Stop me if you’ve heard this one… Two college kids sign up for a psychiatry experiment at a local college and, without any real idea of what the experiments entail, they are fed a sort of hybrid LSD and subjected to extreme stimuli. When they finally wake up from the horrible trip, they have telekinesis and mind control abilities due to the brain-altering substances.
The pair quickly realizes (and maybe always knew) how much in love they are, marry and have a beautiful daughter named Charlie. She also has telekinesis, but in a more powerful and less controlled way. The scientists who conducted the experiments all those years ago find out about the prodigal daughter and come calling, unafraid to kill in order to obtain the ultimate psychic weapon.
You know, that classic American story about love and loss and the American dream.
Published in 1980, Firestarter is considered by many to be among Stephen King’s tightest works. Although known for his horror, King’s novels often tread firmly on the path of science fiction and suspense. Firestarter is a perfect example of this. It contains no horror, no monster. He entertains the reader with a very real and explainable plot trajectory, and explores themes of fatherhood, family, trust, and corrupt corporate government science along the way.
It’s also King, so he has acid-infused college students tear out their own eyes and people bursting into flame, and mind control-induced comas… lots of action to wade through in 400-odd pages, but as a King fan, I can appreciate when the master of suspense and character development tell a story this complex in just 400 pages when he usually takes 900. Again, it’s a tight novel, and highly recommended.
Four years pass, making it 1984. Firestarter hits the big screen. Drew Barrymore makes a little hay and finds herself pretty famous after ET and snags the role of the daughter, Charlie. To do this right, we also will need a few government-looking fellas with evil on their minds… how about George C. Scott and Martin Sheen? The casting for the 1984 classic is mind-boggling perfection.
However, the movie does hit a few snags along the way, including director Mark Lester – famous the next year for Commando starring Arnold Schwarzenegger – taking some liberties with death scenes. I guess you can’t fault him for making some creative gestures towards the final macabre showdown, but it gets a little ridiculous. He also loses vision of what ‘The Shop’ should be, and the story’s important sinister and shady Shop is diluted with the 1980’s villain syndrome: the swept back Swayze-esque blonde hair and .32 numbly blasting away inaccurately? It doesn’t age well, to say the least.
With all of this taken into account – the tight novel, the awesomely, tragically cheesy 1980’s movie – we need a redux.
A Enter the “revamp Stephen King era.” His entire catalog seems to be receiving a fresh look, and the recently announced remake of Firestarter might be a gem. Akiva Goldsman, who spent the majority of his career writing and producing, gets the directorial nod from Universal and Blumhouse Productions. Goldsman is connected with lots of great films, and his resume includes an Academy Award for the screenplay for A Beautiful Mind. [On a side note, he also received a Razzie for the Batman and Robin screenplay.]
Goldsman was also on board with revamps for Transformers and GI Joe, and co-wrote the soon-to-be Dark Tower movies, also originally written by Stephen King. He’s no stranger to this type of work, but his directing experience is a bit slim. Blumhouse Productions has hit a few recent homeruns with psychological thrillers Split and Get Out, and I believe that same twist that has become Blumhouse’s bread and butter will fit nicely with King’s Firestarter.
For what it’s worth, Goldsman and Blumhouse announced the remake of Firestarter from the steps of the Timberline Lodge. The Timberline Lodge would also be known as The Overlook Hotel to fans, which boasts a very famous caretaker in The Shining, directed by Stanley Kubrick and based off the novel by Stephen King.
The pieces are there for an excellent movie.
The director and production company seem interested in paying homage to what makes for a great Stephen King story. As more information about the film becomes available – especially casting announcements – expectations will grow. We’re looking forward to a veteran writer/producer’s fresh foray into directing this electrifying and intricate novel by the world’s number one author of suspense.