In the 2000s, horror fans were besieged by remakes they neither wanted nor liked, including (but not limited to) the 2003s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 2005 The fog and The Amityville Horror2006 Black Christmas, The hills have eyes, The Wicker Man, The Omen and When a stranger calls2008 prom2009 Friday the 13thth and The stepfatherand 2010s A nightmare on Elm Street. It was a desolate era of substandard renovations, bringing a gleaming modern glow to works that had never required such treatment, with the rare exception (particularly Rob Zombie’s two Halloween movies), they were discarded cashgraps that exploited familiar and easily marketable traits for a new generation of gene republicans eager to enjoy something sinister and sick with their friends on a Friday night.
As that trend died, another emerged, led by stranger things and like-minded projects that mined popular treasures of the 1970s and ’80s for nostalgic tributes. It’s up for debate whether these remix projects were more original than the remakes that preceded them, but it’s in that context that we see it now fire starter, a new Blumhouse-produced version of Stephen King’s 1980 novel about a young girl with the ability to set things on fire with her mind. It was always one of the author’s less early endeavors, but it’s largely burst into public consciousness through Mark L. Lester’s 1984 theatrical adaptation, which starred a young Drew Barrymore fresh from her breakthrough role in ET the extraterrestrial– as Charlie, a pyrokinetic child who struggles to come to terms with her stubborn habit of starting firebrands. Not that it deserves to be remembered; Despite an impressive cast rounded out by George C. Scott, Martin Sheen, Louise Fletcher, Art Carney, David Keith and Heather Locklear, it was a lousy film lacking in horror, suspense, personality or an intriguing thought in its hellish head was missing.
All of which brings us to Keith Thomas’ 2022 rehash of King’s Tale, a misguided endeavor that walks the line between the lousy Rehains of 20 years ago and the more recent homages of the last decade. Premieres simultaneously in theaters and on Peacock today (May 13), fire starter feels almost entirely DOA from the start – a somewhat shocking turn of events given director Keith Thomas’ backstory the guard was an understated and efficient piece of religious horror. Thomas’ knack for menacingly low-lit action is demonstrated once again in his latest film. Yet the only mood this dud conjures up is extreme torpor, and the only reaction it elicits is confusion as to why anyone – including headliner Zac Efron – thought this was even worth their time or energy.
In an ordinary house in a bland town in an unknown location, Andy (Efron) and Vicky (Sydney Lemmon) live with their daughter Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), who is anything but normal, as evidenced by an opening dream sequence featuring a toddler Charlie sets fire to her cot – and then her own head! Andy wakes up from this reverie, shattered, and then finds his daughter playing with a Zippo lighter in her kitchen in the dark. She talks about how “something feels weird in my body,” which signifies her ability to shoot flames out of her torso (aka “the evil”). Andy reminds her that when this uncontrollable feeling overwhelms her, she should calm down by focusing on everyday objects in her field of vision. As soon as Vicky shows up, he offers to make them all pancakes, although Efron can’t sell himself as a father (even with a sketchy beard), this gesture of loving fatherhood seems ridiculously fake.
An end credits sequence of grainy VHS footage reveals that as college students, Andy and Vicky were part of a scientific study using a hallucinogenic chemical compound that gave them telepathic and telekinetic powers, both of which they subsequently passed on to their arsonist daughter. This LSD-is-bad scenario was a by-product of the book’s specific time of 1980, and thus resonates as completely out of place in a 2022 story. Nonetheless, Thomas and company dutifully uphold it and make it the reason this clan is hiding from The Shop, the secret organization responsible for their condition and bent on winning them back for further lab rat studies.
Charlie learns of this fact when she explodes in a sizzling manner at school (spurred on by thugs) and at home (injuring her mother), thereby catching the attention of The Shop’s Captain Hollister (Gloria Reuben), advises her predecessor, Dr Joseph Wanless (Kurtwood Smith), and assigns another enhanced test subject – Michael Greyeyes’ John Rainbird – to hunt down Charlie. Andy and Charlie soon flee the capture of the powers that be, whose shadowy nefariousness is also a holdover from the 1970s. Unfortunately, their entire ordeal is an uneventful mess, consisting only of pit stops at an alley behind a building (where Charlie hilariously frys a cat until crispy) and at the apartment of an elderly man (John Beasley). who uses mind control to trick Andy into assisting her flight.
“This LSD-is-bad scenario was a by-product of the book’s specific time of 1980, and thus resonates as completely out of place in a 2022 story.”
To say that nothing happens fire starter is an understatement; Rarely has a film taken fewer narrative steps than this one, while at the same time indulging in only explanatory dialogue. Scott Teems’ screenplay is so leaden and sluggish that Thomas and his cast are helpless to bring momentum or vitality to the plot. The few stabs of shock-fear are pitifully ineffective; the death scenes are bloodless and unimaginative; and the fire effects are cheesy and overwhelming. Pictures fly off the walls, Efron bleeds from his eyes (a result of using his “Push” powers), and Charlie eventually hones and controls her gift, but Teems’ script is a sluggish affair that avoids the fast-paced drive of King’s novel, which was his main (only?) asset.
Worse, fire starter features a familiar-sounding synthesizer score from horror legend John Carpenter, which, as she rides through the suburbs on a bike in a hooded sweatshirt with late shots of Charlie driving things into burp-of-burp territory, steers things as whether the film would now deliberately reverberate stranger things‘Knock off accept fire starter and its 1980’s supernatural/sci-fi streak. A final shot that coincides with Carpenter’s subHalloween The theme played over the credits in red type unashamedly strives to caress that nostalgic sweet spot, but at this point in this pointless makeover, the only thing one feels is relief that it’s over.
https://www.thedailybeast.com/firestarter-is-a-sign-that-zac-efron-needs-to-call-his-agent-immediately?source=articles&via=rss “Firestarter” is a sign that Zac Efron needs to call his agent. Right away.