For a long time now, Andy (Zac Efron) and his wife, Vicky (Sydney Lemmon), have been laying low and doing their best to keep a low profile. From the opening credits, we learn these two carry special and gifted abilities that differ from each other. Their daughter, Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), carries a different ability to the rest of the family. In the present day, at eleven years of age, Charlie is struggling to hide her secret power.
She receives pressure at school, which includes bullying from fellow peers. She is tired of having to keep a low profile, not having a normal life like others, and is becoming frustrated. Charlie is now at breaking point. Andy has been able to help her control her mighty power, but Charlie’s ability to spark large amounts of fire is becoming almost uncontrollable, even more so when the family are being targeted by someone hired to hunt them down.
Firestarter is best described as a horror film with some surprising aspects of sci-fi and even drama, particularly regarding many challenges faced by the leading family. This film also serves as a remake of the 1984 feature film. I’ve never seen the original film for the record, so no comparisons can be made in this review.
Firstly, an exciting aspect that was highly welcoming to hear was the film’s score, which felt quite fitting thanks to the talented John Carpenter. Regarding performances, there are some touching moments here, particularly from the film’s lead, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, who plays Charlie. I am not familiar with this actress, but seeing her leading character was quite pleasing, and the actress successfully delivers many emotions on-screen that feel convincing, such as pain, sadness, and downright anger. Sadly, most of the other characters are hard to accept and, for the most part, feel rather bland or even emotionless.
As for the plot and story, I attempted to keep an open mind with the journey of this film (especially when the film talks about secret experiments and superpowers). Even though I hadn’t seen the original, I was shocked and disappointed to see how predictable this movie was. Characters’ deaths are obvious, and viewers will know well in advance what will occur with Charlie and are forced to wait for a fiery showdown. But even around the forty-minute mark upon my first watch, I found the film had only slightly progressed forward with its story. It’s extremely slow-paced, and very little occurs on screen. The first and second acts have very little substance, while the third act delivers a stronger payoff, soon followed by the scrolling credits. It’s a shame that just as the film finally picks up its pace and becomes a little more exciting, it disappears into ashes.
Overall, as a horror film, I’m quite surprised to say how slow I found this film to be and just when it gets exciting and fun, it soon fizzles into ashes with closing credits. Sure, there are some fun sparks to be had, but I can’t help feeling this should have been far more epic than the results horror fans got. The top performance from actress Ryan Kiera Armstrong is a joy as she portrays many emotions well. John Carpenter’s score is also a major highlight, creating a rather retro atmosphere that is pleasing through a sound system. However, this film makes many misfires regarding its storytelling and predictability and brings a weak villain to the surface.