When the two best things you can say about the latest version of Firestarter is that it’s not as long as the 1984 version and they’ve cast a real Indigenous Native American this time, you know it’s not going to be good.
Blumhouse tackles an updated version of the Stephen King novel, which I didn’t find all that interested to begin with. Maybe when it was published in 1980, King was drawing on the 1970s government paranoia, conspiracy theories and reports of dangerous testing on people. But in modern day, it just doesn’t work as much. I recently watched the 1984 version earlier this week and it is probably one of the most boring adaptations. At the time it was considered the worst with King himself hating it.
The main reason with the 1984 version is that there were a lot of scenes that seemed more like filler rather than necessity to the plot. Aside from two scenes in which the main character of Charlie McGree (played by Drew Barrymore) pulled a “Hold my beer” moment on Carrie White by causing many government spooks to burst into flames and even shooting fireballs at them, it was a very dull movie.
Now, Charlis is played by Ryan Kiera Armstrong and she’s living unbeknownst in hiding as her parents, Andy McGee (Zac Efron who is suprisingly 4 years older than David Keith when he played the role) and mother, Vicky (Syndey Lemmon giving a lot more to do than Heather Locklear by far who has only in a handful of scenes including once in which her lifeless body is found). Andy and Vicky met while being test subjects for a drug called Lot 6 administered by the Department of Scientific Intelligence, aka “The Shop.” Andy is telepathic and Vicky is telekinetic following the testing. And Charlie has developed pryokinesis along with her father’s telepathy.
While the new version shows Charlie interacting more with other children, she is ostracized at the school for being a freak. She’s teased for not having access to Google because her parents refused to use cell phones or the Internet out of fear they will be tracked. They are also constantly moving as Andy makes money hustling people by making them quit smoking. When an incident at school in which Charlie is bullied leads to her literally blowing the doors off a bathroom stall, government officials are led to their location.
Captain Hollister (Gloria Reuben pretty much acting like she’s reading the lines off a cue card off screen) contacts an assassin, John Rainbird (Michael Greyeyes) who feels like he’s been used and abandoned by the government. Yet, he still goes on his killing spree. Rainbird was a big issue in both the book and the 1984 movie but here he’s reduced to just a typical soulless killer. George C. Scott, wrongly cast in so many ways, at last did his best in the 1984 version. The movie doesn’t know if Rainbird is supposed to be bad or good and there’s an ending that might make audiences very pissed.
I’m sure director Keith Thomas and writer Scott Teems felt the part where Andy and Charlie are taked to DSI was probably where the 1984 movie came to a snails pace, so they quickly ramped this sequence up. But as the 1984 movie used “The Shop” similar to Campy Peary, where the CIA has their training, aka “The Farm,” DSI here is mostly sets that have been hanging around since some late 1990s/early 2000s low-budget Canadian movies and TV shows. It should come as no surprise since the movie is filmed in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario.
You almost feel like you’re watching old episodes of The X-Files and PSI Factor the way “The Shop” is portayed. And the filmmakers are obviously exploiting Canadian tax breaks as most of the movie never really gives off the suspension of disbelief they’re anywhere else but Ontario. Even at a $12 million budget, this movie seems cheaper. And it’s streaming right now on Peacock and looks like a movie made for streaming. The practical effects of the 1984 movie looked more impressive than the CGI used here.
And lastly, the thing I wish they could avoid was a scene in which Charlie sets a frightened cat on fire for scratching her. And then this scene lasts a lot longer than when the DSI spooks get burned alive. If you’re just going to have an animal in a movie just to have it killed, then don’t do it. I know it’s just special effects, but I hate this fucking cliched trope in movies like this.
This scene is very unneccessary because we’ve already seen how Charlie can let any emotions get the best of her as she has been bullied and also when she gets upset with Vicky, causing her arms to catch fire. Say what you will about Bryan Singer (and there’s a lot of negative things to say), but at least when he was adaptating Apt Pupil, he altered the scene in which Kurt Dussander (Sir Ian McKellan) tries to stick a cat in an oven but is unsuccessful as the cat escapes. It wasn’t so lucky in the novella. So, there you go, this movie is so bad it actually makes something Bryan Singer did commendable.
It should come as a surprise to no one, this movie is getting bad reviews and looked already to be a dud. Every actor here looks bored and uninterested. Even veteran actor John Beasley who plays the kind Irv Manders can’t save this movie. Even Kurtwood Smith appearing as Dr. Joseph Wanless, the administrator of the Lot 6, appears to be more of an afterthought added after principal photograpy ended.
Speaking of Apt Pupil and King’s collection Different Seasons, where that novella appeared, the 1984 version may have had its faults, but it makes this version look like The Shawshank Redemption. Now, that’s a burn!
What do you think? Please comment.