Some movies can benefit with a remake, and 1984's Firestarter is one of them. That film, based on Stephen King's 1980 novel of the same name, isn't awful, per se, but it isn't that memorable either. It's just average, The new remake, however, is a scrappy little science fiction thriller that is an improvement over the original film.
Eleven-year-old Charlie McGee (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) has a special and dangerous power. She can start fires by using her mind. Before Charlie was born, her parents Andy and Vicky (Zac Efron and Sydney Lemmon) participated in a secret government experiment which developed their telepathic abilities. Once Charlie came along, Andy and Vicky went on the run to protect their daughter from the government. Now, Charlie is having a hard time controlling her ability, and the new leader of the government experiment, Captain Hollister (Gloria Reuben), dispatches bounty hunter John Rainbird (Michael Greyeyes) to capture the girl.
The performances are solid all around, especially young Armstrong. She makes her character sympathetic, but at the same time she is able to convey this anger underneath. In scene after scene, tension builds because you are not sure if the character is going to hold it together or finally blow her top and burn everything down. Also, Efron impresses in a dramatic role of a father who will go to extreme lengths to protect his daughter.
Firestarter is directed by Keith Thomas, who also made the terrific 2019 horror movie The Vigil. Thomas, working from a screenplay by Scott Teems (Halloween Kills), digs a little deeper than the average thriller by having the heroes meditate on how horrible it feels when they are forced to take a life.
Delivering a very effective music score is filmmaker/musician John Carpenter, who has directed such cinematic classics as Halloween (1978), The Fog (1980), Escape from New York(1981) and They Live (1988), and would compose the scores to many of his own films. Giving him an assist here in Firestarter is his son, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel A. Davies.
Firestarter only disappoints in it's low energy fire blazing finale. I was expecting bigger and more plentiful pyrotechnics then what we actually get. The movie is building to this moment, and it doesn't quite deliver. However, I do commend director Thomas for emphasizing characters over special effects.
Firestarter is now playing in theaters and streaming on Peacock.