Director: Keith Thomas
Screenwriter: Scott Teems
Starring: Zac Efron, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Sydney Lemmon, Michael Greyeyes, Gloria Reuben, Kurtwood Smith, John Beasley
Stephen King remakes seem to be burning quite nicely in the cinematic hearth at the moment. So are remakes/re-adaptations/requels/sequels/cash-ins-on-existing-properties by Blumhouse. Some of these are decent. This travesty of a ninety-minute exercise in boredom, which follows Ryan Kiera Armstrong’s Charlie McGee, a pyrokinetic young girl with a secret organisation hot on her tail to capture and analyse her for their own malicious ends, is not one of those decent examples.
Right from the word go, Firestarter does its best to irk you. Keith Thomas’ direction is sloppy and uninspired, Timothy Alverson’s editing annoying and without thought beyond the very basic necessities of filmmaking, Karim Hussain’s cinematography seeming to think that we only want to see half of what is going on such is the gloom on half of the cast’s faces. The writing is blunt and on the nose without any kind of emotion, and it doesn’t matter how prolific your actors are, if they’re given an awful script their performances are going to be serviceable at best; which is what they are here.
This adaptation makes numerous alterations to the book and the original 1984 film adaptation, choosing (for some bizarre reason) to tell a lengthier tale in a shorter space of time. It splits what was a story of two halves, especially pertinent in a tale about dualism (Charlie and her father, the pair of them vs The Shop, normal people against those with powers, etc), into a bog-standard three-act structure with all the flair and originality of your grandma’s bedsheets. It gives what was a manipulative, creepy, perverted character a ‘tragic’ backstory and changes him into an anti-hero, and, despite kicking off the violence and having innocent blood on his hands, is given a clean bill of health in the film’s final moments. This makes the final moments, and an unlikely alliance forming, not only confusing, but also incredibly problematic.
There’s no nice way to discuss this film because it very simply is not good. The only suitable way to describe it, perhaps, is that it’s thick. There’s nothing between the eyes up there. If it were sitting its GCSEs it would be lucky to scrape a grade in one of them. All the key creative decisions seems to have been half-assed with the assessment that, because it’s got Stephen King’s name attached to it, it’ll sell no matter how bland and derivative it is, no matter how much it insults our intelligence, no matter how much it has to manufacture jump scares even though it’s not a typical ‘scary’ story.
Someone should have let Charlie into the Blumhouse offices and used her powers to burn all copies of this film before distribution.