Jason Blum has been one of the people who has reinvigorated the horror genre with his Blumhouse Pictures production company. He has scooped the rights to some popular IPs in the past, and the latest property that he and his company has acquired is Firestarter, based on the Steven King novel. If Firestarter sounds familiar, it probably is because there was a 1984 film of the same name starring Drew Barrymore and directed by Mark Lester. The latest film is getting a day-and-date release on Peacock and in theaters.
Zac Efron plays a father of a little girl named Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), who has pyrokinetic abilities. When he and his wife (Sydney Lemmon) were younger, they volunteered for experimental medical procedures and medication trials. This gave them powers of mental manipulation. When she was born, these powers were passed onto their daughter, making her a very dangerous 11-year-old girl. Because of this, her parents keep her hidden from the outside world. Michael Greyeyes plays an assassin trying to capture Charlie for his bosses, who want her for their nefarious plans. He is pretty good in the film.
Even though this film is based on Steven King’s book, it has the vibes of a comic book film — specifically, Logan, where an older Wolverine mentors a young mutant X23. They go on a road trip with Professor X. The father-daughter dynamic in this film is very reminiscent of a recent movie out in theaters right now, too, called Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, another film of a protector character trying to keep a young teenager from being captured and her powers being used for nefarious means. This is a typical trope in films.
The revelation in this film is the lead actress Ryan Kiera Armstrong. She is playing a brooding moody young girl. She has a lot to deal with in the movie, from bullies to hitmen. Thinking of how a little girl would care about her mother and father was something on my mind during this entire film. Parenting is a huge issue in this country, and how the parents in the film care for and try to help this little girl was satisfying to me. Armstrong is fantastic in her breakout role.
As a reimagining of this property, Firestarter worked pretty well for me. The little girl who spontaneously combusts and fireballs of flame was pretty cool. Armstrong is a revelation, and she has a bright future ahead, similar to Barrymore during her time. The comparisons to a bunch of other films are inevitable, and maybe they copied this story that came out decades before. The parenting issues were interesting choices by the director and writers. The actors besides Armstrong make the most of the material they are given. Efron is nothing like himself in this film. The marketing plan behind a Peacock and theaters release was probably a good idea because it’ll probably get a lot of people to see it that way. Blumhouse has another winner on his hands.
3 1/2 stars
Dan Skip Allen
Sean Boelman Founder/EIC disappointment media