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Firestarter (1984)
Director: Mark L. Lester

review by John Percival

Do you remember back when they used to turn Stephen King stories into good movies? There were many greats such as The Shining, Cujo and The Dead Zone. Well here we have a welcome blast from the past in the form of Firestarter, the film that proved Drew Barrymore had more talent than just screaming at E.T.

Firestarter is the story of Charlie, an eight-year-old girl whose parents took part in a secret government drug experiment. The drugs gave them unusual mental powers and Charlie, born after the experiments, developed an ability to start fire using her mind. Now Charlie and her father are on the run from the shadowy government agency 'The Shop', that want to destroy her.

Drew Barrymore was aged just eight at the time showed even then a great acting talent. Charlie wants to do all the things a normal girl does, but also she has to cope with the loss of her mother and being constantly hunted by the Shop. The relationship between the father and daughter really is the key. David Keith is brilliant as Andrew McGee, determined to protect his daughter and to help her understand her abilities. His own power is slightly subtler than Charlie's. He can control the minds of others but as this is makes his nose bleed each time it's not easy for him to do. More sinister than horrific, the real tale here is the attack upon the family by an unknown part of the trusted elected government. It shows how this agency creates the 'mutants' and in trying to control them ultimately becomes scared of them enough to try and kill them. There is enough material for conspiracy theorists to feed on for days.

For the gore fans there are some interesting scenes such at the drug experiments failures. There are also some pretty good special effects as Charlie's powers grown. With exploding cars, burning people, fireballs and fire that seems alive there is more than enough action. Firestarter is a touching story that even though it contains some great action, it does not rely on this to carry the story. It's about how we feel watching the father and daughter being hunted, and how the bond between them grows under the pressure of their unusual powers, which are granted by a government that wants to control them. It's definitely one of Stephen King's more sentimental films and it is very enjoyable after all the years.

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