‘Firestarter’ review: Zac Efron tries to rekindle Stephen King story

Having both theaters and streaming service Peacock at the same time feels right, because this is the kind of film that went straight to cable decades ago. In fact, a miniseries sequel “Firestarter: Rekindled” was made for the then sci-fi channel 20 years ago, and this should actually follow in its charred footsteps.

As is, Zac Efron Adds the right amount of star power to the proceedings, but the story is so placid that it rarely gets above the low boil.
Efron plays Andy, who agrees to participate in medical trials while in college, which gives him and his wife psychic abilities.But the real power shifts to their daughter Charlie (Ryan Kira Armstrong, whose credits include American Horror Story and “It” sequel), when the very bad guys who initially experimented with her parents finally caught up with them, she was just beginning to master her talent for spirit and firepower.

Andy and Charlie continue on the run, and the head of the secret facility (Gloria Reuben) sends a shadow agent (Michael Grayes) to hunt them down. But honestly, not much happens for a decent chunk of the movie’s 90-plus minutes, until the bad guys finally find them again, leading to the inevitable showdown.

Directed by Keith Thomas, the film’s most compelling element is probably the music composed by horror expert John Carpenter and his “Halloween” collaborators, with a creepy chord to those creepy chords similarities.

Otherwise, the production value has the micro-budget feel of a student film, and the storyline makes some puzzling choices, especially in post.

Horror never goes out of style, and thanks in part to the aforementioned “it”, all the old things that the King approves of are either getting a new look again, or maybe soon. Still, “Firestarter” lacks the spark of a theatrical release, and should have even the smallest of streaming appeal, save for the perfectionist who might be the king, or the horror fan who just has time to burn.

Firestarter will premiere in US theaters and Peacock on May 13. Rated R.

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