‘Firestarter’ can’t find the heat and delivers a soggy Slog instead

Skip the movie. Take the soundtrack.

Universal images

By Rob Hunter Published May 13, 2022

Movies about child killers, whether they’re simple wackadoos or tykes with special abilities in their own right, will always be a reliable subgenre. The juxtaposition of children committing acts of violence and horror just hits on a visceral level, no matter how many times we train our brains to accept it. A new film coming out this weekend tackles the subject with the story of a child who struggles to control the destructive force within him, and it’s a haunting, surprising, and quietly thrilling watch. It’s called Innocents (my opinion) and absolutely worth seeking out. Oh, and a new adaptation of Stephen Kingit is Fire starter was also released.

Andy McGee (Zac Efron) wakes up from a nightmare involving her infant daughter and a crib on fire to discover her now pre-teen daughter Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) had a bad dream too. They both seem to know something terrible is afoot, and it doesn’t take long before they’re right. A shadowy government organization is looking for them from Andy and Vicky (Sydney lemon), both capable of psychic shenanigans, participated in drug experiments before having a child together. Young Charlie inherited both of their abilities, but also has his own – he’s a pyrokinetic prodigy. Soon Vicky is dead, Andy and Charlie are on the run, and an assassin with his own powers is hot on their trail.

Kings Fire starter is arguably one of his mid-level novels, as his spark is sporadic amid too much time spent in flashbacks and dry talk about “Shop.” The 1984 feature film adaptation isn’t any better, but it still manages to find strengths in its pyrotechnics and casting choices. Forty-two years later, King’s creation is back on the big screen, but 2022’s Fire starter is a soggy dud from its lackluster start to its stupid-as-hell conclusion.

Director Keith Thomas (The Vigil2019) and writer Scott Teems (halloween kills, 2021) created real mediocrity here with bland, flat visuals and a narrative that feels both rushed and stretched to boredom. An attempt to mix things up a bit is to be applauded, but the results nullify this temporary high as these changes appear to be more random than inspired.

More time with Vicky early on allows for more of the character than past flashbacks, and it offers a glimpse into the dynamic that shapes Charlie as she tries to convince Andy that they should train the girl not to hide her. Unfortunately, it adds little to the conversation other than an “I told you so!” post-mortem. and more screen time for Lemmon. Even less successful is the blink and you’ll miss it introduction of Kurtwood Smith as Dr. Joseph Wanless – do you think he’s the least bit important? Think again.

And then there’s the Native American assassin, Rainbird. George C. Scott plays the character in the 1984s Fire starter, but while it was an extremely insensitive choice, the silver lining is an entertaining and demented performance from Scott. Great Michael Greyeyes takes the role here, but Teems’ script neutered the character’s more interesting traits, including his murderous obsessions and twisted affection for Charlie. Now Rainbird has psychic powers too, and of course he kills Charlie’s mom, but maybe he’s not that bad? Greyeyes does a good job, but the script has no idea what to do with the character, and it shows up until its laughable final images.

Both the novel and the prequel spend most of their time with Andy and Charlie on the run, and it lends heart to a story balanced by the resulting sizzle of the Charlie/Rainbird story. New Fire starter neglects both at his peril leaving a dull, hollow film shell in his wake. Efron and Armstrong are fine, but the palpable feelings of love and fear present in the novel (and in David Keith and Drew Barrymore’s 1984 performances) are sadly absent. In their place we get a scene of Charlie burning a cat alive because he scratched it, followed by a lesson in great power and responsibility.

It is possible that a denser and longer version of the new Fire starter exists that fleshes out characters like Wanless and Rainbird and gives Charlie’s journey more weight and time, but that’s not the version we were given. It is a cheap and unattractive slog that cannot create and maintain a single interesting element. Fire stunts are minimal as CG flames (and CG blood dripping from Efron’s eyes) take precedence. It almost seems like the film is teasing a whole new angle here – that Charlie isn’t the downtrodden hero and that he may be turning into a monster – but he just can’t commit to the ideas. that he raises.

Ultimately, the new Firestarter is the kind of bad movie that isn’t even fun in its ineptitude. It’s dull, ugly, short-circuits the dynamics of the various characters, and can’t even end on a high note. Of course, it’s not a complete mess because the film score of John Charpentier (alongside Cody Carpenter and Daniel A. Davies) bodes well for more music from the master. Skip the movie, buy the soundtrack, and we’ll at least have more Carpenter scores on other filmmakers’ films. This is the only victory you will find here.

Related Topics: Firestarters

Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird considering he’s so young. He is our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and cites “Broadcast News” as his favorite film of all time. Don’t hesitate to say hello if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.

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