Andrea’s film review – Firestarter

Firestarter (2022) ⭐️ Review by Andrea Carnevali

A couple who participated in a potent medical experiment gain telepathic ability and then have a child who is pyrokinetic. Out in cinemas this Friday.

This is possibly one of the most unremarkable films I’ve seen in quite a while, with pretty much no redeeming qualities despite the fact it stars Zac Efron and it’s based on a novella by Stephen King, though those are not qualities, those are just facts.

Some of you might remember the 1984 version of the same story, starring a young Drew Barrymore still riding on the success of ET two years earlier.

It was actually the first of a long series of critically panned adaptations from King, most of which came out in the ‘80s (Maximum Overdrive, directed by King himself, was the lowest point) and ‘90s (Graveyard Shift being possibly one the worst films ever).

While the ‘84 version was certainly not a great film, compared to this latest adaptation is possibly a Citizen Kane of King movies.

The story itself for a start was never one of the most original, but while on the page King is almost always able to pull it off (the book was actually nominated for several prestigious awards). Once it’s all on the screen it feels more like a tired re-hash of a bad and uninspired episode of the X-Files from the ‘90s.

It’s essentially about a family (mother, father and daughter) on the run, hunted by some shady people from the government because they possess great mind powers (telepathy, telekinesis and pyrokinesis) which they want to be able to control and possibly weaponize.

What is astonishing about the film is how bland and by-the-number it is. Even the poster looks identical from the first version, as if they couldn’t even be bothered to updated that one.

But crucially, especially for a horror film, it’s completely devoid of any scare or any tension and the special/visual effects (if we can call them that) are so unimaginative and badly executed, that they made me feel nostalgic for those in the ’84 version.

Even the editing and the pacing is slow. I mean, this is film about people on the run, for crying out loud! And yet, there is never any sense of jeopardy, no urgency, no surprises, no fear. It’s just a dull slog… and it’s boring as hell.

As for the bonding between the father and daughter, which was always at the centre in original book (and even in the first film), there’s hardly a scene when the two are together and we can actually care about their relationship.

Poor Zac Efron tries to do his best with the empty script he’s given, full of expositions and bad jokes, but he feels hopeless, isolated, un-directed and actually rather miscast too.

John Carpenter, who was famously fired from the first film, has been brought on board as a composer, taking with him his signature style of music, with cheap-sounding synthesizers, which might have worked in films like Halloween, but here it’s just corny and cheap and makes it all sound like a product from ‘80s, probably matching the blandness of everything else.

The final insult comes at the very end (different from the book and the previous film) which not only leaves the door open for possible sequels (as if anyone could care to see more) but doesn’t even conclude this film.

Avoid at all cost… or if you really have to, watch the original. Trust me.

Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick

Firestarter is out in cinemas this Friday.

See all Andrea’s film reviews here: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali

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