Stephen King is one of the greatest horror storytellers in the world, and it’s no surprise that filmmakers would clamor to adapt his novels for the screen. With “Firestarter,” a bland retelling of the 1980 book and the 1984 film, director Keith Thomas and screenwriter Scott Teems fail mightily in making a decent movie. Nothing is firing on all cylinders, and it’s an absolute disaster in every way.
Andy (Zac Efron) and Vicky (Sydney Lemmon), a couple with special powers, have been on the run from the government as a desperate attempt to keep their daughter Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) hidden and safe. The shadowy federal agency wants to capture the young girl to harness her ability to start fire and turn her into a weapon of mass destruction. Charlie cannot control her powers, and they come out in a deadly fashion whenever she gets upset. Eventually they go on the run, trying to stay one step ahead of the enemy.
In an age where superheroes have powers like this, it makes the story feel much less horrific than it did decades ago. Charlie can burst into flames — so what? She’s not a good hero nor villain, and the entire family is unlikable and irritating. Charlie is someone that it’s nearly impossible to root for. I was never in her corner. I never cared what happened to her.
There’s some mean-spirited gore that matches the story, but it feels more odious than unsettling. The dialogue is so disastrous that we get gems like “liar, liar, pants on fire” before Charlie shoots fireballs at the enemy, or a cringey “good job” from dad after she burns a suffering cat to death. Yuck.
The casting is adequate, but the performances are dreadful. I had to suppress my laughter at times, because the only real horror in the film comes from the acting.
Sometimes movies that are just plain bad can find an audience that will appreciate its many flaws in an ironic way. No way that will happen with this one. Aside from the throwback original score (from John Carpenter,) there isn’t one redeeming quality here. “Firestarter” fizzles.
By: Louisa Moore