Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
What’s that old adage? Where’s there’s smoke there’s fire? Unfortunately for this remake of the 1984 film adaptation of Stephen King’s Firestarter, there’s just smoke here ,and it’s not enough to even signal for help.
Like a wet flint or an old box of matches, Firestarter 2022 has a few sparks that are worth mentioning. Young actress Ryan Kiera Armstrong takes on the role made famous by Drew Barrymore, that of Charlie McGee, born with the ability to set fires with her mind (pyrokinesis if you’re feeling fancy).
Her abilities come from the fact her parents Andy (Zac Efron) and Vicky (Sydney Lemmon) volunteered to be part of a secret government project, not realising they would be permanently changed by it. Andy uses his abilities to telepathically influence others (which he calls “pushing”) to earn enough money to keep them off the radar, while mom Vicky, who is telekinetic but doesn’t use this power at all (because that would be fun and this movie doesn’t know how to do fun) does all she can to keep Charlie from becoming a hot head (wink, wink).
Ryan Kiera Armstrong is as good in the role as Drew Barrymore was and this is coming from someone who considers the original Firestarter one of the best SK adaptations out there. Armstrong holds her own well against the older actors and manages to make the character of Charlie engaging by showing how terrifying it would be for a young child to wield that kind of power, especially when her parents (or in this case, her Dad) teaches her the best way to deal with it, is to push it all down and repress it. Which is terrible advice for anyone, much less a pyrokinetic child. She’s fragile when she needs to be and terrifying when she needs to be, and I also enjoyed how unpredictable and slightly unhinged she seemed, which did a lot to add any real tension to the story.
Like a lot of people, I felt like Zac Efron was grossly miscast in this role. While he is in his thirties, his previous films tend to place him squarely in his early twenties so it wasn’t easy to accept him in the role of Dada. But you know what? He gets it done and by the second act I was totally sold on his relationship with Charlie and the two actors had solid chemistry (paternal of course) with each other.
The rest of Firestarter is sadly undercooked, with only a couple of scenes jumping out at you while the rest just kind of happens and then passes you by. They did go a lot darker than I expected with some burns and deaths here that will leave you saying “Whoa!” But ultimately they took things too seriously and the movie doesn’t have that all important energy needed to draw you in.
Then there are the villains. This might be the BIGGEST fail of the entire remake. The 1984 version had Martin Sheen and George C. Scott as Captain Hollister and John Rainbird respectively. We’re talking multiple award-winning actors here. So who do you replace them with? In order we have Gloria Reuben and Michael Greyeyes. Now I’m not saying these people aren’t good actors, quite the opposite actually as their filmographies speak for themselves. What happens here isn’t bad acting but bad writing and a total lack of development for two integral characters, one of which in fact, they seem to want to build a sequel around with Rainbird and Charlie at the helm. So if this is the case why the hell would you COMPLETELY ignore this character, only bringing him in when murder was required?! How do you sell that final scene to us if you did nothing to build the character up prior?
Let’s take another Blumhouse production called The Invisible Man and compare it against this one. Both films have a “super powered” individual who people fear and Firestarter even emulates the hallway scene found in The Invisible Man for their “big” finale. But while the latter was insanely fun, Firestarter lacks much needed energy and the tight pacing needed to make Charlie’s big moment impactful.
So what is comes down to is Firestarter 2022 had potential it just didn’t live up to. While our lead actors are good in their roles, everyone involved feels rushed and underdeveloped. The tone of the entire story is way too serious considering the topic and this would’ve been a lot more fun to watch if they had inserted some dark humor all throughout.
If they do manage to make a sequel and that’s a BIG if considering how hard this movie bombed at the box office, here’s hoping they get Leigh Whannel to write the script. Or at the very least someone who understands you don’t take the concept of a little girl with the power to set people aflame and treat it like you’re watching a documentary on how to build a campfire with wet twigs.
Sommer’s Score: 5.5 out of 10
For more of my thoughts on the film you can check out my video review below:
So what did you think of the Firestarter remake? And you can check out more great horror content below:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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