Keith Thomas’ adaptation of Stephen King

Andy (Zac Efron) and Charlie (Ryan Keira Armstrong) in Firestarter, directed by Keith Thomas

Zac Efron and Ryan Keira Armstrong in fire starter
picture: Ken Woroner/Universal Pictures

With any subsequent modification, the hope is that the story improves on the version that came before it — or at least feels as though it offers a unique insight, an extra layer that makes the new adaptation purposeful in its insistence on the old ground. Regardless of the critical evaluation, talk The king readjusts He. She (2017), It’s: Chapter 2 (2019) and Pet Semetary (2019) All of that. They felt like films that had a clear idea of ​​what they wanted to achieve. But the new adaptation fire starter, directed by Keith Thomas, has no clue what he wants to be, vacillating wildly between goals over the course of his very short run. Is this half of a TV movie from 2003? Is this an extended pilot for a TV series? Is this just a way to retain rights? To be clear, what’s uncertain is a movie that captures even a bit of King’s narrative.

1984 version of fire starterFeaturing Drew Barrymore, it’s not a masterpiece, though it does invoke a level of nostalgia for its mix of folk Americana and Cold War paranoia. It happens to be, at least structurally, one of King’s mods that sticks closest to its source. This movie is directed by director Mark L. Lister, who will prove more successful with action than horror. The biggest surprise comes as Thomas, who debuted in Blumhouse on a low budget stay up Chilled audiences with an effective sense of awe manage to make this new horror and thriller free of stress or risk.

fire starter It starts off strong, as Andy McGee (Zac Efron) dreams of his baby boy on fire. It’s a shocking shockwave followed by the opening credits covering flashbacks to the Lot 6 trials, which boosted the latent psychic abilities of patients, including Andy and eventual wife Vicki (Sydney Lemon). Most of the test subjects go crazy, tearing out their eyeballs and screaming in pain. As the introductions go, it’s an economical use of storytelling that whets the appetite for what’s to come. It’s unfortunate that the rest of the movie never quite matches that energy.

The story picks up with 11-year-old Charlie McGee (Ryan Keira Armstrong) struggling to control her motor power. She’s the weird kid in school, portrayed in shades of another famous King psyche, Carrie White. Her parents don’t allow her to use the internet or cell phones so she can’t be tracked, making her an outcast by Luddite among her peers. While Charlie’s mother, Vicki, has given up using her telekinetic powers, Andy uses telepathy as a mentor out of the books, cash only, for self-help clients struggling with addiction. But there is tension between Andy and Vicki regarding how to raise Charlie. Vicki thinks she needs training to learn how to control it. Meanwhile, Andy thinks she needs the suppression, citing how his use of powers began causing a brain hemorrhage — in the form of blood leaking from his eyes. A neat trick, and a more terrible option than nosebleeds in the original version. The couple’s arguments are repeated about what to do with Charlie and her powers, and they spend a lot of time hitting the same rhythm. The actors do their best with screenwriter Scott Tims’ limited explanatory dialogue, but it’s hard not to feel your eyelids getting heavy.

Just when it looks like things won’t get better again, Charlie gets angry at her parents for what they’ve made her — a monster, she says — and in a fit of rage, she ignites her mother’s arms. Andy refused to call 911, bandaged his wife’s severe burns, and, at Vicki’s insistence, took Charlie out for ice cream to soothe her, as one would. Charlie confesses to her father that she meant to set him on fire instead. This is the nucleus of an interesting idea, a metamorphosis in Charlie’s devoted adoration for her father in the 1984 novel and film. But nothing really comes of it, and the film doesn’t give Efron the opportunity to explore that reaction. Andy is designed to offer cliched ideas about not doing harm to things and people, and the cost of using such powers, but there is little sense of a connection between the two.

The Shop, the government agency behind the Lot 6 trial, proceeds to arrest Charlie. The agency’s director, Captain Hollister (Gloria Robin), saddled with the film’s worst dialogue, sends retired agent John Rainbeard (Michael Grays) to pick up Charlie. She also meets Dr. Wanless (Kurtwood Smith), who led the Lot 6 trials, and asks him to come back – and then never see him again for the rest of the movie. Rainbird kills Vicki, and Andy and Charlie have so little reaction to her death that it almost seems comical. Even Rainbird, who has been granted his teleportation powers in this iteration, seems uninvested in the whole situation.

The Rainbird is considered one of King’s most feared villains, and his obsession with Charlie in the novel feels religious and pedophile; There is just a harmful feeling of unease it creates. Greyeyes, who made chilling acts in real detective season 3, blood quantityAnd Indian wildReally, not much is given to being here. It’s a shame, because the unfortunate George C. Scott had a lot to work with in the 1984 release (while uncomfortably pretending to be an American Indian). This is amazing fire starter He attempts to paint Rainbird in a sympathetic light, revealing that he was a “lab rat” in the early Lot 6 experiments and used by the government as an agent, an intriguing story that replaces the history of the Vietnam War in the novel for the scientific abuses of Native Americans. But like so many things in this movie, this door stays shut, and Rainbird feels more like a plot device than a character.

Michael Gray as Rainbird in Firestarter, directed by Keith Thomas

Michael Gray in fire starter
picture: Ken Woroner/Universal Pictures

Charlie and Andy get away, but in a very urgent way that makes the movie budget clear. Filmed from behind warehouses, this uninhabited world of extras is made all the more compelling by CBS’ mediocre procedural visuals. After resting on a farm with its own funnyly unnecessary subplot, Andy ends up in captivity but Charlie escapes, making her way to the store via their psychological relationship. Charlie also has telekinesis and telepathy, which is largely treated as an “oh, by the way” plot device as the movie deviates more and more from the novel. There’s no real sense of how long it takes Charlie to get to the store – it could be the next day or weeks. When we see Andy again, he has a beard, and the plausibility of the already implausible scenario starts to sag under the weight of it all.

Somehow, with 10 minutes left in the film, the third act begins; Charlie meets Hollister, the antagonist of the entire story, for the first time. Charlie tries to save her father, sets some unmasked shop customers on fire, and uses more telepathy along with her kinetic powers. It has to be said that the flames in this movie always come from the flamethrower in the least creative way possible. And there’s not enough blood or burn to get an R rating. But at least there’s some purple and blue neon lighting in the store’s empty cement lanes, perhaps to try and impress some ’80s nostalgia and Weird things kinship to the public. No escalation here, no giant fireballs raining havoc and destroying helicopters and shop foundations. The film simply burns, despite being just a flash, with a complementary taste ending that feels like a misjudgment in all respects.

The best that can be said about this new iteration fire starter is that he at least gave us a new score of John CarpenterCody Carpenter and Danielle A Davis. The rest feels like a waste of the talented cast and crew who somehow, against all odds, makes 1984 look like an incredible feat in the world of King adaptations.