02/06/2017 14:03

Film: Firestarter

Year: 1984

Director: Mark L. Lester

Writer: Stanley Mann

Starring: Drew Barrymore, David Keith and Freddie Jones



This was a film that I originally saw when I started seeking out adaptations of Stephen King's works. That was the first thing I did when branching out into horror that we didn't already own. I saw this film before reading the book, which I did back in high school. I've now seen this a handful of times throughout the years. I've now given this a rewatch as part of my Foray through the Fours.

Synopsis: a couple who took part in a potent medical experiment gain telepathic abilities and then have a child who is a pyrokinetic.

This starts with a father, Andrew McGee (David Keith), fleeing with his daughter Charlie (Drew Barrymore). Three men in a car are after them. We see the chase them along a busy street and our duo gets into a taxi. We learn from the men in the car that they must be careful, due to Andy and Charlie having superhuman abilities. He makes people do things with his mind. He uses this on the taxi driver, making him think that he gave him a $500 bill to drive them to the airport.

What I like here is that we get a flashback while Andy sleeps to explain how he ended up with the power he has. While he was a broke college student, he signed up for an experiment. The doctor in charge claims that this has nothing to do with a shady government agency known as 'The Shop'. Andy does meet Vicky McGee (Heather Locklear), who he falls in love with at first sight. She's smitten with him as well.

At the airport, these two go inside and Andy explains to Charlie that they're going to have to break the law for the good for them to get away. She doesn’t like it but understands that they're at a disadvantage. He uses his mind to get a payphone to give up its quarters. While he is doing this, Charlie watches a soldier be rude to a young woman who is pregnant. He is claiming the kid isn’t his and this upsets Charlie. This is a good show of how powerful she is and her emotions get the better of her. She sets the soldier's feet on fire. Using the power upsets her and there's a flashback to something that happens that still haunts her.

They're back on the run and we see them getting help from an old farmer, Irv Manders (Art Carney) as well as his wife Norma (Louise Fletcher). We get to see a glimpse as to what Charlie can do to get away from the federal agents. This also shows us the man in charge at the shop, Captain Hollister (Martin Sheen). He enlists the aid of an exterminator, John Rainbird (George C. Scott), who knows he can bring her in. He just wants to be the one who kills her when they're done with their tests.

This becomes an interesting coming of age story for Charlie as she is manipulated and learning just how far her powers can go. She also gets a crash course of who you can trust.

That is where I'll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Since I've read the source material and have seen this multiple times, where I want to start is that now that I'm an adult and a parent, this delves into intriguing concepts that hit me harder. There is distrust of the government. An experiment where not all the facts are given. Also, how Rainbird befriends Charlie pulls at my heartstrings. I appreciate this more than I ever have before.

Let me then delve more into ideas I've brought up. The Shop is a fictional group, but there is truth here. Reports have come out secret government testing with things like the Tuskegee Syphilis Study or how the CIA used LSD to see what applications could stem from it. There is also MK Ultra as well. I get the vibe that King knew about things like this so having Andy and Vicky being part of an experiment, then the aftereffects make sense. There's also the idea that this one decision has changed the course of their lives forever. Its even worse for Charlie who didn't have a choice. I like the tension this builds.

Sticking with this character, I'll say next that Barrymore was quite good as little Charlie. She is adorable and her performance is solid. She is limited in what she can do and not everything was great, but I'm not going to fault her. She plays well off the doctors that are asking her to show her power. Rainbird, Capt. Hollister and the Manders as well. Seeing how Rainbird befriends her is heartbreaking. Scott and Barrymore are great together. It is just knowing the character motives bother me in the best way possible, so credit there. I also like how Barrymore looks when she is using her powers.

I should just then discuss the rest of the acting performances. For the most part, it is good across the board. I've already said that Barrymore is good, she just lacks a bit when it gets too emotional. Keith works as her father. There's only one scene where I don't think he nails what he needed to. Freddie Jones is fine as the doctor who is controlling the experiment. Locklear is gorgeous here. She isn't given much to work with. Sheen is good as the leader of the Shop. Scott is great as Rainbird. My only issue there is that he's not Native American. It makes me cringe. Other than that, Carney, Fletcher, Moses Gunn and the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed.

Then over to filmmaking. I'd say that this is well-made. I like what they do to bring the powers to life that Andy and Charlie have. The sound design there works since it would look cheesy without it. How they frame and shoot, bringing Charlie's fires to life was good. I only have nitpicked here and there with something clearly being a dummy. This builds tension, which is good since this runs almost two hours long. It was a tough task to condense a King novel down. Other than that, I love the music that was done by Tangerine Dream. They're such an odd group and it works.

In conclusion, this has always been a movie that I thought was fine. I'm probably the highest that I've ever been on it after this watch and I think it is where I'm at in life now. The conspiracy theory angle of this government group fits today. That distrust adds to the atmosphere. Seeing what Charlie has to go through is heartbreaking and I think Barrymore is good for the most part. The acting around her is solid. Even though he isn't the right ethnic background, Scott is good as Rainbird. I thought this was well-made from the cinematography, framing, effects to sound design and music. There are just slight issues here and there for me. I think this is solid and one that you should see at some point if you haven't, especially if you're a King fan.


My Rating: 7.5 out of 10