Later in 2022, Gary Dauberman’s (Annabelle Comes Home) highly anticipated Salem’s Lot remake arrives in theaters. Flying under the radar, the Firestarter remake quietly released in theaters and VOD platforms. Despite its relative lack of hype, this is a remake that makes some sense. On one hand, Stephen King’s novel boasts an interesting premise worthy of the big screen. Yet the 1984 Firestarter movie – starring a young Drew Barrymore – was mediocre at best. In other words, there’s plenty of room for improvement in the remake. Unfortunately, based on the reviews, we may have to wait a little longer for a remake that gets the source material right.
Firestarter (1984) Was a Lukewarm Stephen King Adaptation
Neither very good nor particularly awful, the original Firestarter sits firmly in the middle of the pack of Stephen King adaptations. Arguably, it’s best remembered for a young Drew Barrymore branching into horror. Though it’s a watered down translation, director Mark L Lester competently steers writer Stanley Mann’s screenplay. Joining the McGee’s on the run lends some mild suspense to the thriller. However, Firestarter’s two-part story structure – on the run and confined at The Shop – leaves the movie feeling disjointed.
Though it’s a watered down translation, director Mark L Lester competently steers writer Stanley Mann’s screenplay.
This disjointed narrative results in what’s often feels like an uneventful thriller. While Lester’s more than capable, much of the silly fun from his other work – including Commando and Class of ’84 – is notably absent. And Lester’s clearly less adept when it comes to generating suspense. Regardless the father-daughter relationship between Keith David’s ‘Andy McGee’ and Drew Barrymore feels compelling. By today’s standards, the special effects are a bit iffy, but the finale feels suitably big. Both Martin Sheen and George C Scott have fun chewing the scenery. Yes, Firestarter miscasts Scott and the character is underwritten, but he’s still menacing. Throw in Tangerine Dream’s excellent score and Firestarter is serviceable.
Firestarter (2022)Remake Burns Out Quickly After a Promising Start
In 2021, director Keith Thomas made one of the year’s best horror movies with The Vigil. And writer Scott Teems penned the Halloween Kills screenplay. Throw in a decent cast, a John Carpenter score, and good source material craving an update, and the Firestarter remake should have at least been … good. Except it’s not. At all. After a promising opening credits scene, Firestarter looks like it’s on the right track. Teem’s screenplay follows King’s basic template while initially deviating in interesting ways. For example, Thomas and Teems devote more focus to the McGee Family. And Zac Efron, Sydney Lemmon, and Ryan Kiera Armstrong impress with their performances. Early action look good and the remake’s cast of Michael Greeneyes (Blood Quantum) and its approach to the ‘Rainbird character look to pay dividends.
Little happens for chunks of time. And Teems’ screenplay often detours into illogical lapses.
But the wheels fall off abruptly. First, Thomas fails to do much with the foundations laid in the remake’s first act. Everything drags to a halt with lackluster pacing. Little happens for chunks of time. And Teems’ screenplay often detours into illogical lapses. Tweaks to the Manders’ Farm visit feel pointless. By the final act, some moments may have audiences shaking their head. Moreover, Thomas struggles to frame the bigger action moments while the special effects don’t pass muster for a theatrical release. In fact, Firestarter increasingly feels like a movie produced for a streaming release. Lastly the remake ultimately wastes both Greeneyes and Kurtwood Smith.
Latest Remake Proves Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right
If the original Firestarter was just a middling Stephen King adaptation it looks a lot better after the remake. Considering the talent on both sides of the camera, it’s hard to pinpoint how thing went so wrong. All of the performances are fine – Efron continues to impress as he diversifies his roles. Mann’s screenplay neutered King’s story, but Teems’ adaptation is clunky and often illogical. Sluggish pacing, poor staging of action sequences, and a lifeless finale put out any embers sparked by Carpenter’s score and a good prologue. Maybe the 1984 Firestarter was bland, but at least you could watch it from start to finish.