firestarter | based on | novel | stephen king | mark l. lester | stanley mann | drew barrymore | david keith | freddie jones | telekinesis | action | sci-fi | sci fi | thriller | united states | psychopath | sociopath
Director: Mark L. Lester
Writer: Stanley Mann
Starring: Drew Barrymore, David Keith and Freddie Jones
This film starts with a father, played by David Keith, fleeing with his daughter, who is played by Drew Barrymore. There are three men in a car that are after them. The chase begins in a busy street and Keith gets into a taxi. We learn from the men in the car that they have to be careful; both of them have mental powers. Keith is able to make people do things they do not want to by looking them in the eyes. He uses this on the taxi driver, making him think that he gave him a $500 bill to drive them to the airport.
They go inside and Keith explains to Barrymore that they are going to have to break the law for the good in order for them to get away. She doesn’t like it, but understands. Keith uses his mind to get a payphone to give up its quarters. While he is doing this, Barrymore watches a soldier be rude to a young woman who is pregnant. He is claiming the kid isn’t his and this upsets Barrymore. We then learn that she has the ability to make fires with her mind. She sets his shoes on fire. The pair flees after this happens. The agents show up soon after. They narrowly avoid getting caught by them and almost getting hit by a semi. They do end up using the money they took to get a hotel room.
We then get the back-story of what happened to bring us here. Keith was a part of an experiment where they were given a drug to see what would happen. The doctor who was in charge of this was Freddie Jones. One of the subjects asks if this experiment is performed by The Shop, which Jones puts him to ease it is not. On the bed next to Keith is Heather Locklear, who is also participating. Some of the subjects have adverse reactions to the drug, where both Keith and Locklear are fine. She even develops to read people’s minds.
The agents we see are part of a secret group called The Shop that is headed up by Martin Sheen. There is an agent that comes to see him played by George C. Scott. He is freshly back from an operation and he is known as an exterminator. Jones comes in to tell them that there should be no more experiments and that Barrymore could develop too much power. Sheen wants to study her and see if she could be used as a weapon. Jones threatens to go to his superior if they do that. Sheen gives the okay to Scott to take care of this problem.
Keith and Locklear ended up getting married and having Barrymore. We see that a young age that she had the ability to start fires with her mind as Keith is training her. Locklear gets a phone call, but no one is on the line. She knows that it is The Shop keeping tabs on them. One day they come to take Barrymore and Keith finds Locklear dead. He goes to a friend’s house where Barrymore is being taken. He uses his mind control to get her back and they started to run.
The two of them then hitchhike as they decide to go to Barrymore’s grandpa’s house. They are picked up by Art Carney. They give him fake names and story to help protect him. He invites them home for lunch before they continue on. As they go, they pass agents as they are fixing a flat and they get Carney’s license plate number.
Carney is married to Louise Fletcher. She takes to Barrymore immediately and lunch is served. Fletcher takes Barrymore out to feed the chickens while Keith and Carney talk. Carney knows he is lying and Keith explains what is happening. Carney decides to help him. When the other two come back inside, Barrymore knows he told. She also has premonition abilities knowing that agents are coming. She decides to use her power to try to get away. She burns many of them alive and blows up their cars. Carney is shot in the process and is irate with the government trespassing. He allows them to take his jeep to flee.
They go to a cabin on the water. They stay long enough for Keith to write letters to major newspapers, but they are intercepted as Scott is on their trail. He uses tranquilizer darts to knock them out and they are taken into custody. Scott’s goal is to befriend Barrymore to get her to do what Sheen wants, so he can kill her in the end.
Will they be able to research Barrymore or will she keep her promise to never use her power again? Can Scott trick her into being his friend? Will he get what he wants in the end? Can Barrymore and Keith reunite and flee before it is too late?
Now I read this book back when I was in high school and watched this film for the first time quite a few years ago. What I wanted to lead off on this is that there is some really good acting in this film. I can see why Barrymore was pegged to be the next great, because I really liked her in this film and that is hard to do as a child. She shows some range even at this young age. Scott was great at playing the Native American agent, but I come to expect how good he is. Sheen was solid in his role as well. What I really like about this film is the story, concept and the fear of constantly being on the run. What is also great though is the horror that The Shop has to deal with. Keith and Barrymore are so difficult to try to bring into custody, because if come right at them, you will fail. You need someone like Scott who can coerce through other means. I really like that aspect.
This film did come with some issues though. The first one being that I wasn’t a big fan of Keith. I don’t mind him in supporting roles, but being one of stars he didn’t hold up well for me. Locklear didn’t get a lot of time on screen and she wasn’t great either. I found the pairing of Carney with Fletcher was off too. I felt that Carney was quite a bit older than Fletcher, which I could be wrong. I also would have liked more for Fletcher in this film, but it is hard for the supporting role that she was in. The other issue for me was that the book has a lot more to it that the film cut out. It moved too quickly through the brainwashing that Scott does to get Barrymore to do what she does. This film is already running nearly 2 hours so this is a hard medium to convert. This is a reason that Stephen King is consistently upset with film adaptations of his work.
With that said though, I would recommend this film. We have two college student aged kids who are used as guinea pigs for an experiment they know little about, falling in love and having a child. In normal circumstances, this doesn’t end as badly as this does. This is the government being corrupt and creating a weapon like Barrymore inadvertently. When she doesn’t want to come along with them, they continue the corruption to get her. This issue of the film is something that parallels still today, just not with the ability to start fires with their mind. There is some really good acting in this film along with the story and concept. I would recommend giving this film a viewing as it is one of the better King novel adaptations.
My Rating: 7 out of 10