Director: Mark L. Lester
Writer: Stanley Mann
Release Date: May 11, 1984
Firestarter is a 1984 film that was adapted from Stephen King’s 1980 novel of the same name. It is one of many 80’s films to inspire the hit Netflix show, Stranger Things. Maybe even more so than others.
Oh yeah? What’s it about?
The film follows young Charlie McGee (played by a young Drew Barrymore) and her father, Andy McGee. They try to escape and expose “The Shop”, a secret government agency that conducted secret experiments on human volunteers with a chemical called LOT-6. These experiments were where Charlie’s parents, Andy and Vicky (Heather Locklear) met. The two were given a dose of the LOT-6 and as a result, developed psychic abilities. Andy is able to manipulate people into doing anything just by looking into their eyes and using his psychic abilities. Unfortunately, this leaves Andy fatigued and with a bleeding nose (sound familiar?). Certain abilities were then passed onto their daughter, Charlie, who has the ability to start fires with her mind.
9 years later, The Shop starts to take interest in Charlie when they realize that her powers could potentially be used as a weapon. The Shop kills Charlie’s mother, forcing Charlie and Andy into hiding and to come up with a way to put a stop to The Shop. They decide they will tell their story to major newspapers, exposing The Shop to the world (very much like Nancy and Jonathan’s mission in Stranger Things 2.)
So it’s a big game of cat and mouse in Firestarter?
Not exactly. Charlie and Andy are picked up by a farmer and are invited back to his house where his wife will make them dinner. The Shop obviously finds them but is unprepared, and Charlie uses her powers so they can escape. From here they run again and hide out in an old cabin. The head of The Shop, Captain Hollister (Martin Sheen), starts getting impatient. He sends Agent John Rainbird (played by George C. Scott) to capture them. He only agrees to the job after being promised that he can have Charlie once The Shop is done with her. He wants to be the one to kill her in the end. Probably the most interesting and creepy character in the film. But the acting could have been better.
Once at The Shop, Andy is drugged and subjected to tests that show his powers are slowly fading and Rainbird pretends to be John the friendly orderly in order to befriend Charlie and get her to do tests for The Shop.
The Shop sounds an awful lot like Hawkins Labs…
Yes and no. One of my biggest problems with Firestarter is that The Shop doesn’t come off as the evil organization that they are. The agents they send out to apprehend Charlie and Andy come off as more comical, not very smart. They’re unprepared for what Charlie can do, even though they do in fact know what she’s capable of. Plus the facilities don’t look anything like you’d expect; it just looks like a mansion of sorts. No labs or anything like Hawkins Labs, but the idea is definitely there.
So if Charlie is that powerful, there must be a crazy showdown of sorts near the end?
Sad to say it, but not really. At least not to the degree that you’d expect with Charlie having such crazy powers. Andy has been pretending to be drugged this whole time and takes Captain Hollister hostage by using his powers and telling him what to do. Unfortunately, Andy doesn’t know about John Rainbird, who takes Charlie to the meeting place her father has set up. Which is a barn. John Rainbird reveals himself to Andy, there’s a bit of a “shoot out” that results in Captain Hollister getting shot and killed, as well as Andy himself getting shot and bleeding out. But before he dies, he instructs Rainbird to jump from the rafters, breaking his leg.
Charlie then kills Rainbird before having to leave her father in the burning barn and face the security team waiting for her outside. What we get next, I guess you could call it a showdown, but considering Charlie’s powers, it’s quite forgettable. She obviously gets away and somehow finds the farm where she and her father were earlier in the film. The couple takes her in and the farmer takes Charlie right to the New York Times to tell them her story.
Would you recommend it?
I would, but with a warning. If you like old 80’s films that are kind of cheesy and almost feel like a made for TV movie, then definitely yes. Or if you want to see where some of the inspiration for Stranger Things came from, then definitely. Drew Barrymore does an excellent job at playing Charlie and looks pretty intense when using her powers (picture Eleven when she uses her powers). The rest of the characters are a bit bland and boring most of the time and The Shop could have been a lot more evil. My overall thought about this film? It’s a perfect Sunday afternoon movie. What do I mean by that? Well, it’s entertaining but at the same time, you won’t be upset if you fall into a little nap halfway through.
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