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Blu-ray Review: Firestarter (Collector’s Edition)

August 9, 2022

By John Corrado

★½ (out of 4)

Firestarter is the second adaptation of Stephen King’s 1980 novel of the same name, following the 1984 film that starred a young Drew Barrymore. This Blumhouse-produced remake is intended as a modern upgrade, but it’s actually one of the blandest King adaptations, struggling to, well, get any sort of fire started. Put simply, it’s just not very good.

Zac Efron stars in this version as Andy McGee, a young father who is forced to go on the run with his 11-year-old daughter Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), who has the ability to combust and start fires with her mind.

The opening credits establish that Andy and his partner Vicky (Sydney Lemmon) were part of a drug experiment in college that gave them telepathic and telekinetic powers, which they passed along to Charlie, making her a coveted government asset. The family has been in hiding ever since, but Charlie is increasingly struggling to control her pyrokinesis when angry, and an incident at school following intense bullying ends up blowing their cover.

A skilled tracker named Rainbird (Michael Greyeyes) is sent to capture her, putting Andy and Charlie on the run, which makes up the bulk of the movie. Directed by Keith Thomas, making the jump to studio filmmaking following his pretty good Jewish horror debut The Vigil, Firestarter struggles to hold our interest right from the get-go. It’s never particularly scary or thrilling, yet not engaging or involving enough to really work as family drama, either. The adapted screenplay by Scott Teems leaves both the characters and story feeling underdeveloped, and the film ultimately feels more like a TV pilot than a fully fleshed out movie.

At a scant 94 minutes, Firestarter rushes through its plot, yet has the added baggage of feeling much longer (which is never a good thing). For a story that should have more of an emotional pull, the film mostly falls flat, with characters often seeming weirdly detached and disaffected. The young Armstrong does show some promise in the lead, but Efron, while serviceable, isn’t really given enough to make the role his own, and is left to play a sort of interchangeable dad archetype. And, despite the potential for cool visuals, the film also often looks surprisingly dull.

The one saving grace of Firestarter is the eerie, Stranger Things-esque synth score courtesy of none other than the legendary filmmaker and composer John Carpenter (alongside his collaborators Cody Carpenter and Daniel A. Davies). Carpenter’s score appropriately rocks, especially during the film’s big finale. I just wish it was accompanying a better overall movie.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

The “Collector’s Edition” Blu-ray comes with an alright array of bonuses, including an alternate ending and a handful of featurettes. A regular DVD and code for a digital copy are also included in the package, which ships with a slipcover.

Alternate Ending (2 minutes, 43 seconds): A variation on the final scene in the film. The ending they went with is better, in my opinion.

Deleted and Extended Scenes (Play All – 20 minutes, 14 seconds): A mix of new and extended scenes, a few of which would have helped pad out the film a bit. I actually think the last one, Andy’s Visionary Escape From the Cell, should have been left in as one of the better scenes.

Andy Reflects in Mirror (1 minute, 46 seconds)

Andy’s Lot Six Nightmare – Extended (4 minutes, 4 seconds)

Wanless Gets a Visitor – Extended (2 minutes, 30 seconds)

Rainbird Scare/Wildlife Hunt (4 minutes, 15 seconds)

Charlie Treks to Find Andy (2 minutes, 9 seconds)

Charlie Counts Down “Five, Four, Three, Lies” (1 minute, 7 seconds)

Andy’s Visionary Escape From the Cell (4 minutes, 11 seconds)

Gag Reel (1 minute, 6 seconds): Your standard gag reel.

A Kinetic Energy (6 minutes, 4 seconds): A look at crafting a new take on the novel, and Efron’s performance in the film as a father.

Spark a Fire (3 minutes, 43 seconds): Director Thomas, screenwriter Teems, and the producers discuss the deeper themes of King’s story.

Igniting Firestarter (3 minutes, 38 seconds): A brief but interesting look at the film’s mostly practical effects, including covering actors and stunt doubles in Nomex gel in order to use real fire.

Power Struggle (3 minutes, 28 seconds): A look at an early set-piece between Vicky and Rainbird, including the use of air cannons to explode things off walls towards the actors.

Feature Commentary with Director Keith Thomas

Firestarter is a Universal Pictures Home Entertainment release. It’s 94 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: August 9th, 2022

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