In British school playgrounds in the early 90s, Chimera was a hot topic of conversation. Absolutely terrifying as a mini-series, it then got repeated as an iffy TV movie. I have just got hold of a copy of the movie, and this review deals with the edited version.
Trimming three or four hours of telly into 100 minutes is not an easy job. The story rushes along, and there is plenty of excitement and a few real scares. The story does not have the chance to explore characters and build up the tension as it would have done in serial form. Also, there are a few moments that do not seem logical, as the explanatory material has been cut.
The impact of the first episode of the serial was enormous. Introducing a dozen characters in an isolated medical clinic, surrounded by fog, miles away from anywhere in the middle of the moors ...a great start. "Something" escapes. One by one, the characters are killed. There's a sequence I can visualise in my mind's eye as if it were yesterday: a woman is pulled backwards through a window. This remains in the film, as do some of the killings. A new nurse, with no idea of the secrets her employers are hiding, is the heroine. As the building goes up in smoke, she looks as if she is about to escape ... and the "something" gets her with a knife. Gobsmacking. All but two of the characters are dead, and the woman we thought would be the sympathetic heroine is lying among them. This was the cliffhanger ending to episode one, before the haunting theme music began. This is whizzed through in less than fifteen minutes in the movie version, and things are poorer for it.
Episode two began with the investigation into the incident, with the security forces overruling the police and hushing everything up. Two characters who made small appearances in the first episode live on, but everyone else is new. This was a completely jawdropping development, and was widely reported in the papers at the time.
The TV movie rushes through explanations. Characters come and go, as the journalist hero follows leads and moves from person to person, investigating. Some good performances and some interesting characters, but the story needs longer in order to be told properly.
The "monster", of course, is befriended by two children. Sadly, the boy's voice is very badly dubbed. The sequences of the children with Mister Scarecrow, in the barn and the farmhouse, are very goosepimple-making. In the time honoured tradition of British TV, the monster is kept offscreen for as long as possible. Eventually, Chad is revealed to be quite sympathetic. Aware that his creators were to experiment on him, released by a sympathetic scientist (all rushed through and glossed over, sadly), his lethal attacks were a combination of rage and hatred, along with loneliness and heartbreak. There's no denying, though, that the tension is raised brilliantly in the clinic attack scenes and in the farm scenes.
There is, of course, a government cover-up. All of this would have so much more impact and be much more powerful if the original mini series were available. While the movie does contain some good scares, it cannot do justice to the original work.