Firestarter (1984)

firestarter poster 1984 movie
5.5 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting: 5/10
Visuals: 6/10

Explosive ending

Dull build up to the ending

Movie Info

Movie Name: Firestarter

Studio: Dino De Laurentiis Company

Genre(s): Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Release Date(s): May 11, 1984 (US)/May 15, 1984 (UK)

MPAA Rating: R

firestarter charlie mcgee andy david keith drew barrymore

This is why you never pick up hitchhikers

Andy McGee (David Keith) and Vicky Tomlinson (Heather Locklear) were college students when they signed up for an experiment with the promise of extra cash…but the drug LOT-6 turned their lives into a nightmare.  Giving them superhuman powers which they passed on to their child Charlie (Drew Barrymore), the McGees found themselves the target of the Shop who wanted to harness their power for the government.  With Vicky dead and Charlie and Andy on the run, getting their story out might be their only shot at survival.  The Shop led by Captain James Hollister (Martin Sheen) doesn’t intend to let the world know their secret and a Native American named John Rainbird (George C. Scott) has been brought in to either turn Charlie or silence her forever.

Directed by Mark L. Lester, Firestarter is a horror science-fiction thriller.  The film adapts the 1980 novel by Stephen King and was released to negative reviews.  Originally John Carpenter was attached to direct but removed from the project after the box-office performance of The Thing.  The movie also features music by Tangerine Dream.

firestarter george c scott native american drew barrymore

The faux Native American is creeping me out in multiple ways

I can remember the Firestarter book being on the shelf and new when I was little.  With Cujo, it was the title I most associated with Stephen King when I first learned of him.  While both the novel and the film aren’t King’s best, the nostalgia does lead to a soft spot…and the rather cheesy campy nature of the film does give it some edge in an otherwise boring film.

The pacing of the film is all off (or there needs to be some drastic editing.  The “on-the-run” portion works best but the movie hits a “firewall” (literally) after the capture by Shop.  Charlie’s powers are tested (though we pretty much already know her scope and power) and Rainbird tries to manipulate her which is slightly more compelling but also disturbing on multiple levels.  It is the type of movie that you never are going to feel satisfied with the ending (and Norma Manders also get over the “never come back” phase pretty quickly).

firestarter pyrotechnics

Mmmmm…Baked Potatoes!

For as tough as the role is to be both scary and emotional, Drew Barrymore was a decent child actress.  Her sad and crying was top notch, but her angry and standard things (like yawning etc.) were more of a challenge for her.  David Keith wasn’t bad as his father and Charlie Sheen is always good as a slimy guy.  Freddie Jones and Moses Gunn are underdeveloped and Louise Fletcher and Art Carney feel like a real odd pairing.  Heather Locklear has a small role as Charlie’s mother…who meets a quick fate.  The worst casting has to be George C. Scott who is above this film and now has the uncomfortable distinction of being cast as a Native American (something that wasn’t as controversial then).  His character also raises the creep factor by using techniques often used by pedophiles to seduce Charlie to his side…while he wants to kill her, there is also an undercurrent that he is way too into this young child.

firestarter charlie mcgee drew barrymore

Back off!

The movie visually also varies from good to so-so.  Some of the pyro techniques are good, but it is also in general too little too late for the final showdown at the Shop (the farmhouse fight gave an early preview).  While most of the effects are good, there are points like in the barn where you can see the accelerant before it is lit…plus the windy hair Drew Barrymore look is overplayed throughout the movie.

Firestarter is film that has a small following but being tied to Stephen King and an early film of Drew Barrymore probably has kept the movie around more than some better horror films of similar quality.  The film/novel received a semi-sequel on Sci-Fi in 2002 called Firestarter:  Rekindled and Blumhouse made a new version of the story in 2022.

Related Links:

Firestarter (2022)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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