Film Review: Firestarter (1984)

SYNOPSIS:

A father and daughter are on the run from the government, the duo isn’t in trouble for tax evasion though…you see Andy and Charlie are special. Due to experiments conducted on Andy during his college days he is now a telekinetic, Charlie his daughter is more dangerous however since she is a pyrokinetic. The government wants to capture the duo in order to contain their threat or use them as a weapon (see even in the 80’s the government couldn’t make up its mind). The father and daughter combo is soon captured and their fate, along with that of the rest of the world depends on the experiments conducted and if the duo and their powers can be contained.

REVIEW:

Directed by: Mark L. Lester
Starring: David Keith, Drew Barrymore, Heather Locklear and Martin Sheen

“Your hair is beautiful, like copper set on fire.”

Firestarter has all of the elements to be a blockbuster. The film is based on a book by Stephen King, who was at his height as the end all be all of horror in rural America. The cast featured Martin Sheen and Heather Locklear who were stars in their own right at the time; it also featured a very young Drew Barrymore just off of the release of E.T. Firestarter has all of the ingredients needed for the recipe of blockbuster….does it live up to its hype you might ask…I would have to say yes!

Firestarter is essentially split into three parts. The first part deals with Andy and Charlie being on the run from a government agency known only as “The Shop”. Andy is a telekinetic and Charlie is a pyrokinetic. During this part of the film the viewer witnesses Andy convince a cab driver that a one dollar bill is actually a five hundred dollar bill among other tricks. Charlie is seen setting a man’s leg on fire among other things.

This part of the film is also littered with flashbacks that allow the viewer to know about how Andy and Charlie got into this whole situation. You see Andy while in college allowed himself to be a guinea pig with an experimental drug called LOT-6. While doing the experiment Andy meets Vicky and the two immediately find out that they have new abilities and very quickly fall in love. The two end up having a baby, who is Charlie. Vicky has the power to communicate with her thoughts, Andy can persuade and force others to believe what he wants with his thoughts and Charlie can start huge fires on command. This story could have gone several different ways. In the hands of some this might have turned into another super hero comic, however even Stephen King has his ways to treat his comic book characters.

The second part of the film deals with members of The Shop actually being able to capture Andy and Charlie. That is after Charlie really does massacre a group of agents in a scene that has to be seen to be believed (the fire looks impressive and threatening in today’s hands the film would probably be so cgi heavy that it wouldn’t be watchable by many….however here in 1984 the fire looks dangerous).

The next half deals with each character and how they deal with being captured and experimented on. Andy is drugged and kept out of the loop however Charlie quickly befriends a handy man named John Rainbird (played excellently by George C. Scott) and makes deals with him and “The Shop” to see her father in exchange for her experiments. Little does Charlie know that John Rainbird is the reason her and her father were captured. When Charlie finds out however Hell will come to earth in a blazing inferno that has to be seen.

Firestarter is mainstream 80’s horror. There are certain things that come with films from this era and of course Firestarter does contain elements of them from corny hair styles and clothing styles to the soundtrack being performed by Tangerine Dream (who according to legend never even saw the film, they just told the producers to use what they wanted!).

At times Firestarter can drag but the pay off is well worth it once it comes on the screen. Charlie’s tantrums are quite violent for the time and Barrymore does pull off the character quite well, showing that even early on in her career she had some serious chops. Firestarter is vintage mainstream 80’s horror at its best and shouldn’t go skipped over by the snobby horror fan….the film really does have something every genre fan will enjoy.

Firestarter (1984)

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