I’m a big Stephen King fan. So much so that the recent remakes of existing and new adaptations of his work have been keeping my horror heart happy and engaged. The latest of which is Firestarter. Available to stream on Peacock as well as to watch in theaters, Firestarter is directed by Keith Thomas and adapted to the screen from King’s novel of the same name by Scott Teems. It stars Zac Efron, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Sydney Lemmon, Michael Greyeyes, and Gloria Reuben with Kurtwood Smith and John Beasley.
In Firestarter, Andy and Vicky are raising their daughter, teaching her morality, how to control her emotions, and how to be an overall good human =you know, parent stuff. However, the family has a secret that separates them from the rest of the world: telekinetic abilities. From mind manipulation to moving things and starting well, fires, the trio are who they are because of scientific experimentation. Having escaped from the clandestine program, the family has been on the run, until Charlie’s powers manifest after being bullied at school. What ensues is a search for truth and freedom from those who made them that way.
While the Armstrong is phenomenal as Charlie, I was most taken by Effron’s Andy. Maybe it’s because Firestarter marked my realization that Efron is old enough to play a dad, and like one with a whole child (not a baby), but Andy is my favorite part of the film. Efron can be more than just attractive, which is a role he’s played well with comedy in the vast majority of his filmography. Here, Efron is a dad and a great one at that. He’s emotional both when it comes to raising his daughter and protecting her. He brings visible care to his relationship with Charlie which left me completely surprised, especially in the film’s final act.
Additionally, Michael Greyeyes gives a chilling and equally empathetic performance which should be noted. Between Greyeyes, Armstrong, and Efron, the cast delivers what it needs to in spades.
However, we all know Firestarter’s draw is the telekinesis and pyrokinesis of it all. And for that, some effects needed to cook longer where large fire elements are concerned. That said, other parts of visualizing telekinetic elements work extremely well. From Andy’s eyes turning red and bleeding and landscapes and reactions changing in response to him, to Charlie’s embers burning as she tries to keep from letting fire loose, this is a strong point for the film, even with some hiccups.
At a tight 94-minutes, some pacing elements aren’t as smooth as they should be, but the sometimes erratic elements end up helping push the tension and the fear as the father-daughter duo flee for their life. Again, small hiccups that don’t push the film into the trash bin, and ultimately work themselves out in the larger picture. That said, the biggest piece that stands to be critiqued is the exposition choices made. While some things are explained in detail to help build out the world that the film is taking place in, other elements are left in the cold. Like tech being used or motivations for Greyeye’s character and his ability to turn from hunter to protector, more exposition either shown or expressed could have helped the film a great deal.
Firestarter is something I want a whole world made out of and this film proves it. With levels to dive into in regards to the experimentation process, how it developed, and life on the run to look at, all this film reminded me of was that I want so much more from the characters and story that we see here. It’s what I felt about the original film, and what I deeply need now.
Firestarter isn’t perfect itself but it captures that Stephen King 80s & 90s heyday that I deeply miss. And whether you love King or not, that sweet spot is where adaptations of his work thrive. Some iconic elements of the original adaptation were kept, but this iteration ultimately feels worth the watch with how it deviates from what we already know. While this isn’t one to risk catching COVID for at a theater, it does make for a great Friday night movie on Peacock.
Firestarter is streaming now, exclusively on Peacock.
- Rating - 5.5/105.5/10
Firestarter isn’t perfect itself but it captures that Stephen King 80s & 90s heyday that I deeply miss. And whether you love King or not, that sweet spot is where adaptations of his work thrive.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.