I understand. There are some of you out there that are vehemently against remakes of any kind. However, there’s a certain type of remake that takes what we had with the original, and tweaks it for a new age. Those are the best kind of remakes. The original Firestarter from 1984 had plenty of promise, particularly when you consider that John Carpenter could have directed it. Now, with the remake from Blumhouse, Firestarter realizes a bit of that potential. It comes from Director Keith Thomas, and Writer Scott Teems, and is based on the novel by Stephen King.

This adaptation feels the most like a Stephen King novel of plenty of his recent adapted works. It has all the hallmarks including that sort of eerie tension that pervades his work. It stars Zac Efron, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Sydney Lemmon, Michael Greyeyes, Kurtwood Smith, and John Beasley. The movie follows Andy (Efron), Vicky (Lemmon), and Charlie (Armstrong) as they try to evade a shadowy federal agency from capturing and harnessing the power of Charlie’s telekinetic powers. Andy and Vicky were experimented on with a strange chemical, and Charlie has the power to create fire with her mind. Soon, Charlie is found out because of an incident at school, and an agent (Greyeyes) is dispatched to bring her in.

Firestarter isn’t perfect, but it does update the older film for a new era, and it has one of the most kickass soundtracks in recent memory from John Carpenter. The performances in the film are ultimately what keep the film afloat among a somewhat dry plot that doesn’t go as deep into the shady dealings of the federal agency that created Charlie and her parents.

Not Enough Meat On The Bone

(from left) Andy (Zac Efron) and Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) in Firestarter, directed by Keith Thomas.

Without turning this into a complete comparison to the original, this movie stands out from that film, and ultimately feels more like a Stephen King novel. Zac Efron and Ryan Kiera Armstrong offer up performances that carry the film. Efron at this point in his career has long shed the “teeny-boy” tag and needs some recognition for how good he’s been recently. His role as Andy here is no different. He’s strong but firm with Charlie. That all culminates in a speech he gives her about hurting people and how those people might have people that love them. He drives the film up until the finale, which is all about Charlie.

Armstrong puts in a great performance here as the tortured Charlie. She knows that she’s different than other kids and not being able to live a “normal” life really screws with her. She plays Charlie in an adventurous way that has some of that childlike wonder, but she knows the situation. She’s much more knowledgeable about everything than the adults in the story know.

Outside of those two, John Beasley gives a heartbreaking performance as Irv, who picks up Charlie and Andy by the side of the road. It’s with him that Charlie sort of learns more about how to control her powers. His character is a heartbreaking one with a tragic backstory that’s played excellently by Beasley. He gives the right amount of everyman, blissfully ignorant, and even provides some commentary on the average elderly person.

The rest of the cast doesn’t fare as well. Lemmon isn’t really given much to work with as Vicky. Kurtwood Smith is nothing more than an extended cameo as a member of the shady federal agency that did the experiments. He provides some needed information on the upper limit of Charlie’s powers but isn’t there after that. Michael Greyeyes’s character is the most confounding. He’s chasing after Charlie and Andy, but his character takes a strange turn at the end of the film. He’s also mostly silent and that really takes away from the performance. At the beginning of the film, he’s much more menacing, especially when dealing with Vicky, but after that, it’s not much.

Carpenter’s Score And Unrealized Potential

John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel Davies did the score for the movie, and it’s as majestic as that sounds. The score is easily the best part of the movie. It’s dark and retro-sounding, but also doesn’t overpower the film. It complements the film nicely and augments the action on screen.

The opening of the film shows off how Charlie got her powers and then transitions into interviews with Andy and Vicky about their entry into the program. These interviews are the most interesting and thought-provoking section of the film. It’s an interesting concept that goes far deeper than the plot of the movie does. Andy saw his parent’s death a week before it happens. They’re college students that get swept into something much more nefarious and bigger than they could imagine. That idea could have been realized as something better than what we got in the film. The plot that we get does the job but doesn’t really go as deep as I’d like.

Through all of that, Firestarter still kind of rips. The third act is pure bliss if you’re into seeing someone with fire-mind-powers absolutely destroying people. It might end on a strange note, but the way we get there is completely awesome. For a remake of a somewhat beloved 80s horror flick, Firestarter is still a good one.

Firestarter streams on Peacock and in Theaters on May 13th, 2022.

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