Firestarter (Mark L. Lester, 1984, USA)

Firestarter is one of the earlier cinematic adaptations of Stephen King before his name had truly saturated the film world. Originally slated to be directed by John Carpenter, Carpenter was removed from the project after his 1982 film The Thing flopped (now the film is regarded as a masterpiece). Director Mark L. Lester was brought onto the film, best known up until that point for the cult movie Class of 1984Firestarter is remarkably close to the 1980 Stephen King novel it is generally regarded as one of the most faithful Stephen King adaptations.

Faithful does not mean good, however. Some of the best Stephen King adaptations stray heavily from the source material. Firestarter starts mid-action, and the film keeps a good pace for about the first 40 minutes. The film starts to drag in the mid-section, as we are treated to extended scenes surrounding "The Shop", the US-government affiliated organization that has captured Andy McGee (David Keith) and his daughter Charlie (Drew Barrymore). The scene-chewing by Martin Sheen as Captain Hollister and George C. Scott as John Rainbird - normally two great actors - is a bit much. Thankfully the film does pick up in its explosive finale.

The two standout aspects of the film are the practical effects, which are awesome compared to today's CGI. The other aspect is the Tangerine Dream soundtrack, which is among their best work. The TD soundtrack lends mood and atmosphere to a film that is otherwise workmanlike and by-the-numbers. Drew Barrymore does her best, but she does not shine here as she does in E.T. One interesting factor about the film is that the overall vibe seems to have heavily inspired the series Stranger Things, with there being a lot of parallels between the character of Eleven and Charlie. So the film had some influence.



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