Being a Stephen King fan, I always look forward to watching any new adaptation of his stories into either a feature length movie or TV series format. Admittedly it has often ended up frustrating when the end results leaves you wanting. Stephen King stories often have a central theme that is usually involving some elements of the macabre or horror, and populated by strong and impressionable characters that somehow represents the everyday lives of the ordinary people. The best adaptations brings these elements out effectively producing a story that is fascinating and populated by characters that we can identify with and even root for.
Alas, this new remake of Firestarter falls under the category of failed attempts. I am not sure why this remake was made. It doesn’t up the scale in production values and quality from the 1984 version which had a very young and cute Drew Barrymore in the lead. Here we have Zac Efron playing the father to Charlie, who has telekinetic powers that can unleash fires whenever she gets angry. Child actress Ryan Kiera Armstrong takes on the pivotal role of Charlie but her acting just does not have the depth to make it an exceptional performance. But to be fair, both Zac and Ryan are hindered by an insipid script that sounds like a collection of movie cliches stringed together. So one can say that the film improves a lot whenever the characters are not speaking. The supporting character of Rainbird (played by Michael Greyeyes) the assassin sent out to track and capture Charlie came across as the most interesting. Perhaps this was because his character spoke very little and hence we have to base our perception of him purely through his acting. Interesting to note that this character was played by the legendary George C. Scott in the 1984 version of Firestarter. Rainbird’s presence here is sadly kept low key and in the background. He only picks things up a bit at the closing scenes.
I hold director Keith Thomas largely responsible for this Firestarter’s failure. There are little signs of imagination in the way the scenes are set-up, giving the film a ”I have been there before” feel. This is surprising since Keith is not new to the horror genre, having done the commendable The Vigil. The Firestarter here has the look and feel of a small scale TV production not worthy of a cinematic release,
Telekinesis used to be a favourite theme in the 1980’s horror movies. I have fond memories of exploding heads, and blood soaked mayhem the likes of Scanners and Carrie. It is a pity that Keith Thomas failed to make use of the advancement in technology to make the telekinetic scenes unique or memorable. Safe to say this Firestarter will be fast forgotten.
Perhaps the only thing that I can say that I really liked and enjoyed was the film’s soundtrack. Getting the legendary horror maestro John Carpenter to write the score. His distinct trademark pulsating and throbbing score was effectively used in the final scenes and I loved it. It’s just too bad that the movie did not do the music score justice.