In my personal opinion opening any movie with Chris Walken plainly being 'Walken' and reading from Poe's immortal poem, The Raven, is enough to creep anyone out. Even a now-apt reference to Sleepy Hollow and Walken's participation in Tim Burton's retelling doesn't shun much from the build-up to this Stephen King adaption.
Of course The Dead Zone has most recently been turned into a pretty successful TV series starring 80's-nerd Anthony Michael Hall. A half decent premise for a recurring TV show, but how does the story hold up as a feature length Cronenberg movie?
Life is generally pretty sweet for Johnny Smith. Good teaching job and spanking a co-worker on the side, more than enough extra cirricular activity in your get what I mean. And if you don't I'm referring to sex! Johnny's banging Miss Bracknell. Now we're all on the same page - what a good life Johnny's been dealt. Well you're wrong mister! Pesimists may argue it was a successful attempt to skip out on all those forthcoming wedding bills but a major car crash wipes out all Johnnys happiness in a few seconds.
Johnny wakes up from a coma 5 years later only to discover his loved one has found someone else, he'll never run in a marathon again and that he has the power to read a person's future just by making physical contact with them. So it's not all the bad.
For me the introduction of the accident and then the realisation of Johnny's new ability are a little hasty. Of course it moves the story along, but all this occurs within about the first 15 minutes of the movie. The irony is though most of the action and storyline following this occassionally feels a little slow and ultimately quite dull for large amounts of time.
Back to the plot, Johnny gets involved with local cops to assist in the capture of the Castle Rock killer. A murdering son of a bitch who goes around town thinking he's all that and killing a bunch of innocents. Johnny helps out, they get their man, and I thought jeez, they ain't gonna roll the credits yet surely? Well they didn't because this was only a secondary plot weaved into the middle of the film, more action was on its way.
This is why I think The Dead Zone works so much better as a TV show than a movie. The show can concentrate on one storyline each week, a start, middle and outcome. The movie, however, tries to blend too much in and ulitmately struggles.
Walken is pretty good and Martin Sheen is probably spot on choice for the role he plays as a power hungry presidential candidate with visions of grandure. Unfortunately he doens't show up until half way through the film, even though he gets co-billing on the front of my DVD! Some people! I am a great Cronenberg fan, but I think he serves the world of new flesh far far better.