Title: Firestarter (2022)  
Director: Keith Thomas   
Writer: Scott Teems   
Studio: Blumhouse Productions  //  Universal   

IMDb Plot: A young girl tries to understand how she mysteriously gained the power to set things on fire with her mind.      

Joe Says: An uninspired remake that is less of a horror-thriller and more of an audition for a c-grade superhero franchise. Firestarter is a no-starter.  

In trying to build and curate a still-fledging Peacock streaming service, revisiting and revamping existing IP makes total business sense. And capitalizing on Comcast Universal’s relationship with Blumhouse Productions, the 21st Century’s answer to Full Moon Features, is the perfect way to produce entertaining, edgy movies in order to get that needed social traction with Millennials and Z-ers. Firestarter, however, is a no-starter. Although sporting updated F/X, Firestarter is an uninspired remake that is less of a horror-thriller and more of an audition for a c-grade superhero franchise.

Originally released as a novel by Stephen King in 1980, Firestarter was adapted as a movie four years later. That one starred a fresh-off-of-E.T. Drew Barrymore as the title character and Patton himself, George C. Scott, as her hunter. Although scoring high on nostalgia for Generation X – and I offer Tangerine Dream’s soundtrack as proof – the movie is slow, predictable, and gimmicky.

The remake failed to improve on all counts.

Firestarter is the tale of a young girl who has been gifted with special powers as a result of chemical testing on her parents. Ryan Kiera Armstrong leads as pyrokinetic Charlie while her also-special father, Andy, is played by a half-asleep Zac Efron. Andy refuses to have his daughter as a lab rat for the shady-if-dull shadow shop called DSI, especially after the murder of his wife. The two go on the run until they must confront… the inevitable. Their past. Their future. Their fears. And probably poor online reviews.

Firestarter, Stephen King, poster

Screenwriter Scott Teems (Halloween Kills) provides a by-the-books remake with all the thrills of a made-for-TV movie. Whereas Charlie could have been the perfect representation of all the perils that young womanhood can bring to a girl who feels weird changes in her body, she instead is cast as a Dollar General knock-off of Stranger Things’ Eleven. Adding in the red-on-black credits and a John Carpenter score, all of Firestarter has a lazy Duffer Brothers-lite vibe.

Director Keith Thomas tries to liven the shots and employ various effects, but every cent of the film’s low budget can be handily seen. DSI’s bargain-basement HQ is a forgettable set, for instance, whose corporate palate consists of concrete cubicles and tiny blue lights. Their op, Rainbird (Michael Greyeyes) is a righteous cliché from the 90s with his accessorized pouches and Nine Inch Nails sneer. To Thomas’ credit, however, the story fans the flame at a tight 94 minutes.

Firestarter is not a terrible movie. Unfortunately, it is wholly mediocre. One that is fleetingly entertaining and instantly forgettable. Regrettably, this was also full of potential. All it was missing was a good spark. You know. To start the fire.

Ryan Kiera Armstrong and Zac Efron as Charlie and Andy in Firestarter

A version of this review appears on Cinefied 

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