Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Film Review: FIRESTARTER (1984, Mark Lester)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 114 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Stephen King, Drew Barrymore, George C. Scott, Louise Fletcher, Art Carney, Moses Gunn, Heather Locklear, David Keith, Martin Sheen, Freddie Jones, and a soundtrack by Tangerine Dream.
Tag-lines: " She has the power . . . an evil destructive force."
Best one-liner(s): "Get out of here, you bastard! I'll burn you up! I'll fry you!"

Imagine something lackluster in a TV movie kind of way. Like a two hour pilot of CARRIE- THE SERIES. But they wanted to get her out of the high school, reach a wider kind of audience, so they made Carrie nine years-old, and- you know what, Carrie's powers are kind of obtuse, abstract, kind of hard to pin down. So let's make her have just the power to start fires. Then we can team her up with her dad, and give him the esoteric powers that we can define later when it becomes a series. That's what FIRESTARTER kind of feels like at first, and you think it should be a two or three-star movie, tops. (And the presence of Art Carney and Heather Locklear does nothing to dispel this sensation.) But then there's more to consider. Like a wonderfully pulsating electronic soundtrack, courtesy of Tangerine Dream. George C. Scott in a ponytail. And sometimes an EYEPATCH.

Well worth the price of admission.

And the cast has a combined two Oscars and three nominations between Scott and Louise "Nurse Ratched" Fletcher, not to mention the acting talents of Martin Sheen, David Keith, frequent Lynch collaborator Freddie Jones, and Obie-winner and 80's movie favorite Moses Gunn. They give this film its fourth star and make it a damn good time at the movies. It's also got a very similar feel to CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, and its scene at Chimney Rock almost seems like an attempt to reference THIRD KIND's Devil's Tower.

In closing, along with Dario Argento's INFERNO, and to some extent, PHENOMENA, FIRESTARTER is one of the best early 80's films with fire as its main visual trope that uses giant-fan-blown hair to represent the supernatural.

Charley the Kid starts a fire in FIRESTARTER (1984).

The Mother of Tears starts an ominous wind in INFERNO (1980).

Jennifer calls the insects in PHENOMENA (1985).

-Sean Gill

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