When it comes to Stephen King film adaptations, some have already received the remake treatment. Kimberly Peirce’s Carrie (2013), Andy Muschetti’s IT (2017), and of course Kevin Kolsch’s and Dennis Widmyer’s Pet Sematary (2019). Now, another King property looks to be added to the list.
Mark L. Lester’s Firestarter, released 35 years ago (May 11, 1984), stars a young Drew Barrymore as the titular character Charlie McGee, a girl who has pyrokinetic abilities. It also stars David Keith as Charlie’s father, Andy, Martin Sheen as Captain James Hollister, and George C. Scott as the evil agent John Rainbird.
Mid-2018, Blumhouse announced that Firestarter would be remade, with Faith Akin at the helm and Akiva Goldsman (Stephanie) and Jason Blum producing. What could be in the new adaptation? Before we can speculate on what will be, let’s travel back 35 years and see what was.
LOVE, DRUGS, THE SHOP, AND PYROKINETIC KIDS
Firestarter begins with a somewhat relatable scenario: people needing to make some quick cash. Andy McGee meets Vicky (Heather Locklear), at college when they both participated in an experiment. The people in this experiment were given either a placebo or doses of a hallucinogenic drug known by its code name LOT-6. Andy and Vicky were the lucky recipients of LOT-6, and in turn, gained the powers of mind control and the ability to read minds, respectively. The two marry, have a fire-starting little girl named Charlie, and live happily ever after….just kidding.
The government agency that sponsored the experiment (the “Shop”) had been keeping tabs on the family from the get-go. They wanted Charlie and her pyrokinetic abilities and to use Charlie as a weapon. When Charlie was nine, agents from The Shop killed Vicky and took Charlie. Andy discovers the gruesome scene and sets out to rescue Charlie, forcing the two to live a life on the run, the Shop tailing them at every stop and every turn. Their travels take to the Manders’ farm. Andy spills the story to Irv Manders. The Shop arrived (because of course they did), but who needs guns when you’ve got fire powers.
Charlie disposes of them all, and father and daughter went on the run again, but The Shop is also two steps behind them. After discovering their new hideout, John Rainbird shoots them with tranquilizer darts at an ungodly distance, and they are taken to a Shop facility. Andy is force-fed medication to decrease his powers while Captain James Hollister bribe Charlie with cocoa, dolls, and video game systems to try and get her to demonstrate her powers. Rainbird joined in and faked being an orderly to get Charlie to submit to the tests that showed her powers increasing. But who wants to stay in a prison…even if the prison has Coleco Vision?
An escape is planned but Andy is fatally wounded and hell has no fury like a child scorned. Charlie kills John Rainbird. She kills guards. She kills everyone before escaping back to the Manders’ farm where Irv takes Charlie to The New York Times’ main office so she could share the story with the world.
WHAT COULD (AND SHOULD) BE
The strength in King adaptations lies in the film sticking as close to the book or as close to the spirit of the book as possible. It is why the remakes of IT, Carrie, and Pet Sematary have done so well. It’s also why movies such as The Green Mile (1999) and The Shawshank Redemption (1994) did so well (less horror-like than King’s other fare, but they still stick close to the source material). This is what I believe the Firestarter remake should do, stick as close to the source material as possible.
The remake needs to show more about The Shop, and why they’re the “Big Bad”. True, people don’t need to be spoon-fed everything, but we do need to know more about why they’re bad other than “they’re an evil government thingy”. I want to see Captain James Hollister be a cold-hearted guy, and John Rainbird even more so. I want to see Rainbird’s obsession for Charlie slowly build over the movie, which the original did not give us enough of.
We need to also see more of a relationship built between Andy and Charlie. The original movie assumes I should just care for them because they’re a father and daughter being chased by an evil organization. The movie adds tender synth music during the father-daughter moments and Andy gives Charlie more hugs than I care to count to show his love. The remake should give us a reason to care. The remake should make you root for them, no tender synth or overwrought dialogue needed. I want my heart to sink when Andy gives up all hope of ever seeing his daughter again once the two are finally caught, and I want to cheer when Charlie burns everything down!
The 80s did not have social media, but we do now. Charlie has the power to bring down the Shop and make their dirty laundry viral. She has the power to make their nastiness known to a global audience. That, to me, would be the icing on the cake and an awesome end to the Firestarter remake.
So, what are your speculations on the Firestarter remake? Are you a fan of the original? Let us know your thoughts on Twitter, Reddit, and in the Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street Facebook group!