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‘…somewhat less than incendiary stuff…’

A re-imagining of Stephen King’s horror ‘masterpiece’ according to the trailer, the 2022 version of Firestarter isn’t any better than the 1984 version, and that wasn’t much cop in the first place. Paramount’s attempt to drain a few more dollars from the Stephen King book is released in theatres and at home on streaming channel Peacock the same day, a pandemic-era strategy that automatically dooms it to failure. So dust off your heat and fire-related puns, because it’s time to answer the burning questions about 2022’s Firestarter…

Firestarter is no masterpiece in any incarnation, but it’s certainly a recognisable IP from the 80’s period where pretty much everything King wrote was news. King had hit big with his original novel Carrie, which craftily matched a young girl’s discovery of her telekinetic powers to her own menstrual development. Firestarter has a similar theme and protagonist, but rather that destroying a high-school prom full of bullies in a fiery inferno, Charlie McGee (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) is taking revenge on The Shop, the government agency that killed her mother Vicky (Sydney Lemmon). That means a familiar ‘evade the authorities’ scenario with Charlie and dad Andy (Zac Efron) on the run from bounty hunter John Rainbird (Michael Greyeyes, presumably because an authentic Indian like George C Scott wasn’t available).

Firestarter was a fairly hefty 400+ page book, but Keith Thomas’s film barely musters 90 minutes of incident; by paring down the multiple plotlines of King’s writing, the bare bones that are left don’t offer any surprises, and it’s something of a shock when a minor character like Irv Manders (John Beasley) abruptly develops an interesting backstory which is immediately dropped. King was and is something of a whizz with character detail and a sense of community, but Firestarter 2022 generally avoids such notions in favour of streaming movie production values, poorish special effects and low-wattage performances. Even Kurtwood Smith, front and centre in the trailer, barely features here.

Yet there is a big plus here, and that’s the music. The 1984 version of Firestarter was directed by Mark L Lester in a fairly bland, anonymous way, but John Carpenter was originally mooted to helm the project. Working with his son Cody and regular collaborator Daniel Davies, Carpenter’s music for Firestarter soars when the rest of the mix remains inert; there’s not much point in a reboot, remake or rehash if there’s no new take on the material. And although there’s chat about the internet and wi-fi, the conspiracy theories and allusions to government experiments are less well developed here than they were 40 years ago; the bottom line is that this Firestarter is somewhat less than incendiary stuff. When you come to film King, you’d better not miss, and 2022’s Firestarter isn’t even close.


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  1. I was hoping this was a documentry about the Prodigy song… Too bad i am not that clued up on King’s many novels. Carrie film was great though. So was Thinner, scared me to death and put me off of eating pies for a while.

    • …had forgotten about Thinner, liked that story and film! But you can give this Firestarter a miss…

    • I would not be surprised, but it’s the music that makes it worth a look…

    • And Karen Gillan plays ‘an aging actress’ in The Bubble. Not sure if it’s a pandemic thing, but everyone seems to have aged a decade overnight. Just as well we’ve retained our youth, but yeah, Zac isn’t the boy you adored in High School Musical anymore. Sorry.

        • What’s your secret? Zac is keen to know how you look the same now as ten years ago. He’s keen to learn at the feet of the master.

          • Stay out of the sun. Neo-vampire lifestyle. Hanging out on the beach without a shirt on in Baywatch, Beach Bum, and Dirty Grandpa might seem like fun when you’re young, but there’s a price to pay. All the sunscreen in the world isn’t going to save you. You go to bed a fresh-faced teen idol and wake up a lizard man.

              • Did I ever tell you about the time I slept in Humphrey Bogart’s bed, and he was still in it? He slept like the dead. At least I think he was asleep.

                • He wasn’t in the bed at the time, that’s an urban myth. Have you stayed at the Hotel Palumbo? All the greats have slept there, Bogart, Richard Wagner, myself…nice private beach, very much the right kind of environment for a creative person like yourself…

      • We Are Your Friends is the Efron masterpiece, the mother lode through which his entire canon can be measured and understood…

        • I think it’s “The Lucky One” a movie I have watched more times than I care to admit. Though his biceps were stellar in We Are…… Agree to disagree on this one….

          • A Sparks classic to rival Safe Haven on the list of the supreme cultural achievements of the 21st century…

              • Alex will no doubt be interested to hear that I have shared a wardrobe with Benjamin Walker, star of Sparks classic The Choice. It was the best hiding place we could find!

                  • That is the title of my next lecture, subject to legal permission. Don’t want to reveal too much at this juncture. Keeping my powder dry.

                    • I will be there. And I can’t let this go without mentioning that The Choice is bottom of the barrel Sparks for me, down with Dear John and The Last Song. Apparently I have more passionate opinions on Sparks films that I realized

                    • I’ll be addressing some of these issues in my talk. But while I can’t decent The Last Song, Dear John offers some point of interest. But it doesn’t have friendly ghost action the way Safe Haven does. You might, I venture, feel differently about these films if you shared a wardrobe with their stars. Just sayin’.

                    • Be honest, if you spent time in a wardrobe with Zac Efron, it would surely sway your opinion of his work, right?

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