It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"The Dead Zone" does what only a good supernatural thriller can do: It makes us forget it is supernatural. Like "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Exorcist," it tells its story so strongly through the lives of sympathetic, believable people that we not only forgive the gimmicks, we accept them. There is pathos in what happens to the Christopher Walken character in this movie and that pathos would never be felt if we didn't buy the movie's premise.
Walken plays a high school teacher whose life is happy (he's in love with Brooke Adams), until the night an accident puts him into a coma for five years. When he "returns," he has an extra-sensory gift. He can touch people's hands and "know" what will happen to them. His first discovery is that he can foresee the future. His second is that he can change it.
By seeing what "will" happen and trying to prevent it, he can bring about a different future. Of course, then he's left with the problem of explaining how he knew something "would have" happened, to people who can clearly see that it did not. Instead of ignoring that problem as a lesser movie might have, "The Dead Zone" builds its whole premise on it.
The movie is based on a novel by Stephen King and was directed by David Cronenberg, the Canadian who started with low-budget shockers ("The Brood" "It Came from Within") and worked up to big budgets ("Scanners"). It's a happy collaboration. No other King novel has been better filmed (certainly not the recent, dreadful "Cujo"), and Cronenberg, who knows how to handle terror, now also knows how to create three-dimensional, fascinating characters.