo later?
Or at the very least, who hangs out in Todd’s closet
Pat: Todd? Dodd? That’s odd.
Andrea: Snort
No one outside the 80s is named Todd. True story.
WAIT! His name is Tad, which is even more 80s.
Pat: God.
Andrea: When Tads and Todds hit 1989, their names all changed to Shawn or something.
Pat: Godd.

Pat: I was figuring that Sarah’s husband would factor into the political ascension of Stillson. No such luck. Just a bunch of banging on haybales.
Andrea: Yeah, I thought that was weird. Why did they make him a politician if he wasn’t going to play into that storyline?
Pat: More red herrings.
Andrea: A lot of red herrings in a 350 page book.

Andrea: What did you think about the whole Stillson rehabilitating the Hell’s Angels thing? I like that he brought up Altamont.
Pat: It was fine. I just didn’t get why he would do that. Loyal cronies?
Andrea: Muscle?
Pat: But why motorcycle guys?
Andrea: They are all hotties like on Sons of Anarchy?
Pat: whatever

Awakenings That Don’t Star Robert De Niro
Andrea: So. Coma coma coma AWAKE
Pat: Snoozefest. Takes too long.
Andrea: Do you buy the psychicness, as in the way it’s handled?
Pat: Yeah, why not? He returns from the dead.
Andrea: Right. And he is totally psychic and whatnot. His thing has been amplified times a million.
Pat: Well, he always had a thing. Are we basically to believe that it was caused by brain damage? Or trauma?
Andrea: Yes, I think that is what we are led to believe.
I appreciate that SK doesn’t get too sciency about it all
Pat: NOT TOO SCIENCY? WEZIAK EXPLAINS THE WHOLE THING. At the press conference.
Which, by the way. Whatever.
Andrea: I kind of liked that. Especially when he finds out all that stuff about the candidate’s sister.
Pat: The reporter?
Andrea: Yeah, the reporter.
Pat: It’s like you don’t have words anymore.
Andrea: I know!! What is my deal?
Pat: So he wakes up and they won’t tell him it’s the future.
LONGER THAN YOU THINK.
Andrea: right. But then they do, so I don’t know why they make a big deal.
Pat: He figures it out, doesn’t he?
I mean, dude is psychic.
Andrea: Right. But he isn’t the kind of psychic where he knows everything. Just some things.
Pat: Then he tells the lady her drapes are on fire.
Then his parents visit, and it is clear his mom is insane, but he totally just deals with it all suave like.
Andrea: Right. Cause he is Johnny Smith, Everyman Psychic TM
Pat: Was there anything about his reawakening you didn’t buy?
Andrea: I guess not really. They never explained why it happened, did they?
Pat: Weziak or whatever his name was said that the part affected was associated with touch, and so his body was perceiving things via touch in ways it wouldn’t normally.
Andrea: No, I mean why he woke up after five years
Pat: Four. Because his body was repairing itself the whole time, I think?
Andrea: Okay, so there was no magical mystical God reason.
Pat: Not that anyone said outright. I mean, Vera thought it was God’s doing.
Andrea: Well, right. And by the end John had pretty much decided that it was God’s purpose for him to avoid nuclear war.
Pat: Basically, though he didn’t specifically know what was going to happen.
Andrea: Why wouldn’t God just strike down Stillman though? So dumb.
Pat: Because that’s God’s game in most cultures. In this, he gives Johnny a choice. He’s giving good the chance to triumph over evil. Same as in The Stand.

16 & Pregnant & Crazy Batshit Religious
Pat: Is Vera the best religious loon King has come up with so far?
Andrea: Well, depends what our parameters are for best
Pat: The most craziest?
Andrea: No, Carrie’s mom was way crazier
Pat: She was NOT crazier.
Andrea: What with the AND EVE WAS WEAK/CURSE OF BLOOD/HE MADE ME DO THE BAD THING
Pat: Vera was helping pay for flying saucers and shit.
Andrea: I guess that Carrie’s mom was crazy in an abusive way while Vera was just crazy in a crazy way. Also, Vera’s crazy was more gradual.
Pat: It pretty much went over the cliff after Johnny Coma Latetly
Andrea: Snort
The characterization of the mother as a petulant child is right on. It transcends the religious mother portrayal in Carrie, I think.
Pat: Vera is pretty crazy batshit. If only he had thrown a few Scientology jokes in.
Andrea: He probably would have if it came out today.
Pat: So then Mama dies, too. And who cares?
Andrea: Well, that was important because Herb is able to get married and move on and not be doomed to a life with crazy Vera.
And maybe that is what allows Johnny to actually embrace his gift.

The Burden Of Being A Gifted Person In A Stephen King Novel
Andrea: Did you buy Johnny’s rejection and then slow acceptance of his “gift”?
Pat: Of course I did.
Andrea: For example, the way he decides to go to the bandstand and track down the killer after initially saying no.
Pat: I liked the conversation between Johnny and the police chief.
Andrea: Which one?
Pat: At the diner with the chili
Andrea: What was it about?
Pat: ABOUT TAKING THE STRANGLER CASE.
Andrea: OKAY SO WHAT DID YOU LIKE ABOUT IT
Pat: IT WAS GOOD OL’ FASHIONED POLICE CHITCHAT, OKAY?

Pat: I was completely convinced that the strangler had been Stillson. I think that was intentionally misdirection on King’s part.
Andrea: See, it didn’t even occur to me. But maybe it would have if we hadn’t talked about it before I read it
Pat: You just assumed there were three different storylines going?
Andrea: Yeah, because I already had Frank Dodd on the brain because of Cujo.
Pat: See, I didn’t remember that. At all.

Hayfucking: A Love Story
Andrea: What did you think about Sarah visiting him and throwing a bang his way?
Pat: I was concerned mostly that she left her son on the porch to go fuck in a hay loft.
Andrea: I would have at least put him inside the house.
Pat: It was a hay loft, right?
They fucked on hay? Twice?
Andrea: Yeah. I thought that was weird too.
Pat: The mind prickles at the thought.
Andrea: But I guess it wasn’t that big a deal back then?
Pat: What, banging on hay?
Andrea: No, letting your kid sleep on the porch.
Andrea: However, having gone on a hayride this weekend I will say that I do not want to bang on hay.
Pat: WHILE YOU’RE HAVING EXTRAMARITAL RELATIONS, THOUGH?
Andrea: Do you think she was justified though?
I mean, it seemed a little too clean to me.
Pat: I think she had to bang him, yes. I think banging was essential for them to put the past to rest.
Andrea: I don’t think it ever works that way in real life, though.
I think it would just exacerbate the feelings.
Pat: SORRY, IN REAL LIFE? YOU DON’T THINK BANGING YOUR PSYCHIC, FORMER COMA PATIENT EX-BOYFRIEND WHILE YOUR CHILD SLEEPS ON HIS PORCH AND YOU’RE GETTING POKED IN THE ASS WITH HAY EVER WORKS THAT WAY IN REAL LIFE?
Andrea: OMG
Obviously, I just meant the closure part of it.
Closure comes only with time
Pat: Yeah, but these are extraordinarily extreme circumstances.
Andrea: Banging would just extend the time they needed to heal.
Pat: His accident led directly to the boring-ass life she ended up leading. Fucks deserved all around.
Andrea: True.

Meanwhile, On The Hit NBC Comedies ‘Stillson Shmilson’ and ‘Tabloid News’
Andrea: When does he start seriously considering murdering dude?
Pat: After he meets him at the rally.
Andrea: Right, after he loses Sarah for real, he starts traveling around to the different rallies.
Pat: And he meets fucking everyone. Carter, etc.
Andrea: I thought that was kind of weird
Pat: What do you think, cheesy or not?
Andrea: The rallies? Or the fact that he is going to them?
Pat: That he’s running into people with established histories.
Andrea: Oh yeah, definitely cheesy.
It would be like if Cujo had bitten Ronald Reagan.
Pat: And then he meets Stillson and sees something way hazy.

Pat: Did we talk about the tabloid guy?
Andrea: No
Pat: That was fun. And it helps Johnny for a while because the guy’s after him, calling him a fake.
Andrea: Right. But it doesn’t stop people from sending him stuff.
Pat: Doesn’t it fall off a bit, though?
Andrea: I forget. Maybe?
Pat: YES.

In Which We Call A Place ‘Pooptown’
Pat: Then there’s the year Johnny lived in Pooptown.
Andrea: OH YES.
THE POOPTOWN YEARS.
LET US DISCUSS.
Pat: He runs away. Why does he run away? Well, I guess he doesn’t run away to the house with the kid and family
Andrea: Um, he gets tired of people sending him mail all the time. Right?
Johnny is kind of a pussy
Pat: He bolts because of losing the teaching gig and finds another gig.
Andrea: OH RIGHT. Do you think he would have lost the teaching gig in real life?
Pat: I don’t know, people were pretty creeped out.
Andrea: Yeah. But you’d think that would have made him a hero
Pat: SO he loses his job! Oh no! He answers an ad and becomes a live-in tutor! He changes a rich kid’s life!
Rich kid has trouble getting the respect and love of his rich father!
Rich kid has learning disabilities.
Andrea: Oh yeah. OH YEAH! That scene at the party when he realizes that the restaurant is gonna burn is pretty awesome actually.
Pat: I dig it. And I dig that he built up the relationship between the two so that it made sense that the kid would go, fuck it, we’ll do the party here!
Andrea: RIGHT
Pat: ALSO: it is awesome that some kids still go and die.
Andrea: Agreed.
Pat: ALSO: One of the mothers says he caused it, like in that book Carrie, thus negating my need to comment on it.
That is called “lampshade hanging.”
Andrea: There is ANOTHER SK short story in Just After Sunset that this scene reminded me a lot of.
It is basically a really short sketch of a graduation party that is interrupted by a gigantic mushroom cloud over New York City.
Stephen King trope: Teen Milestones + Disaster.
Pat: Stephen King trope: All Things Quotidien + Disaster And/Or Clowns.
Andrea: I don’t know what quotidien means?
Pat: EVERYDAY.
THE EVERYDAY BREAD
Andrea: GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD, BIATCH
Pat: So then Johnny runs away.
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: STEPHEN KING’S NARRATIVE-THROUGH-LETTERS TROPE.
Andrea: OH YEAH. I kind of liked that. I thought it was sweet that Chuck’s (?) dad sent him money.
Pat: I liked Chuck’s dad. He was an honorable dude.
Andrea: I think SK does the father/son stuff well, even though he doesn’t do it as often as the mother/daughter stuff.

Escape From The Planet Of The Pooptown
Pat: While Johnny is out touching wieners on the road crew, his dad is all HEY I’M GETTING MARRIED LOVE IS GRAND LOL?
Andrea: Oh yeah. And he is worried about telling Johnny but Johnny is fine with it. And then Sarah comes to the wedding right?
Pat: Does she? Does HE?
Andrea: JUST HER I THINK.
He is pretty much a nonentity, which I appreciate. It would have been easy to make Sarah’s husband evil so you root for Johnny even more.
Pat: No, Johnny, not Sarah’s lameass husband.
Andrea: oh. Yeah, he goes.
Pat: I have no recollection of a wedding.
Andrea: It was like, a paragraph

Pat: Are we skipping his trip?
Pat: And how fucked he is?
Andrea: No. I am counting on you to stick with the chronological order.
Pat: HE IS FUCKED.
WE LEARN HE IS TRAVELING TOWARDS STILLSON.
KIDS ON BUSES COMMENT TO THEIR MOTHERS HOW FUCKED HE IS.
Pat: He has a foldable rifle thing!
Andrea: He is all skinny and pale and gross. Because maybe the psychic part of him knows he is TRAVELING TO HIS DOOM?
Pat: Well, no. He knows he is dying of Tumortown, USA
And he refused treatment.
Andrea: Well yes that too.

Character Assassination
Pat: It takes roughly a million years for Johnny to get to the rally. Typical King sandbagging.
Andrea: Yes.
Pat: SO, we skip ahead past the boring in-transit shit, he arrives at the place, he stakes it out.
He considers bailing, waiting for another rally.
Andrea: He gets into the town hall and hides out, even though a controversial presidential candidate is slated to visit. You would think they’d have better security.
Pat: He shows up early, door’s unlocked, he goes and waits in the gallery, where apparently it’s goddamn cold.
Stillson’s goons show up, and then one of them comes to search the gallery and offices! They do not find him!?
Andrea: No. They almost do but they turn around at the last second.
Pat: Dun DUN DUNNNNN
Andrea: And then he gets ready to assassinate
ASSassinate.
Pat: SPOILER ALERT: he sucks at assassination.
Why could he not see that?
Andrea: I don’t know. You would think he would have gone to a shooting range to practice or something?
He could have gone to the Wildwood boardwalk even
Pat: He seemed fine with aim, he just didn’t pump out three at once, which raises the question: how did he fire more than once without reloading? It was a rifle.
Andrea: I don’t know anything about guns.
Pat: I don’t remember if he said it had a magazine, which it could have. So whatever.
Andrea: You would think SK would do his research.

Pat: And then the blue veil is revealed!
Andrea: So what did you think of that character-revealing moment for Stillson? When he holds up the kid at the rally and everyone sees his true colors.
Pat: I think it’s fine?
Andrea: Thus ruining his political career even though Johnny didn’t kill him.
Pat: The nuclear holocaust will be averted by a baby shield. BABY SHIELD SAVES THE FUTURE.
Andrea: So, do you think that SK is trying to say that CRAZY RELIGIOUS MOM is right? Because Johnny does have a godly purpose?
Pat: I don’t know. I think it’s the usual thing of, look, humankind can do good or evil, but it’s always a choice.
I dunno about god.
Andrea: Right
Pat: I don’t think it really matters, in the end.
Andrea: But what about predestination? Is that what Johnny was meant for, or did it just happen to shake out that way?
Pat: I mean, it happened that way because things happened that way.
Andrea: Why would God or whoever not just strike Stillman down with a lightning bolt or a plague of locusts or something
Pat: It seems like a really, really problematic way to get someone to knock out a future mass murderer.
Andrea: Or have him strangle himself with the umbilical cord in utero like in The Butterfly Effect
Pat: So Johnny gets shot!
He tumbles from the gallery, all broken and shit!
He touches Stillson again? THE FUTURE HAS CHANGED.
THANKS, BABY SHIELD!
Thanks, kid with the camera that made Johnny nervous when he was casing the joint the day before!
Andrea: snort
Pat: So after all this, after making Johnny as sympathetic as possible, Stevie does what he loves to do, which is kill the people we like.
Andrea: Right. But I felt like there wasn’t really another way for it to end for Johnny. He lost his girl, his job, and he didn’t want to be a famous traveling psychic.

Post-Mortem
Pat: ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: LETTERS REVEAL THE UNTOLD PLOT TO FATHER AND EX-GIRLFRIEND. ALL ARE SAD. SARAH DRY HUMPS JOHNNY’S GRAVE. THE END.
Andrea: What did you think of the ending with Sarah visiting his grave?
Pat: I thought it was touching. In my no-no spot.
Andrea: I guess it was nice that they began and ended with Sarah, although nothing is that neat and tidy in real life.
See also: my thoughts on the hayfucking.
Pat: None of it seemed very tidy, really.
Hayfucking especially.
Andrea: I don’t want hay in my crack.
Pat: I don’t think hay, inanimate and mindless as it may be, wants to be in your crack. See also, why aren’t your buttcheeks closed during sex, in barns or otherwise?
DO NOT ANSWER THAT QUESTION
Andrea: DO YOU KNOW HOW SEX WORKS OMG
Pat: I AM NOT PSYCHIC.

Concordances & Adaptation
Andrea: OH totally forgot. SK rips himself off when he uses this “touching people’s objects and feeling their thoughts/feelings” thing again in a short story in that book he put out a couple years ago. It was called “The Things They Left Behind,” and it was about 9/11 victims
Pat: Ugh.
Andrea: Not sure which part you are ughing
Pat: 9/11
Andrea: It was actually pretty well done.

Pat: It’s very difficult to read this book and not think of Christopher Walken’s Trivial Psychic sketch on SNL.
Andrea: I have not seen the movie and it is not available on Netflix right now, but Walken as Johnny? Seriously?
I am picturing, like, an Owen Wilson type.
Pat: He was… 40 when Dead Zone was made.
Andrea: That is ludicrous.
Pat: In the movie, Walken sees Sheen actually blowing the world up.
Andrea: Wait, Martin Sheen plays Stillman in the movie?
Pat: Stillson.
Andrea: I think in the book he sees a mushroom cloud, right?
Pat: INTERESTING TWIST: Johnny feels it to be his duty to assassinate Stillson and attempts to do so at a rally in a church. Johnny attempts to shoot Stillson, but misses and is soon shot by Stillson’s security detail. However, after Johnny’s first shot, Stillson grabs Sarah’s baby and holds him up in the air as a human shield.
Andrea: In the movie?
Pat: Yeah.
Andrea: In the book, it’s just a random kid. Why is Sarah at the rally?
Pat: Probably her husband? Beats me.

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