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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.9%
Worth A Look: 19.05%
Average: 19.05%
Pretty Bad: 21.43%
Total Crap28.57%

2 reviews, 30 user ratings

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by Jack Sommersby

"Firerily Frivolous"
1 stars

There are some Stephen King adptations that have worked ("The Dead Zone", "Dolores Claiborne", "Cat's Eye"), but this ain't one of them -- not by a longshot.

With about a buck-fifty spent on the screenplay and millions on the special effects, Firestarter, a botched adaptation of Stephen King's frightening novel, blows cold a whole lot more than it does hot. With source material this riveting, how could the filmmakers have missed? In 1969, a group of ten college students agree to be tested on with an experimental hallucinogenic drug for money; unknown to them, a deeply-covert branch of the CIA known as The Shop is behind it. While one student winds up bloodily clawing his eyes out with others committing similar violent actions upon their person, two of them manage to live through the ordeal and soon thereafter marry, producing a daughter capable of telepathically setting anything and anyone on fire when angered. The Shop sends agents to kidnap both the daughter and father (himself capable of mentally making people do anything he wants against their will) to study for defense-departmental purposes; after the mother is killed, they find themselves on the run with very little in the way of resources to stay one step ahead of their constant pursuers. A dark and disturbing read, the novel was; but the film is something else entirely -- a long-winded bore with lots of nondescript padding in between the action sequences. We should be held captivated by the goings-on and swept away by the supposed immediacy to it all, yet the writing is shoddy (the father wants to go public with their abilities to make them safe yet sends a letter to The New York Times rather than actually going there), the characters weakly drawn (with so little dimension, they come off as mere ciphers who we have absolutely no emotional stake in), and the direction not nearly agile enough to glide over the inconsistencies (there are more interesting camerabatics in a Sesame Street rerun). And the mangy look of the thing! Atrociously photographed by Giuseppe Ruzzolini with some scenes looking as if they'd been lit with fifty-watt bulbs, there's no visual life on top of the zero-narrative. Obviously, the main concern here was the pyrotechnic set pieces, and while oodles of stuntmen are listed in the credits, these egregious effects aren't nearly well choreographed in the vein of De Palma's The Fury and Cronenberg's Scanners -- they're overly-mechanical exercises minus the visceral intensity and ingenuity necessary to tantalize us in even the slightest manner. (Also in the party-pooper department is a rare boo-hiss music score by Tangerine Dream.) A famous director once said that the way to adapt a novel is to just take all the standout stuff out and work it from there, but the problem with this in the Horror genre is that most in the way of characters and drama end up getting jettisoned while the fantastical stuff stemming from them gets prioritized and thrown front and center, and as a result loses the organic clarity to give it substantiation. As for the talented cast that includes David Keith, Martin Sheen, Art Carney (who makes the only considerable impression), George C. Scott and Drew Barrymore as the title character, I hope their piggy banks got considerably fattened by participation in this ungainly mess worthy of the most scurrilous scorn -- not to mention several well-deserved Razzies, as well.

Next to "Backdraft", the worst fire-related film in history.

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originally posted: 07/01/09 07:31:41
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User Comments

12/29/17 morris campbell lame rips off THE FURY BURN IT 1 stars
12/05/11 Pamela White good adaptation of the King novel 4 stars
11/09/08 action movie fan good idea, but sluggish pace and forgettable characters means this does not catch fire . 3 stars
1/27/08 Pamela White classic King and Drew has a good role 4 stars
11/24/06 Jeff Anderson A waste of time(even for an 80's film)& dull. Cast(especially Keith) deserves a lot better! 1 stars
6/08/06 Peggy Doty Nice and interesting 4 stars
4/12/06 ES Yeah as a kid I loved this movie 4 stars
2/14/05 Angela Saunders Great movie, a classic King! 4 stars
10/28/04 Tyler Arsenault It was quite good compared to the imagination of Mark Lester's other films 3 stars
2/10/04 zoran very good movie 5 stars
1/12/04 Samuel good 3 stars
11/05/03 American Slasher Goddess Actually, pretty good. I liked it. 4 stars
3/03/03 Jack Sommersby Godawful King adaptation. Inept on just about every level. 1 stars
10/20/02 Charles Tatum Pure camp with one great cast 4 stars
9/06/02 R.W. Welch Too hoked up to be effective, lacks the needed ominous quality. 3 stars
7/30/02 natasha robson shit , it just sucked and all i did the whole way through was fuck Sam 1 stars
7/30/02 nikki robins it wasn't very interesting 2 stars
6/09/02 lorenzo i liked this movie alot that i can see it over and over again 5 stars
3/30/02 George R Atwood Great PSI effects very nice book to movie 5 stars
10/08/01 Andrew Carden Very Very Scary Movie For It's Time. 4 stars
9/03/01 Butterbean I liked it as a kid. Now I only like it because it's a part of my childhood memories. 3 stars
6/20/01 Elvisfan Waste of f/x and some great actors like Art Carney & George C. Scott 3 stars
3/22/01 Sthenno A sloppy,directed film with average effects and crappy acting. 2 stars
2/12/01 Leather jacket Don't fuck with little Drew Barrymore...she'll toast you 5 stars
5/18/00 Keith George C Scott lost a bet and had to play the indian. 2 stars
5/10/00 steve woodard it rocks 5 stars
10/07/99 sophia962 Long before Hollywood "got" Stephen King. Read the book instead. 3 stars
9/17/99 strike One of Drew's biggest mistakes when she was a little girl. 1 stars
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  02-Feb-1984 (R)

  02-Feb-1984 (15)

  02-Jul-1984 (MA)

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