Now that’s one Stephen King adaptation I didn’t see before now: “Firestarter”. Never read the book, never saw the original film, I went in completely blind with this; everybody had their doubts about it but I wanted to believe I’d get something of value out of this.
Boy, do I feel stupid.
The entirety of this film has the aura of car crash TV where the concepts and catchphrases are pushed above the quality of the actual product sometimes but BOY, even that barely feels credible to say here. Similar to Chaos Walking, it drowns out the levity of any possible context or subject matter relating to the main concept of the movie with such apathetic laziness and predictably that any buds of artistic exploration are completely burned at the stake. It already has a passable foundation with a structure to build some dimensions on but nobody actively cares enough to actually use it.
Between the flatly written dialogue, cheaper-than-cheap looking production design, not enough violence and profanity to live up to an R rating and the insipid pacing completely robbing us of any momentum, the godawful betrayal of a storyline started with the faintest of promises, got worse as it went on before ending on a really abrupt, sour and stupid note that Keith Thomas’s direction simply could not fix. This Stranger Things aesthetic to the near-barren atmosphere was unpleasant to look at, CG and special effects are incredibly inconsistent, the film only takes the skeleton of the books themes about control, manipulation and suppression just to vomit it up without barely a spark or an accelerant and the runtime did not help matters. Clocking in at only a pathetic 94 minutes, it is simply way too short to execute all of the messages it wishes to in time mostly because writer Scott Teems seemingly can’t stitch together a coherent plot structure to save his life.
And need I repeat myself: if you can’t care about the characters, how are you supposed to care about everything else? How do you mess up a basic relationship between father and daughter and make it this trivially boring? Poor character development and lack of personality equals nobody you can root for; even with Ryan Kiera Armstrong and Zac Efron trying to elevate the material they were given, all of the acting here is unacceptable. Why do you have to make everything so difficult when it doesn’t have to be?! Even if the story was executed properly, this is a plotline that we see far too often nowadays.
Only a few things about this film are worth mentioning in a positive light: John Carpenter constructed an admittedly spooky soundtrack and the camerawork consists of solid editing and a nice delicate mixture of composition and focus with its visuals even if the actual shots themselves are nothing to write home about. It at least helped set the moody ambience of the film in place along with the musical score.
This is just the tour of the town sometimes: you hold out hope for a movie marketed with a mediocre trailer and you find out the trailer wasn’t really lying….and it’s actually worse. I wanted to put in the effort to give it a chance multiple times, but every time I do, I get nothing back but the apathy and laziness of an entire team wanted to get this over with as fast as possible. You failed! This film is fail! You are become error!