In the early 1980s, Martin Sheen did a pair of Stephen King movies back to back, The Dead Zone and then Firestarter. Of the two, I prefer Dead Zone, but it’s hard for me to see past Christopher Walken’s performance. If you haven’t seen The Dead Zone, go check it out.
Firestarter, on the other hand…eh, I don’t think it’s as interesting. There were actually quite a few movies about psychic phenomenon around the late ’70s and early ’80s, and this one easily gets lost in the shuffle. Comparing this one to the likes of Carrie, Scanners, or Dreamscape, as well as more paranormal-centered pieces like The Entity and Poltergeist, or even the likes of Altered States…Firestarter just seems bland as a result. There are some serious problems with the screenplay: it reveals plot through constant flashbacks in the beginning, it sets up plot points that then never materialize, and in a couple of cases it seems to backtrack over earlier statements. Characters don’t develop the way I felt they should, such as George C. Scott (was he a psychic as well? I’m not sure). When we did get to the big finale, some of the special effects choices with dummies actually made me laugh out loud, particularly this moment:
Every time I rewatch this, I’m reminded of the yellow sleeping bag kid in Prophecy. I think that’s the hardest I have ever laughed at a horror movie.
Anyway, the method for handling exposition and goofy launching of flaming bodies aside, I do like many of the people in this movie, and I think Drew Barrymore did a great job as the lead considering she was 9 at the time. It’s not something I’d recommend first over most of the movies I’ve already mentioned (Ok, maybe Prophecy…), but if you like the actors involved, it’s worth at least seeing once.
Did you know Tangerine Dream handled the entire soundtrack? This puts this in the realm of movies where soundtracks were handled by a single band, which include the likes of Highlander, Flash Gordon, and Maximum Overdrive.
I do give it props for having a Colecovision though. That was a nice touch.