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Firestarter More at IMDbPro »

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27 out of 36 people found the following review useful:

Young prodigy starts fires in one of the best Stephen King adaptations!

Author: The_Void from Beverley Hills, England
19 July 2006

Despite the fact that the films usually revolve around good and interesting stories, film adaptations of Stephen King's works are often not the best horror movies. Firestarter isn't the best known of his books, and that's slightly odd as this film adaptation is one of the best based on his stories. The film takes obvious influence from Brian De Palma's 'The Fury', as aside from the fact that this one is about a young girl that can start fires, and De Palma's film features a boy with psychic abilities; the way that both plots play out is very similar indeed. The plot has a number of problems, and the characters don't always act logically; but this is offset by the likable nature of the film, and characters that are easy to get along with due to their relatively simplistic nature. The film follows the aftermath of an experiment in which people were given an experimental drug. The ultimate result of this experiment was a child born of Andy and Vicky McGee; a child with a unique ability known as 'pyrokinesis' - the ability to start fires at will.

The film benefits from a range of cult stars. A young Drew Barrymore takes the title role, and although her acting skills hadn't been honed by the time this film was released, and she is more than a little bit wooden; she provides an interesting lead. David Keith and Martin Sheen back her up well in supporting roles, but the main acting plaudits go to the great George C. Scott who is good in what is probably the meatiest role of the piece. The running time is a little long for a film like this, but it's well used and the fact that the story doesn't get caught up with needless elements such as the girl's mother and father falling in love is definitely a good thing. The plot is very relaxed for most of the way through, and director Mark L. Lester seems content to just let things play out. That is until the last fifteen minutes; when the plot reaches its full potential and explodes with a fun and exciting finale. The film does feel more than a little bit like a TV movie at times; and the dumbed down techno soundtrack doesn't help this. Overall, the film definitely isn't perfect; but it's an enjoyable watch and King films have definitely been a lot worse!

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24 out of 31 people found the following review useful:

One of the more accessible King adaptations, but best if you enjoyed the book

Author: mstomaso from Vulcan
21 May 2007

Firestarter is the story of Charlie (Drew Barrymore at age 8) and Andy, her dad (David Keith), and the people who are trying to imprison, control and/or kill them (Martin Sheen, George C. Scott, Moses Gunn, and others). Charlie is a mutant. Her father and mother were part of an experiment on mutagenic substances performed on college students in the 1960s by The Shop. The experiment gave Andy the ability to control others minds, but the mutation, apparently dormant in his wife, was passed on through the sex chromosome to his daughter. Charlie, quite plainly, can combust virtually anything with her mind.

Though all the acting in this film is good, Barrymore and Scott are truly awesome. Scott plays a brilliant sociopath, and can go from a kindly old Viet Nam vet to a ruthless killer with one quick change of facial expression. And Barrymore (at the age of 8, if you didn't pick up on that the first time I said it) gives her character a fully believable person-hood with great depth.

Like the novel, this is more of a horror-thriller than classic King ghost stories - like The Shining. It is also less classic King horror - like Carrie. And its also not a great drama like Dolores Claiborne, Misery and Stand By Me. Though it fits into roughly the same category as Hearts in Atlantis, it is not a literary as this much later King work and the characters are not as well developed. Although the book could be said to be one of King's earlier experiments with what would become a formula for his lesser works, King's writing is so lucid, and his characters are so interesting, believable and nicely examined, that his 'B fiction' is still somewhat above the average best-seller. The film follows the book very closely, and, like the book, is sort of a prototype for the more formulaic films in the King portfolio.

The directing is very good, the cinematography (especially the effects) is excellent, and the film is, as a whole entertaining. But, for those who have not read the book, the film will likely come off as 'no big deal.' As with many of the more formulaic King-derived films, this is best seen as a cathartic summary of the original work (like Dreamcatchers, Running Man, The Stand, Maximum Overdrive, The Mangler and others).

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17 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Not spectacular, but good

Author: Toledo-2 from Houston, Texas
2 February 1999

Firestarter is one of those movies that bores critics and often appears as weekend or late night filler on TV. Even so, the movie does have its moments. Give it a chance, and Firestarter will grow on you.

Fans of the X Files will be at home with the movie's plot about an experimental drug given to 60s college students by a secret government agency, known as The Shop. Two of the students (portrayed by David Keith and Heather Locklear) eventually marry and a child is born; a "firestarter" (played by Drew Barrymore) who can set anything ablaze with just one angry thought. Martin Sheen and George C. Scott round out the cast as heads of The Shop, who are now bent on capturing the girl and harnessing her power as a weapon, not to mention using her as a way to get funding for more experiments.

The acting and dialogue certainly aren't award-winning, but they do carry the movie along. The music, written and performed by Tangerine Dream, is perfectly suited to the movie, and in my opinion is some of Tangerine Dream's best work. The special effects are convincing, and at times, chilling. Readers of Stephen King's best-selling novel will be happy to know that this movie is, for the most part, faithful to his original story, despite a rather clipped ending.

In all, if you have a taste for conspiracy thrillers with a healthy dose of science fiction thrown in, you'll like this one, though it probably won't be your favorite.

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11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Burning Rage

Author: virek213 from San Gabriel, Ca., USA
31 August 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

During 1983 and 1984, there were no fewer than four movies released that were based on the works of Stephen King, this era's horror literature maven. The first three were THE DEAD ZONE, CUJO, and CHRISTINE. The fourth, and least commercially successful, was FIRESTARTER, based on King's 1980 novel. The fact that it didn't fare all that well with critics or audiences doesn't diminish the fact that it remains, despite some flaws, one of the best adaptations of King's works, as well as a commentary on the dangerous of government interference and dissembling in people's lives.

Drew Barrymore, who made a star-making turn in E.T.: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, is the young girl possessed of a devastating kind of psychic power called pyrokinesis, the ability to light fires just by concentrating long and hard about it. Her power is the result of her parents (David Keith; Heather Locklear) having undergone a bizarre chemical experiment in 1969 conducted by a secret government agency known as The Shop. Since then, eight of the ten patients originally involved have died horrible deaths, and Locklear has been murdered by agents of the Shop. Now, Keith and Barrymore are on their own, with Keith's only ability to protect Barrymore being his own psychic ability. But once in the hands of the Shop, led by Martin Sheen and George C. Scott, they are the subject of various experiments on their abilities. Barrymore gets special attention, of course, because of her fiery power, especially from Scott. In the end, of course, Sheen and Scott, and the rest of the Shop's minions, find out what happens when you play with a power that you don't fully appreciate...

There are admittedly flaws with FIRESTARTER, most of them having to do with the slightly perfunctory way that Mark L. Lester (CLASS OF 1984) directs the actors, this even though he has some superb ones, notably Sheen and Scott. The dialogue is also a little clunky at times too. But overall, FIRESTARTER succeeds more often than it fails, due to King's own narrative genius, Barrymore's credible performance, and the special effects wizardry of Mike Wood. The scenes of the Shop being incinerated at the end by Barrymore's burning rage after her father has been killed are particularly spectacular. FIRESTARTER also benefits from brief but welcome cameo roles by Art Carney and Louise Fletcher, who become her protectors after the firestorm.

However flawed it might be, FIRESTARTER does provide plenty of suspense and atmosphere without an extreme amount of bloodshed (though the fire scenes are quite hair-raising all the same), and is well worth seeing.

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19 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

Take "Carrie" one step further...

Author: Lee Eisenberg ( from Portland, Oregon, USA
16 January 2007

If you thought that "Carrie" made incredible use of conflagrations, you ain't seen nothing yet! In Stephen King's other combustion-themed story, "Firestarter" portrays the daughter (Drew Barrymore) of a experimental guinea pig (David Keith) using her ignition abilities to get her way. When the government kidnaps her and her father, things really get ugly.

On one level, this movie seems a little preachy, with the shadowy agents going after the man and his daughter. But I would call that an accurate depiction of things. And you gotta agree with what the girl does, no matter how extreme she gets (and I'm talking really extreme). So I definitely recommend this movie. But if you're a pyromaniac, don't let this movie encourage you.

Also starring Heather Locklear, Martin Sheen, George C. Scott, Art Carney and Louise Fletcher.

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22 out of 36 people found the following review useful:

An Awkward Adaptation

Author: Anthony Piggott from United Kingdom
26 October 2004

The main problem with "Firestarter" is it tries to adapt the story of the book faithfully, at the expense of character development. It is impossible to cram a five hundred page book into one two hour movie and make it work favourably. For much of the picture, the pacing feels awkward and rushed, more interested in moving the plot along than developing the characters.

Brian De Palma's "Carrie" followed the story of the book just as closely. But seeing as "Carrie" is less than half the length of "Firestarter", it made for a much more comfortable adaptation.

Stanley Kubrick had the right idea with "the Shining". The book was about the same length as "Firestarter", and as a result the plot was butchered heavily to make it work for the screen. Stephen King (and much of his loyal fanbase) have misgivings about Kubrick's adaptation, a lot of people who love film (and recognise it as the different medium that it is) regard it as a masterpiece.

Mark Lester's "Firestarter" isn't all bad however. George C. Scott's John Rainbird is inspired casting, and probably the best thing this film has going for it. The scene at the Manders' farm, and the conclusion at the Shop's headquarters make for enjoyable viewing and are handled capably.

It's a shame, that as a whole, the film doesn't work too well. I'd definitely like to see this re-adapted into another film or a mini-series. The book isn't exactly King's best, but it has a lot of potential for another screen outing. 5/10

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8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Thrillling story about a little girl whose parents acquired phenomenal mental powers and who herself can set anything on fire

Author: ma-cortes
21 October 2012

Suspenseful and terrifying entertainment that goes beyond its genre , dealing with a girl who has the unwanted and often uncontrollable gift of Pyrokinesis, as a result of a government experiment , lighting fires by mere thought . A couple Victoria 'Vicky' Tomlinson McGee (Heather Locklear of Dynasty) and Andy McGee (David Keith , he was 14th choice) who participated in a potent medical experiment gain telekinetic ability and then have a child named Charlene 'Charlie' McGee (Jennifer Connelly , Taylor Neff were considered and Bridgette Andersen, the star of Savannah Smiles, tested for the role of Charlie, ultimately played by Drew Barrymore) who is pyrokinetic . Charlie McGee (whose character was modeled on King's daughter Naomi) has an extraordinary power (or is that haunted) , sometimes uncontrollable and an evil destructive force . Meanwhile a secret government agency known as "The Shop" led by Captain Hollister (Martin Sheen took over at a late stage from Burt Lancaster who had to withdraw following heart surgery) and send a sniper named John Rainbird (George C Scott) and plot to kidnap the duo for study them and testing their abilities.

This exciting tale packs noisy action , explosions , suspense , thriller , chills , poignant plot and results to be an enjoyable though frightening entertainment , including some silly and embarrassing scenes . The movie delivers the goods with hair-rising thrills as when the little girl executes the astonishing abilities . It stars Drew Barrymore in one of her first roles after E.T. , as the gifted child of the title who has the ability to ignite objects around her . David Keith is good as the daddy who attempts to protect her from the nasties . Secondary cast is frankly excellent as Freddie Jones as Doctor Joseph Wanley , Art Carney as Irv Manders , Louise Fletcher as Norma Manders , Moses Gunn as Doctor Pynchot and Antonio Fargas as a Cabman . The fire special effects , themselves , of course , are the real protagonists , and they're surprising , astounding, and quite convincing . The special effects gave work to a great number of technician people and lots of stunts . This film was originally going to be directed by John Carpenter. According to Carpenter, Universal executives removed him from the project in the wake of the box office and critical drubbing they received for The Thing ,Carpenter had reportedly talked to his Assault on Precinct 13 actor, Darwin Joston about taking on the role of John Rainbird, which was ultimately played by George C. Scott . Strange soundtrack by Tangerine Dream was composed and performed by means of synthesizer ,they never actually saw the film and sent filmmaker some music and told him to choose whatever he liked . It was followed by ¨Firestarter 2 : rekindled¨ (2002) by Robert Iscove with Marguerite Moreau as Charlene "Charlie" McGee , Malcolm McDowell , Dennis Hopper and Danny Nucci and in which Charlie has been in hiding for nearly all her life from a top-secret government fringe group headed by a maniacal who wants to find and use her as the ultimate weapon of war.

The motion picture was well produced by Dino Laurentiis and professionally directed by Mark L. Lester. Director Mark L. Lester confirmed that this is his most difficult film that he ever made . He's a cool director and producer -American World Pictures- of B movies , his greatest success was during the 80s when he directed hits , such as ¨Commando¨, ¨Showdown in Little Tokio¨ and ¨Class of 99¨ and this ¨Firestarter¨.

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15 out of 24 people found the following review useful:


Author: gridoon
14 February 2002

Good special effects and a great cast make this film above-average, as Stephen King adaptations go (well, it's certainly better than "Maximum Overdrive"). The story may be a bit predictable, partly because King had visited similar territory before ("Carrie", anyone?), but you have to admire the way the film puts you into the action right from the start, omitting any slow introductions, and George C.Scott is such a strong, perverse and eccentric villain that you can't help watching him. (**1/2)

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Above-average Stephen King theatrical fare.

Author: Elswet from .: Fiendish Writings in the Dark :.
1 September 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Psychological and psychedelic testing produce some amazing results. Now those results are walking and talking and very unhappy with the agency who created it.

Delightfully triumphant, wonderfully destructive forces are about to be tapped, honed and unleashed against the government who has created and now hopes to utilize these frightening powers upon the world.

Charlie McGee (Drew Barrymore at the age of 9) is the product of psychological and psychedelic drug experiments performed by the US government upon her parents before her conception.

After witnessing the murder of her mother, she and her father are on the run from the mysterious bunch of gun-carrying miscreants known only as "the Agency."

Her father (David Keith) is also a telepath as a result of these experiments, who enjoys telekinetic abilities as well. These abilities help, but not well enough.

Will Charlie be able to save her father? Herself? Will they make it through this, or be forever torn apart by the Firestarter?

Excellent movie. Excellent performances by Drew Barrymore (if a little hesitant and deliberate at times), George C. Scott (hated, Hated, HATED his character!! that must mean he played it very very well *lol*), Martin Sheen and David Keith.

The effects were quite good, though in post-StarWars 1984, I had hoped for better; as was the plot and storyline.

As Stephen King adaptations go, it varied from the book just enough to make it one of the FEW adaptations of King's work through which I don't find myself cringing.

It gets a solid 8/10 from...

the Fiend :.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

This is very good!!!

Author: mjarvis0 from United Kingdom
21 July 2007

Surprisingly I only saw this movie some 20 years after it first came out and I must say I was very surprised. I suppose one could say that this film plus Carrie was the for-runner (on screen that is) of such films as X-Men and Heroes on TV. The acting was superb. If you want to know who is a good actor and who is average see them in a death scene. The way Brian Keith acted when he found his wife dead brought tears to my eyes such was the realism. As for Drew Barrymore I continue to be astounded by her acting ability it is just a shame (though not in this case) that the films she is in do not do her ability justice. The special effects for the time (1984)is excellent and if you do not believe me watch the end of Firestarter and then watch X-men two (the bobby at home scene) and you will see what I mean. As for me the highest praise I can give this film is to say that as soon as I finished watching it I hit the internet and bought it on DVD.

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