Looking Back at ‘Firestarter’s Slow Burn


Blumhouse is gearing as much as reboot Firestarter. I learn the 1980 Stephen King novel a long time again, however had by no means seen the 1984 Drew Barrymore movie. So I lastly watched it. And it is without doubt one of the all-time weirdest superhero films ever dropped onto the large display with a psychedelic Tangerine Dream soundtrack and George C. Scott as a large slice of ham.

“Now wait a minute,” you’re in all probability saying. “Firestarter is just not a superhero movie. It’s a horror movie. Did you miss the half within the final paragraph the place you stated it was based mostly on a Stephen King novel?”

And sure, I do know it’s usually regarded as a horror movie. However contemplate; it’s all a couple of traumatized little lady who discovers she’s bought superpowers and makes use of them to destroy a bunch of unhealthy guys. How is that not a superhero narrative? She’s even bulletproof. Sure, she doesn’t have a supersuit, however neither does Jessica Jones. Work with me, right here.

Perhaps you’re not satisfied. However both approach, the style uncertainty is an enormous a part of why the movie is so unusual. For a lot of its size it hovers paralyzed between totally different narrative tropes, ready half tranced to catch hearth.

The movie begins in media res, as Andy McGee (David Keith) and his daughter Charlie (Barrymore) flee from a mysterious authorities group known as the Store, which killed Charlie’s mom. The backstory is sketched in shortly thereafter; Andy and his spouse Vicky (Heather Locklear) had been the themes of a authorities experiment which gave them psychic powers. Vicky’s talents are unsure, however Andy can push folks to obey his psychological instructions, and their daughter, Charlie, has excessive pyrokinesis—she will be able to set something on hearth. The Store underneath the command of Captain Hollister (Martin Sheen) needs to deliver her in to regulate her.

Superhero tales lately usually begin with an origin story after which escalate by means of varied revelations in regards to the large unhealthy earlier than a cathartic battle and victory on the finish. Horror tales in distinction start with a semi-stable established order after which tip over into apocalypse.

Caught between these two roads main in several instructions, Firestarter wanders relatively aimlessly forwards and backwards between them, the plot meandering from placid corn to FX extravaganza. Andy and Charlie escape to rural retreats earlier than being captured and delivered to the compound of the Store. There Charlie is examined and subjected to an elaborate plot involving an murderer, John (Scott), who attire up as a janitor to win her belief.

There aren’t actually any plot twists—every part’s telegraphed beforehand—and Charlie doesn’t get extra highly effective in any linear approach. As a substitute, she makes resolutions to not use her energy after which adjustments her thoughts and burns issues up once more. In consequence, the story feels much less like a race in direction of an inevitable finish and extra like a neurotic dream, the place you retain dropping and discovering the identical plot factors time and again.

When you’re wandering round in that dream, you additionally search glacially for violent tremendous results. Pressure blasts lately zip throughout the display on the velocity of CGI. However Firestarter is from a slower, easier period and Charlie’s hearth powers seeks out its residing and unliving victims with glacial velocity. First, there’s a close-up on her face, then her hair begins billowing, then there’s a protracted shot of no matter goal she’s focusing on, and at last stated goal bursts into flame, or explodes, or a fireball streaks in direction of it. Motion sequences aren’t a lot sequences as they’re disconnected panoramas. You get an abstracted concept of carnage.

Charlie’s powers really feel like they’re minimize off from Charlie herself—they float off someplace close by, burning her enemies with out essentially making her their destroyer. It’s type of an empowerment fantasy about getting revenge on the individuals who tormented your loved ones, and it’s type of a horror film about transgressors who commit evil after which are despatched to hell by destiny and eldritch forces. Nevertheless it’s additionally only a spectacle of flickering imagery, staged for its personal sake, with none actual anchor in trigger and impact.

I wouldn’t say that Firestarter is a superb film. The appearing is detached and it’s one among King’s weaker plots. However at a time cinema film screens are saturated with formulaic superheroing, it’s intriguing to return and watch a film that so clearly didn’t get the memo about the place superheroes are speculated to go, and the way rapidly. I believe the reboot will attempt to velocity issues up and provides Charlie’s hearth a bit extra fiery snap. If it does, although, it might lose the core of the unique, a narrative a couple of lady frozen by, or close to, her personal energy.

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This publish was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Picture Credit score: Common Footage.

Noah Berlatsky is a contract author based mostly in Chicago. His e book, Surprise Lady: Bondage and Feminism within the Marston/Peter Comics was printed by Rutgers College Press. He thinks the Adam West Batman is the most effective Batman, darn it.

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