Sat | Dec 9, 2023

‘Firestarter’ an undercooked remake

Published:Friday | May 20, 2022 | 12:07 AMDamian Levy/Gleaner Writer
A girl with extraordinary pyrokinetic powers is on the run in ‘Firestarter’.
A girl with extraordinary pyrokinetic powers is on the run in ‘Firestarter’.

The original Firestarter film came out in 1984, yet its story has never been more familiar. A young girl subjected to experiments develops amazing abilities and is hunted down by the very people who made her what she is. Stranger Things has become a phenomenon in Firestarter’s absence, but the remake has come back to reclaim its crown. The effort is unfortunately tepid.

Firestarter is a film that burns through its source material at a rapid pace, and remains underwhelming throughout.

So little time is devoted to kindling any sort of care for the film’s plot. Characters simply react to the events that unfold that are never given time to simmer. The movie feels like a made-for-TV movie that tries to skate by on the promise of seeing Zac Efron as a dad.

I’m afraid he doesn’t quite convey paternity. That’s a shame, considering the movie is dependent on his relationship with the star, Ryan Kiera Armstrong.

As far as father-daughter relationships go, this one is without a spark. Efron seems encumbered with having to care for his pyromaniac preteen as they evade the authorities. He seems the type to be fine with losing her in the wrong supermarket aisle, or leaving for a pack of cigarettes, never to return. As bad a dad as he is, it doesn’t take away from Armstrong’s performance. She’s convincing in her portrayal of a young girl exceedingly frustrated with the difficult life she never asked for.

Characters aside, the film is devoid of tension. Some scenes play out like traditional horror scares but there’s an accelerant element that’s missing. The movie is without any mystery or unknown force that could pose a threat to the cast. Firestarter tries to double as a fugitive family drama and a horror thriller. Its attempts at fright are doused by its lack of direction.

Firestarter feels very much like a film made for television, one that thrills with a star you’d expect on the big screen, a fantastic score by John Carpenter, and some horror effects that feel too unnerving for prime time. Flipping through channels or browsing through your streaming service would make for a decent watch. When sitting in a dark room for a mercifully short hour and a half, that enjoyment gets quickly extinguished.

Rating: Catch It On Cable