Firestarter by Stephen King (1980)
Firestarter directed by Keith Thomas (2022)
Firestarter directed by Mark L. Lester (1984)
Available on peacock and in theaters!
The new movie is very different from the book, so to start I will give the summary of the book, then get into the new movie and what they changed.
Andy and Vicky volunteer for an experiment where 12 college students are injected with a new drug and get paid $200. After this, Andy is able to make people do and see what he wants them to, though when he uses the power too much it leaves him with a terrible headache. He and Vicky fall in love, get married, and have a daughter named Charlene aka Charlie. Charlie can read minds, make things move, but her main thing is that she can start fires. It happens right from the start and as a baby and toddler she can’t control it and it just happens when she is upset.
We meet Andy and Charlie when Charlie is 7 and she and Andy are being chased by the department that did the tests years prior, the Shop. This company has already killed Vicky and now they want to do tests on Charlie.
While on the run from them, Charlie and Andy are picked up by an old guy named Irv Manders who takes them to his farm and gives them lunch. While there, the Shop shows up and Charlie knows they intend to kill her dad. Her power gets the best of her, and there are fires and all sorts of mayhem and men die.
Charlie and Andy are able to get away but eventually are caught and held prisoner. Charlie is manipulated by a guy named John Rainbird and he gets her to agree to showing them her powers.
Andy, meanwhile, thinks his powers have stopped. Until he realizes he still has it and then uses it to try and escape.
Long story short, there is a showdown at the stables which are on the grounds. Charlie realizes the truth about Rainbird, Andy is there trying to get Charlie so they can escape and he is able to make Rainbird jump from the loft but before dying Rainbird shoots Andy and kills him. He tries to shoot Charlie, but she sends a fireball that melts the bullet and kills Rainbird. She wreaks havoc on the compound and once again, people die and buildings are destroyed.
She returns to Irv and his wife, but from there goes to The Rolling Stone to share her story as her only way to get protection from this government agency that wants her.
This book wasn’t a page turner, but it did keep my interest. I wouldn’t say it is in the horror genre, I guess more like scifi. There are some violent scenes-at the farm and then at the end, but they aren’t the kind of scenes that cause nightmares. I also loved the scene when Vicky and Andy are given the drugs. That was a very well written hallucinogenic scene and also has some gruesome things take place. But again, it wasn’t anything over the top in my opinion.
I usually like books with open endings, but this one was a bit too open ended for my taste. I wanted more closure on what was going to happen to Charlie.
John Rainbird was an alright villain, but not a favorite of mine.
This is probably my least favorite King book I have read, but it still gets 3.5 stars.
2022 Movie Review
I went into this movie (and the 80’s movie) expecting we’d get some melting faces, kind of like that scene in Indiana Jones. That doesn’t happen in either! The 2022 movie does have a one kind of gruesome scene in particular, but it really isn’t as graphic as I expected.
I also went into the new movie excited to see Zac Efron as a loving father. That’s what’s sexy-a guy who loves his family! And the movie did deliver as far as that is concerned. Overall, I really enjoyed this movie, it’s not the best thing ever and the pacing wasn’t always great. But there were some great scenes and quite a few “hell yeah” moments. Ryan Kiera Armstrong plays Charlie and I thought she was great! One of my favorite scenes is when she is coming out of the forest and three teenage boys try to bully her, but she uses her powers to get the best of them.
There were a number of things that normally I would have rolled my eyes at and found cliché, but for some reason I was just really loving it here. Even when she puts her hood up in a dramatic way, rather than thinking it was cheesy, I was like heck yeah, you badass!
Oh, and the score is done by John Carpenter and he was excellent as always! Gave me those 80’s horror movie vibes and I loved it.
Lot 6 Test
I love the drug testing scene in the book, it is very trippy, and at times disturbing. But it is also a key moment for Vicky and Andy because they connect telepathically and it sets the foundation for their romance. The 22 movie shows us the Lot 6 test while the opening credits are going, which is to say we hardly see it at all. It also has Vicky and Andy saying they had psychic abilities as kids, making them ideal candidates. This wasn’t the case in the book though, they were just normal people before the testing.
I really wanted to see this scene explored in the movies, and the 80’s movie shows more of it, but neither movie delivers the trippy scene I had been hoping for.
In the 22 movie we don’t hear much about the tests, but in the book, we find out that through the years most of the other people involved had either gone crazy or committed suicide.
There are a lot of changes, but to start, the timeline is condensed in the movie. We begin when Vicky is still alive. We learn that the last three years Charlies powers have been suppressed, but for some reason she is now having a harder time controlling it. Vicky thinks they need to train her to control her powers, but Andy thinks she should just keep repressing it. In the book Andy taught Charlie was a bad thing and tried to get her to just stop doing it. It is compared to potty training; we teach kids to never wet their pants and that it is a bad thing to do so. By the way, in the book this part about potty training is said by dr. Wanless, the guy who created Lot 6. In the movie his roll is pretty small but he is played by Kurtwood Smith, the guy who plays the dad in That 70’s Show! This is a very different role and I was very impressed with the small part he was in.
Vicky in the book didn’t like addressing Charlie’s powers and would avoid using her own telekinesis.
In the book there is a part when Charlie is very young, like maybe 4, when she wants to go to a friend’s house but Vicky tells her no. Charlie gets upset and accidently sets Vicky’s arms on fire. In the movie, there is drama because Charlie caused a small “explosion” in the school bathroom and they now have to leave town. Charlie is upset that she is the cause of all of this and both parents are tense. Charlie is upset with her dad, but the mom is between them and her arms catch fire.
That same night, Charlie and Andy leave to give Vicky some space and while they are gone, John Rainbird shows up. He asks where Charlie and Andy are but she won’t say. We find out that Rainbird has the ability to read minds because before the college kids got lot 6, they tested it out on other people like Rainbird. This was not the case in the book. Rainbird was just a weird psycho who was obsessed with death.
Anyway, Charlie and Andy come home, have their own fight with Rainbird, see that Vicky is dead and run away.
In the book, Vicky’s death had been like a year prior and at the time, Charlie was at a friend’s house and Andy was at work. He comes home to find Vicky has been killed by Shop agents (not Rainbird) and they have kidnaped Charlie.
Andy finds them and convinces one agent that he is blind and tells the other to fall asleep. Then he and Charlie start their life on the run.
The movie has a scene similar to that kidnap scene. He is telling Charlie that when she was a baby she was taken. He and Charlie have a special connection, and so he was able to feel where she was (they don’t have this connection in the book). He tells the one agent to shoot the other, and that when he is done, he is going to forget how to breathe. I like what he does in the book better, but the movie has this part because Andy is telling Charlie how killing those men changed him and you can’t come back from causing death. Charlie promises to never hurt anyone by her ability.
I like how in book and movie, when Andy is living normal life, he uses his ability to influence people to be a life coach. He helps people lose weight, quit smoking, and to climb the work ladder. That right there shows us the kind of man Andy is. Out of all the ways he could use him money to get rich-he chooses to help people.
In the book, we spend waaay more time in the Shop and they have Andy and Charlie on medication. Andy realizes that he has become addicted and while sleeping he is able to push himself to be rid of this dependence on these pills.
In the movie, when Andy uses the push, his eyes start to bleed. I don’t know if brain issues cause your eyes to bleed, but I thought that was a bit over the top in the movie. Bleeding eyes are kind of a been there done that thing and yeah it looks creepy, but it wasn’t as cool or weird as I think the director wanted.
In the book he gets these massive migraines and will even have numb spots on his face.
In book and movie, Andy and Charlie are picked up by a guy named Irv Manders who takes them back to his farm for lunch. Irv in the book was very kind and helpful and even when he sees what Charlie can do, he isn’t scared by wants to help and is very supportive.
In the movie, Irv has a bit of a temper and isn’t so quick to be kind and understanding. I liked this because in the book it just didn’t seem realistic (and clearly, with a book about a girl who can start fires, reality is what they were going for lol, but you know what I mean). In the book, Irv’s wife was wary, but by the end is soft with Charlie. In the movie, the wife is hooked up to a machine and can’t talk. Charlie can hear her thoughts though and therefore can talk with her.
The next morning, Andy wakes up hearing the news talking about he and Charlie. He walks into the living room and they find out Irv has called the cops on them. Charlie uses this moment to tell Irv that his wife forgives him, she just has never been able to say this. Irv now believes them and his heart is softened. He says he will go take care of the police.
He tries to convince the cops it was a mistake, but while doing so, the cop is shot by Rainbird who has been sent there to get Charlie by any means necessary.
Rainbird shoots the other cops, and Charlie sends a fireball out to him. Andy then tells her to run away and uses his abelites to convince Rainbird he can’t see her. Rainbird knocks Andy out, and then is able to see her, but it is too late because she has run into the forest.
Rainbird brings Andy to the Shop headquarters and says because of their connection, Charlie will end up showing up to save him.
In the book, the Shop shows up at the farm and Charlie can sense they want to kill Andy. This makes her so upset, she isn’t able to control her powers and multiple Shop men are killed. This was a crazy scene in the book and so I was surprised the movie didn’t do more with it.
Charlie training her powers
In the book, after Mander’s farm Andy and Charlie go to Andy’s grandfather’s cabin and are there for a few months before being tranquilized by Rainbird and brought to the shop.
While in the Shop, Charlie uses her powers for them and while they think it is awesome, this works for Charlies benefit as well because these sessions are helping her to hone in on her powers and not let it overtake her.
In the movie, Charlie runs away and lives in the forest for a couple days. While there, she practices her powers. In the movie, she has both of her parents’ powers as well, so she can influence people, move things, as well as start fires.
When coming out of the forest is when those teenagers approach her and she is able to get them to give her their stuff and she rides her new bike to the Shop. Oh, and she was sent an image on the Shop and where to go. She assumes her dad sent her this and wants her to find him.
Rainbird is not the sneaky, conniving guy he was in the book and Charlie is never even kept at the Shop and she sees rainbird from the start as the bad guy, so there is no deception there like there was in the book. He is more sympathetic in the movie, since he himself had been tested on as well.
So, when Charlie shows up at the Shop she sees her dad and learns that he didn’t send her that message and that it was a trap. Captain Hollister is there and tries to convince Charlie to stay with them and that they can help her and they understand her. Andy can see that Charlie is being convinced, so he then pushes her, telling her she needs to break her promise and to destroy the Shop, beginning with himself and the Captain (they are together, Cap thought that being with Andy would guarantee her protection.)
Charlie burns the two of them, put her hood up, and kills whoever she comes across. Until rainbird. He doesn’t put up a fight and as she is starting to burn him, she sees herself in a mirror and realizes she has become someone she doesn’t want to be.
She leaves Rainbird and as she walks to the ocean, the Shop is destroyed. We see that rainbird got out as well and offers her his hand, which she takes and he carries her off.
Book Ending-Andy’s push
In the book Andy first pushes his doctor into letting him stay longer so he has time to save Charlie. The push causes a ricochet in the doctor’s mind and he goes crazy and commits suicide.
Andy then uses the push on Captain Hollister to get Andy and Charlie on a helicopter out of the Shop. He pushes a lot, and this causes Hollister to also have a ricochet which causes him to be unstable.
And as said, Rainbird had been Charlie’s friend, so when Andy sends her a note that Rainbird is bad and can’t be trusted, Charlie is very hurt because she saw him as a second father figure.
Charlie is to meet Andy and Cap at the stables, where they will go to the helicopter together. Rainbird has found out about this plan and is there in the stables to sabotage the whole things. Like I said in the book summary, ultimately everyone dies and in the end, she returns to Mander’s farm and from there goes to the news to tell her story.
Even though the destruction of the Shop happens differently, I thought that scene in the movie was just as exciting as it had been in the book.
I also loved the ricochet parts which is what happens when Andy either pushes too hard, or when he pushes someone mentally unstable. I wish the movie would have included this.
The dead cat
Some final thoughts on the 2022 movie before moving on to the 84 movie. There is a scene where Charlie is scratched by a cat, and she gets upset and accidently burns it. It is still alive, and Andy tells her she needs to put it out of its misery. Charlie feels terrible about what she did to the cat and they have a funeral for it.
There was a similar scene in the book, but it was Andy when he was a kid. He had shot a squirrel, but when he approaches it, sees he didn’t kill it and it is in pain. His dad tells him he needs to put the squirrel out of its misery which Andy does. He feels so terrible, that he decides he is never going to shoot an animal again.
In the movie, the cat’s funeral also provides closure in a way on Vicky’s death since they weren’t able to bury her. But I love the scene in both book and movie.
The 80’s movie is a much more faithful adaptation. There are some changes and some things left out, but overall, it is very similar. I felt there was something missing though. I found the movie to be pretty drab and the destruction scenes were pretty tame. We also have George C. Scott as John Rainbird. Um, what? I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised they cast a white man, but still.
In the 2022 movie, to let the audience know Andy is using the push he pops his neck. In the old movie, he grabs his head. This seemed weird in the old movie. But I guess if he already has a headache, grabbing his head helps him feel somewhat better?
They do have Andy pushing the captain, and it kind of ricochets, but not as much as it did in the book.
Book vs Movies
Out of the three, the 80’s movie is my least favorite. I just found it kind of boring. It is a faithful adaptation, yet there was just something lacking.
The 2022 movie does its own thing, and the first half feels too slow, however I loved the second half and didn’t mind the changes they made and I loved the 80’s vibe it had.
The book I liked a lot, but to be honest I don’t see myself reading it again anytime soon. Nonetheless, I would say the book is a bit better than the movie because there is more to it. The new movie cut so much and I did like how Rainbird was tricking Charlie in the book. Though Charlie seemed like she should have been too smart to have fallen for it…but she was in a vulnerable state, I guess.
The book once again wins and while I would not recommend the original movie, I think the new movie is worth checking out!