Firestarter is not only a disappointment, it’s a strange disappointment.  It promises to deliver on multiple levels and, yet, fails at every attempt.  It’s billed as a horror, but it’s not scary.  It’s billed as a thriller, but it doesn’t pull the viewer towards the edge of their seat.  It’s also billed as a family drama and science fiction, which it certainly sports elements of, but neither genre is interesting or exciting in this movie.  The only thing Firestarter does effectively is occupy a screen for just over 90 minutes;  the same way fish occupy a tank except fish are unpredictable.

For the most part, the film meanders around a cat-and-mouse chase featuring a secret organization hunting down a slightly superhuman father, Andy (Zac Efron), and his supernaturally gifted daughter, Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) in hopes of benefitting from their powers.  The set up reminded me of Freaks.  However, because Firestarter is a remake of the 1984 movie, it’s possible that Freaks may have been inspired by that original movie from the 80s. 

Though I can’t comment on how faithful this remake is to the film from ’84 or the novel by Stephen King, I can comment on how aggressively boring and basic this modern take is.  Once the plot is set up, Firestarter falls back on tired “rescue the child” tropes with the occasional special effect.  The special effects are pretty lame, which is unfortunate because fire has the eye-popping potential to dazzle and leap off the screen.  Charlie has the telekinetic power to set things aflame but, whether it’s practical effect like a blazing limb or a burn enhanced by CGI, the results look stagey.  Anything involving a body part looks like a trick you’d see in a theme park stunt show;  good from far away but pretty lame when given a close view. 

Firestarter is the sophomoric effort by director Keith Thomas, who created so much tension and scares in the infinitely superior flick The Vigil.  This feature plays out exactly like proving ground for an aspiring filmmaker working with a bigger studio, which only contributes more to the overall feeling that this movie exists as more of a business move than an entertaining movie worthy for audiences.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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