Firestarter (Mark L. Lester, 1984)

Adapted from Stephen King’s novel of the same title, Firestarter stars a young Drew Barrymore as the little Charlie who has a special gift of putting fire just by the power of her mind. Her father Andy (David Keith) and her mother Vicky (Heather Locklear) were guinea pigs for the Lot 6 experiment. It was a secret government laboratory experiment that tested a substance on the human mind. Andy has the power to convince people and hypnotize and Vicky had the power to read minds. Much like Carrie, Firestarter is about a young girl with a power she has troubles handling.

It is another take on childhood from Stephen King who visited the Freudian Oedipus Rex complex with The Shining. In Firestarter, we have the young Charlie who is confronted with different father figures who all wants to teach her on right or wrong. The novel is an interesting exploration of preteen girl male role models. Mark L. Lester’s film is a poor take on a good novel. Lester most successful directing credit was Commando in 1985 starring Arnold Scharzenegger. Despite the capable cast of Martin Sheen, George C. Scott, and Louise Fletcher paired with an interesting musical atmosphere created by the legendary Tangerine Dream, it never gets to really get together and raise up.

Plus, in the adaptation many important details were left out. The setting of the story in the South of the United States instead of King’s New England, the actualisation of the costumes, Charlie’s clothes are described with great precision in the novel and she is wearing something very different in the film. Many shortcuts are done to help the story but the screenwriter (Stanley Mann) and the director never capitalized on strong moments of the plot. In fact, this is a middle of the road directing job that feels like an emotionless reading of a poor script. With a source material from Stephen King one would at least expect a stronger and a tighter story. Even if Firestarter is not my favorite King novel, the movie is not at the level of the book.

While being a fan of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, Brian De Palma’s Carrie, and Creepshow I was not expecting this level of movie. But, I didn’t thought it would be as average. It wasn’t a complete mess but not an exploration of a complex psychology more than a compilation of action sequences that are very corny.

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