HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Firestarter: Collector's Edition
HTS Overall Score:68
“Firestarter” is one of those Stephen King films (and novels) that is mostly forgotten by the general public. Most of us remember films like “The Mist”, “The Shining”, “Shawshank Redemption” and the like, but King has had a plethora of mid-range works that are entertaining enough, but never rise to the top ala the cream of the crop. Made for TV films like “IT” and “Firestarter” are usually considered films for the cult viewers, but even midrange Stephen King is better than most of the schlock that gets put out onto disc these days. Starring a very VERY young Drew Barrymore and a host of other familiar faces, “Firestarter” works as a fairly simple tale of pyro kinesis mixed in with a few deeper nuggets of thematic material that King is so famous for blending into his stories. It doesn’t always work, and the acting of Barrymore can be choppy at times, but it is still a fun little ride that ends in a big bang, as many King works tend to do.
Back about a decade before the present, the government had done some super-secret tests upon unsuspecting civilians, with most of the patients dying immediately. Andy (David Keith, who looks remarkably like Patrick Swayze here) Vicky (Heather Locklear, who only has a few minutes of screen time) are the only survivors of the experiment. The experiment imbued the two of them with telepathic powers that were only surpassed by the natural romance that occurs. A romance that brings for a child named Charlene (Drew Barrymore) who has even MORE immense powers than her parents. You see, Charlene (Charlie for short) doesn’t have the simple telepathic powers that her parents have. At the tender young age of about 10 she has the ability to light things on fire. An ability that is only just barely surfacing and may have no limits.
The same monsters who created Andy and Vicky are not about to let this little gem out of their sight, and after years of waiting in the back wings decide it’s time to take back what they consider theirs. After Vicky is murdered and Charlie is just about kidnapped, Andy grabs his daughter and races away into the night as fast as his legs can carry him. Unfortunately, the government agency who’s after them (headed up Captain Hollister, played by Martin Sheen) has many resources at his disposal, and soon the pair are taken into custody. Separated and experimented on again, Charlie is soon pushed into lighting things on fire again in order to see just how deep her powers go.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=93097[/img]Re watching a film like “Firestarter” in lieu of all the superhero films that have come out in the past decade puts the film in a whole new light. Much like the origins of most superheroes, Andy and Charlie come by their powers through accident or birth. Just like the X-men, Spiderman or the like they have to come to grips with their incredible gifts, as well as become the object of scrutiny for men who want to harness their power for themselves (or at least weaponize it). However, these two are NOT superheroes in the slightest. In fact, they are almost anti-heroes in the way they work. There is no sense of greater good and “with great power comes great responsibility” in their actions. Andy and Charlie fight and use their abilities to survive in a world that doesn’t want to see them come out on top. The two of them are constantly on the run, constantly under fire so their anger and violent outbursts quite understandable if you think about it.
Much of the story deals with a father doing his very best to take care of his daughter, and a young girl who has very little real world experience to help her control what seems to be an overwhelming ability. I said in the opening paragraph that Drew Barrymore’s acting seems a bit rough and stilted. While it’s not always perfectly smooth, I actually like that Drew didn’t seem to be “acting” like most child actors. She seemed like…..well…. a kid. Complete with all the ticks and lack of logic that young children seem to demonstrate. It makes it feel organic, yet strangely out of place in a world where child actors are meant to feel as smooth and polished as their adult counterparts.
The first half of the story frames the events as a “on the run” storyline, with Andy and Charlie doing their best to stay out of the way of “the Shop” and the hitmen that Captain Hollister brings their way. It’s the second half that starts to slow down the film with Charlie and Andy back home and under the experimentation control of the nasty little Captain. While the experiments serve some purpose with the story, it’s the inclusion of the crazy assassin John Rainbird (played by George C. Scott of all people) that gives the story a bit of a “weird” twist. While he’s certainly effective in the role of John, the bent for making him an obsessed mental case (he really is) just feels out of touch with the rest of the story and almost creepy in execution (although I’m sure that’s what they were going for).
Rated R by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=93105[/img]The 2014 release of “Firestarter” (that I had in my collection so an easy A/B was underwent) was NOT exactly the greatest of transfers. It wasn’t a horrible presentation, but it did suffer from excessive smoothing and some washed-out looking color and contrast levels. Faces were pale and contrast looked way over brightened with some excessive sharpening to boot. This release by Scream Factory is taken from a brand new 2K interpository and the results are definitely much more pleasing. Right off the bat you can see that the smoothness is gone, with a healthy grain structure and a much ruddier look to the facial tones. It’s still not a RAZOR-sharp image (few of these 1980s low budget King films ever are), but there is a nice uptick in detail both in up close shots and with the long-range shots of the SHOP and horse barn. I DID notice a bit of macroblocking if you pause the screen and look REAL close, but in motion things aren’t really noticeable.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=93113[/img]The 2.0 DTS-HD MA Mono track is the exact same audio track as from the MGM/Universal Blu-ray from a few years back, and as such it suffers from much the same fate as that disc’s analysis. Dialog is strong and mostly clean, but the track doesn’t have a lot of life to it. Imaging in the front two speakers is pretty bland and the effects just seem to fall flat. There’s not any real LFE or low end to speak of baked in, and it just stands as a pretty middle of the road track that doesn’t really do anything to stand out and do anything. There’s nothing muddy or obscured about the vocals, but they don’t have much depth either, giving us a bland audio mix that just “does the job”.
• NEW 2K scan of the interpositive film element
• NEW Audio commentary with director Mark L. Lester
• NEW Playing with Fire: The Making of FIRESTARTER – featuring interviews with director Mark L. Lester, actors Freddie Jones and Drew Snyder, stuntman/actor Dick Warlock and Johannes Schmoelling of Tangerine Dream+
• NEW Tangerine Dream: Movie Music Memories – an interview with Johannes Schmoelling
• NEW exclusive performance of "Charlie's Theme" by Johannes Schmoelling of Tangerine Dream
• Theatrical Trailers
• Radio Spot
• Still Gallery
“Firestarter” isn’t the crème de la crème of Stephen King’s works, but it is solid mid ranger material that has a completely authentic 80s feel to it. While I sometimes forget the movie exists, it is at least worth a good watch, and fans will certainly be pleased with increase in quality from the Universal Blu-ray that was released about 3 years ago. It’s CERTAINLY better and more memorable than the abomination that is the 2002 sequel that I have done a VERY good job of blocking from my memory. The new 2K scan of the film nets a much-improved picture than the old disc and the extras are well worth digging into (one of Scream/Shout Factory’s biggest blessings). Worth a solid watch in my opinion (and definitely the best version of the film out there for fans looking to make a purchase.
Starring: Drew Barrymore, David Keith, Martin Sheen, Heather Locklear
Directed by: Mark L. Lester
Written by: Stephen King (Novel), Stanley Mann (Screenplay)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 2.0
Studio: Scream Factory
Runtime: 115 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: March 14th, 2017
Buy Firestarter On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Entertaining Watch
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