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DOUBLE 'FIRESTARTER' FEATURE W/ ORIGINAL AND 'REKINDLED'

Heather Locklear and Drew Barrymore YEAR: 1984
FIRESTARTER: During what looks like a five-dollar opening credit sequence, the synth score by Tangerine Dream, a hybrid of Pink Floyd and John Carpenter, provides a silk hat on a...

Love the spaceman on the right
Well FIRESTARTER isn't exactly (or entirely) a dog: But based on a novel by Stephen King, it can mislead rabid horror fans as a droning Science-Fiction thriller without wraiths or psychos but nefarious government agents with black suits, like HALLOWEEN 3: SEASON OF THE WITCH compared to its famous, popular predecessors involving tangible killer ghost Michael Myers...

Although, directed by capable b-movie/drive-in staple, Mark L. Lester, it's got a terrific look, produced by movie mogul Dino De Laurentis — plus the cast of otherwise great actors turning in good-enough performances: Particularly young lead, Charlie (short for Charlene), played by the ET-famous Drew Barrymore: She displays the right amount of possessive power and, most important, empathetic vulnerability in a picture that feels like a dark espionage mated with a pulpy and Gothic, coming-of-age melodrama — using random bouts of cringe-worthy dialogue along with a sporadic overdose of technical exposition...

Your bunny mug floweth over
Things tighten after being captured and separated by her father (played by) David Keith, who has Old Testament powers to make people see what he tells them — the proverbial Pharaoh's staff-into-serpent kinda deal...

Original Firestarter Score: ***1/2
This after Dad and Charlie are on-the-run (which includes well-done flashbacks leading to the present time) during an action-led first act act, befitting Lester's appeal to a primal audience style that made those old "cheap" vehicles so appealing (and would progress the next year with his popular-peak COMMANDO)...

Then when dad and daughter are both "politely" sequestered inside contrived cozy living/bedrooms (including the usual steel wall behind a draped steel window) inside a rural government compound (which we never get an establishing shot of), it's the chemistry between Barrymore and assassin George C. Scott as Raintree, established earlier as a coldblooded killer and now pretending to be a friendly old orderly named John, that really works. He warms her heart with a hypnotic (for her) and comfortably creepy ruse (for us) in what's overall a pretty good film that doesn't try to be really great, and with just enough of the titular promise of torched/scorched bad guys while the characters, good and bad, develop between scenes that moves the story forward in an economic B-movie that has enough A-value to feel completely legit in the King-adapted galaxy. 

McDowell with Not-Drew YEAR: 2002
FIRESTARTER 2: REKINDLED: Better than one would expect from a miniseries of a sequel based upon a semi-famous Stephen King novel adaptation, especially after THE SHINING miniseries, which was the famously opinionated author's attempt to erase Stanley Kubrick's legendary classic off the chalkboard (nice try, Stephen, but Steven Weber's don't know Jack)...

RekindledTVMovieScore: ***
Same thing happens here as the child version of the second Charlie doesn't follow what happened in the first; that which was more logical and suspenseful...

For example, Malcolm McDowell takes George C. Scott's role, with half his face burned from what seemed his scorching barnyard death, and instead of the aforementioned deception between the first Raintree and Charlie — in this case, after the father gets shot on the street, McDowell's simply walks up and grabs her hand, replacing daddy — and she doesn't freak out?!

3/4ths of the DVD double feature
But this is really about the grownup twenty-something Charlie whose powers are sought to be REKINDLED by everyone but herself. The gorgeous (and yes, talented) former MIGHTY DUCKS child starlet Marguerite Moreau (coached by Emilio Estevez, first son of Martin Sheen, Barrymore's captor in the original) turns in a smooth performance despite way too many uneven, confusing, off-color flashbacks. And it's part romantic-soap as she's paired with a well-written but mediocre-acted standard handsome (and intentionally oblivious) employee of the agency tracking her down...

One of those devilish Stephen King adapted touches
Whether taking place in a constructed small town main street, or the city that it purposefully mirrors (for the final battle), there's simply not enough fire... or victims of the flames... to go around...

With sexy dark-grunge Charlie's powers more spoken and/or anticipated, the bedlam's handed to a group of boys who share her formidable gift, mentored by Raintree, yet are pretty weak in the antagonist department. Enough elements work, though, like an important cameo by Dennis Hopper (as a survivor of the initial test that screwed-up Charlie's parents); an effective hybrid of body count terror (still not horror); and with a more backseat yet still palpable element of sci-fi, this REKINDLED miniseries (with ten minutes trimmed for a movie-length DVD) is a ride worth burning through. At least once.
Cult Film Freak amigo Antonio "Huggy Bear" Fargas in a thrifty but important cameo as a cab driver
Raintree warming up to our little Firestarter Drew Barrymore, which is the epicenter of the movie
When she was the cutest thing in the world, Heather Locklear meets future husband David Keith during THE Gov't test
Drew Barrymore David Keith Firestarter Drew Barrymore David Keith Drew Barrymore Firestarter
George C. Scott's assassin's assasin Raintree takes aim at an unsuccessfully hidden away...
Firestarter and father, who hid in a property that they own... Not very smart...
A terrific unfolding by director Mark L. Lester Firestarter as Agents appear out of trees... It's the evil E.T.
In The Shining, that power was compared to burning toast, so there it is, another King connection
Of F2 Prod-Manager EW's marquee pic: "Ha! Thanks... I had some photos at one point but have no idea where they are now. Appreciate it!"
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