Where Stephen King's and David Cronenberg's The Dead Zone Was Filmed in the Toronto Area
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Where Stephen King’s and David Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone Was Filmed in the Toronto Area

Martin Sheen plays a right wing populist who could lead the country to nuclear war.

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Okay, strictly speaking, The Dead Zone was filmed more around Toronto than in Toronto. But it’s close enough geographically, and as both one of the better adaptations of Stephen King’s work and the most mainstream works of local auteur David Cronenberg, it’s worthy of the Reel Toronto treatment.

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We open relatively close the city and then move further out. Christopher Walken plays John Smith…

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…a teacher at what is actually Stouffville’s Summitview Public School, which still looks much the same.

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Then he takes his gal pal on a roller coaster at an apparently empty theme park…

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…and we get a few glimpses of what’s actually the newly-opened Canada’s Wonderland…

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…as they enjoy their time…

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…on the Ghoster Coaster.

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When he drops her off after, we shift to where most of the action takes place, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, though we confess we don’t know most of these residential locations.

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But then he has a crazy accident and ends up in a hospital. He’s treated at the fictional Weizak Institute, which is the Randwood Estate just a bit out of town and recently repurposed as a romantic inn.

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It’s not long before his amazing ability to tell the future is harnessed by local sheriff Tom Skerrit.

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He takes him to the crime scene, Niagara’s landmark “Screaming Tunnel,” located just off the QEW.

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Then they’re called to a fresh murder, right along the lake, in Queen’s Royal Park.

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Indeed, the landmark gazebo there is a film prop they kept, though the original was replaced a couple of years ago. You can see that green house still has the same paint job too.

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Looking out at the lake here, you can see Old Fort Niagara just across the way, on the American side of the border.

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It turns out (30-year-old spoiler!) that the murderer is local acting legend Nicholas Campbell, who knows a thing or two about dead bodies.

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And his mom is Colleen Dewhurst, better known to most Canadians as Marilla in Anne of Green Gables.

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Any more Canadian actors of note? Oh, yeah! Walken’s nutty mom is Jackie Burroughs, veteran of Stratford and a kajillion Canadian TV shows and movies, including Last Night and Road to Avonlea. Sadly, she passed away in 2010.

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In a scary third act scene, the vice-president of the United States is played by Genie winner and Stratford veteran Ken Pogue, who died a couple of years ago.

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Anyway, as we were saying, most of the action takes place right in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

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Here’s the main strip on Queen Street, complete with the distinctive clock tower.

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Here’s Walken crossing the street in the day, down near the post office

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…in front of this store

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…which, naturally, now sells fudge.

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He lives in this distinctive house nearby…

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on Byron Street.

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The final act revolves around Walken realizing some bad things about a politician played by Martin Sheen. This dude is an unhinged, right-wing populist who is so craven he’d grab a baby to shield himself during an assassination attempt and impulsively start a nuclear war. So, you know, it’s a horror film. Complete fiction.

(Of course, it’s extra funny because Sheen would go on to play the nicest fictional president in history.)

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Here, Walken leaves his house…

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…and heads across the street.

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This scene, according to Sheen, was famously the biggest political rally in a movie in history, with as many as 1.5 million people on hand. Period. No, we’re kidding! But no joke, this is Simcoe Park, which you totally know from that time you went to town to catch some Shaw or load up on jam. You can even see the landmark Prince of Wales hotel in the back there.

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The finale takes place at a town hall rally. The exterior is the familiar and handsome courthouse, also on Queen Street.

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The interior…

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…with its distinctive balcony, however…

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…is nowhere nearby, it’s the Orono Town Hall.

So, that was the time Cronenberg brought Stephen King to town, more or less. It took some time to get another shot, but one of King’s seminal works, It, shot here last year so we’ll have to see if it can even approach the same levels of longevity and/or spookiness.