Hooptober 9.0 – Firestarter (2022)

Being Film #24 for Hooptober 2022

I came into the latest remake of Firestarter with little in the way of expectation; I left with those little expectations satisfied, but not in the way I thought. The biggest sin of Firestarter is that it feels so small and uninspired, like it’s just there to get you from point A to point B and walk away. It tells the story, and it walks away, burning any trace of being memorable or interesting. It’s kind of crazy that this nut still hasn’t really been cracked (oh how I wish for an alternate universe where John Carpenter got to direct the original, as opposed to simply providing the score for the remake), because it’s one of Stephen King’s first truly bug nuts story, with government assassins and psychic powers and all around craziness.

THE QUICK SUMMARY: Andy and Vicki McGee, victims of secret government tests involving a mysterious compound called “Lot Six” and the resultant psychic powers it bestows, are on the run with their young daughter Charlie. Turns out Charlies inherited her folks powers as well as the ability to start fires, hence the name of the book and the movie! And guess what! The government wants them back to pry the secrets of Charlie’s powers for their own nefarious use, even though that one lady from ER swears it ain’t so! What will happen? Will Charlie learn to control her powers? Is the character of Rainbird still racist now that it’s not played by William C. Scott? Does any of this matter when the film feels like it’s just running through the motions? WHO CAN TELL?!

That lack of inspiration is really the problem with this incarnation of Firestarter. There are bones here for a really offbeat and zany story, or at least the bones for some inspired mayhem. But director Keith Thomas keeps everything so small that not even the climax where Charlie destroys the government facility holding her father captive feels large or manic. At every turn this feels like a television movie, and that’s not the fault of the cast, who try to bring some character and motivation to the proceedings. Zac Efron is perfectly fine as Andy McGee, and he makes some game attempts to connect with his daughter and her fear of what’s happening to her.

But sadly, Ryan Kiera doesn’t have the presence of a Drew Barrymore to bring Charlie and her powers to life, at least not given the script this film has. Her performance, like everything else in this movie feels small, which works in the sequences where she’s afraid and cowering, but as Firestarter moves to its inevitable conclusion her presence should likewise expand, and it doesn’t.

Ultimately there is precious little to recommend with this iteration of Firestarter. It just sits like a lump, content to have a beginning, middle, and end. It needed and deserved more.

That Carpenter score, though…nice.

firestarter 2022 2

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