“Firestarter” (REVIEW) Another 80’s Remake that Burns Lukewarm at Best

Ryan Kiera Armstrong as Charlie in Firestarter, directed by Keith Thomas.

There’s no denying the Hollywood dependency of remaking any profitable property from the past, rather than opting to take chances with fresh and unique stories, has run tired long ago. Horror is a frequent go-to, and the 80’s are hotter than ever. So, a remake of the Stephen King based thriller Firestarter is naturally the latest in this untrendy trend. A dual release in theaters and on Peacock, this film follows essentially the same plotline and goes through all the familiar motions of this young girl with pyrokinetic powers growing into her own.

Now when I watch these remakes I go in with an open mind. I never want to sit down and watch a movie that I hope to…not like. But I do always go into these movies with the mindset of looking for where this new adaptation goes beyond its original, to see if the story can actually prove its worth for existence. Sadly, that wasn’t something I could find with Keith Thomas’ version of this story. When you’ve seen the original, this film kicks off like it’s immediately going through the motions and simply ticking the boxes on the checklist. Never feeling sincere or authentic.

The performances are fine. They’re serviceable for the needs of the characters, but no one is able to truly elevate the material. In the original there was an initial helplessness in Barrymore’s performance that made you sympathize with her. There was an element of naivete with her parents as well. So as her arc in the story grows you genuinely embark on that ride with her. That was absent in this adaptation. To her credit, Ryan Kiera Armstrong delivers an adequate portrayal in the role, and she does hit the more emotional notes nicely. But the story does her, or any other characters for that matter, any favors.

The plot-progression is bland as you follow this young girl’s journey because it’s on autopilot. With the hard-hitting visual emotion falling short of reaching the heartstrings to make you care. Now with that said, there were some positives. I loved the scoring. Routinely the musical cues would heighten the intensity effectively. I also felt the visual effects were appealing in places. However, being an old guy who grew up on the original, I think a bit more practical fire would’ve been awesome. As young Charlie comes to grips with her powers bursts of fire-themed violence are a result, but it never comes together to feel like the horror movie it should’ve been.

With the procedural progression, and lack of sincere emotions, blended with standard exposition it all feels more like an anti-hero origin story. Something that would have been workable had it been layered with the needed substance…and actually the intention. Because I feel the tone and atmosphere, or lack thereof, was more from the Firestarter source material being shoehorned into an assembly line plot-structure. And not really reworked with creative ambition in mind. If you’ve never seen the original Firestarter, or read Stephen King’s novel, this film will play much more effectively. But if you have, this new adaptation will feel expired upon arrival.

Grade: 45%

Anthony J. Digioia II © 2022 SilverScreen Analysis. All Rights Reserved.

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