If there’s anything that Stephen King loves to write about, it’s powerful children with god-like abilities, and I imagine considering most of his stories connect in to a universe, someone with Danny Torrance’s abilities is married to someone with the abilities from “Firestarter.” Mike Lester’s adaptation of the Stephen King novel is not a masterpiece, but I still insist it’s a fun movie with a good amount of effort behind it. The only thing it really suffers from is being ahead of its time. I imagine were we given a new adaptation “Firestarter” might be a mix of dazzling and disturbing a la “Carrie.” As it is, “Firestarter” is mostly a compelling horror drama about another very powerful young girl who is being hunted by the government.
The writer side of me can’t help but think that she’s being hunted after the whole idea of telekinesis popped up after the massacre at a school back in the seventies, as well as reports from a young boy who could sense evil and read minds. I digress. “Firestarter” stars a very young Drew Barrymore who is on the run with her father Andrew, both of whom are being hunted by the government for the massive mental powers they possess. Andrew is a man capable of bending people to his will using his mental abilities, while Charlie has the massive power of pyrokinesis which not only enables her to start fires at will, but makes her a weapon the government wants to use to their advantage. Despite making their best efforts to escape their clutches, they’re taken to a ranch in Virginia where the covert agency The Department of Scientific Intelligence (DSI) lies, and there they hope to hone their abilities to their advantage.
As Charlie and Andrew are split up, she’s infiltrated by seemingly harmless caretaker John, as played by George C. Scott. He plans to bond with Charlie as a means of manipulating her in to working with him, but Andrew tries constantly to escape in hopes of keeping Charlie from becoming a tool for the agency. “Firestarter’s” otherwise sub-par premise and lack of real emotional urgency is saved by the stellar cast, which includes a very young Drew Barrymore whose performance is absolutely charismatic. There are also great supporting turns by David Keith, George C. Scott, Louise Fletcher, and the great Art Carney. “Firestarter” is a strong and entertaining amalgam of science fiction and horror, and one that, if anything, deserves admiration for its strong performances and fantastic special effects.
Shout! as usual delivers materials for the fans that were often left short handed with past editions of “Firestarter.” There’s a brand new audio Commentary with Director Mark L. Lester who sadly delivers a kind of awkward and repetitive run down of movie. If you’re expecting some keen insight and lively discussion, you might be disappointed, but it’s something. The brand new “Playing with Fire: The Making of Firestarter” is an hour long discussion with Director Mark L. Lester, Actors Freddie Jones, Drew Snyder, Stuntman/Actor Dick Warlock, and Johannes Schmoelling of Tangerine Dream, all of whom discuss their experiences working on the movie, and its origins.
There’s the brand new “Tangerine Dream: Movie Music Memories” a seventeen minute look in to the stellar musical group who provided the excellent score for “Firestarter.” The interview with Johannes Schmoelling is detailed and exhaustive, with his explanation of using synthesizers, and their collaboration with Michael Mann on “Thief.” This is the highlight of the special features. There’s a new two minute Live Performance of “Charlie’s Theme” by Johannes Schmoelling of Tangerine Dream” who performs on his studio piano. Finally there are three minutes of theatrical trailers, about half a dozen radio spots that aired on the radio in 1984, and a still gallery composed of production photos, lobby cards, and original posters, including rare Japanese posters.