Firestarter – Blu-ray review
Director: Mark L. Lester
Stars: Drew Barrymore, David Keith, Martin Sheen, George C. Scott
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
In 1984 all things Stephen King were making the jump from the page to the screen. It seemed that people couldn’t get enough, even if not all jumps were successful. In fact, it can be argued that during the decade seeing “Stephen King’s” in front of a movie title was more often more of a warning than a selling point. So was that the case with Firestarter, or was it the exception to the usual downer rule? Well grab some marshmallows and an asbestos suit and let’s find out.
In the trippy 1970s, the U.S. government did some secret drug tests on a bunch of unsuspecting people. The funny part is, all that really happened. The fictitious part happens when two of the test subjects start displaying various psychic powers, then get married and have a kid. That daughter, named Charlie, is the titular Firestarter and she too has a weird power: as you could guess she has the ability to start fires with her mind. Since the government is evil and all that, as soon as they learn about Charlie they want her for their own nefarious reasons. So the little girl and her father go on the run to stay one step ahead of the CIA splinter group known as The Shop, headed by an ultra-slimy Martin Sheen. In order to get his elusive prey, Sheen puts in some good work here with the always excellent George C. Scott. Except here, Scott is playing a one-eyed Native American psychopath with his own dark plans for the little Firestarter. In this role, Mr. Scott chews through the scenery like a wood chipper, but boy is it a lot of fun to watch him do it.
The star of the show here is well the star of the show, little Drew Barrymore as Charlie, fresh off of her big role in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. She is cute, funny, vulnerable, and believable as a sad, confused, and angry little girl with an incredible power. That’s not to say that David Keith as her father doesn’t do good work, and 80s sex symbol Heather Locklear has too short of a part as her mother. The aforementioned dynamic duo of bad dudes, Mr. Sheen and Mr. Scott, are excellent in their respective roles, as well. The director, Mark L. Lester, who would follow this up with the much more awesomely 80s-tastic Schwarzenegger action-fest, Commando, does a solid, but not all that inspired job. Ultimately the real reasons to watch this movie are all the crazy, and honestly dangerous, fire stunts and effects. But for a movie called Firestarter, I guess that’s par for the course.
On to the extras from the always impressive Scream Factory. First there is an audio commentary track with the director, Mark Lester. Then there is a making-of documentary that runs a nice 52 minutes. There is a featurette on 80s synth masters, Tangerine Dream, who did the music for the movie that’s 17 minutes. And then Johannes Schoelling of Tangerine Dream gives off a performance of “Charlie’s Theme” from the film. There are also the usual theatrical trailers, radio spots, and a still gallery on here as well.
Firestarter has never been considered one of Stephen King’s classics, either in book or film form. But it’s not bad. It’s more “government doing naughty things with psychics” kind of thing that were all the rage around this time, so it’s not revolutionary. What it is, for the most part, is fun. A very young Drew Barrymore does a good job of making you feel concerned for her, and George C. Scott, while over the top, is always a slice of awesome. And there are some awesome fire effects and stunts, that the pyros in the audience will love it. It’s not a mandatory get, but it is well worth a watch, and this new release has the film looking better than ever, with a bunch of nice extras. So if you are a fan of this flick, consider it recommended.