The films based on Stephen King’s books range in quality time and time again. Firestarter (2022) follows in the now fairly common trend of attempt number two at the many stories of the prolific horror writer. I had not seen the original Firestarter (1984) starring Drew Barrymore, so my experience with this reboot was not shaded by love or hate of the original. I found much to enjoy with this movie and all of its 80s style and flair.
Charlie McGee (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) has something inside of her that she can’t quite control. Her powers allow her to project fire – among other things – and her parents, Andy (Zac Efron) and Vicki (Sydney Lemmon), have been trying to hide her so she can live a normal life. It’s impossible for Charlie not to draw attention to herself and soon finds the need to learn to use her power to protect herself and her family.
Armstrong delivers a very solid performance. There is a lot of campy, 80’s-style dialog she is asked to deliver, and – while many induce some rolling of the eyes – it is not her delivery. Even the overalls she wears for a large portion of the film seem like they were inspired by Rainbow Bright, and the movie isn’t a period piece. There is talk of WiFi and cellphones, but the family at its center seems to be ripped from another decade as they attempt to stay off the grid. Despite all of that, Armstrong is able to deliver a believable emotional performance. Efron is solid as usual, even if it was a little jarring seeing him play a father. As mentioned, not all of the dialog is well written, but Efron works with it adequately.
The highlight of the film is the 80’s score by the master of synth, John Carpenter. Any fan of Carpenter’s will know immediately that if it isn’t him and his son Cody, then it would have been someone doing their best impression of his style. Fortunately for us, it is the Carpenters – not The Carpenters – and it only adds to the 80’s aesthetic. Everything Stranger Things is accused of pulling from for nostalgia is also present in this movie, to a lesser degree. Of course, this film’s source material is clearly the inspiration for Eleven in that series, so it only makes sense to have similar vibes.
While I haven’t loved all of the Stephen King films, I found plenty of joy in watching this one. I have shown a trend of enjoying superhero-type content, and that’s certainly embedded in this film alongside a family drama with elements of horror. This film never really feels scary, but there is a horror (at the power level) Charlie exhibits that I suppose may scare some. For me, Firestarter was a solid movie that I could see watching again in the background, earning a very high Decent Watch rating.