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Firestarter Reviews Are Here, Check Out What Critics Are Saying About The Stephen King Adaptation

Ryan Kiera Armstrong as Charlie in Firestarter.
(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Horror fans have been excited to check out this remake of the Stephen King adaptation of Firestarter. In the role made famous by Drew Barrymore back in 1984, Ryan Kiera Armstrong plays Charlie McGee, a young girl who develops pyrokinesis, forcing her and her father Andy (Zac Efron) to go on the run from government agents and bounty hunters. Critics screened Firestarter ahead of its online release, as it is now available for streaming with a Peacock Premium subscription. The movie also premiered in theaters on the same day, May 13.

Featuring Sydney Lemmon as Charlie’s mother, Kurtwood Smith as Dr. Joseph Wanless and Michael Greyeyes as bounty hunter John Rainbird, this R-rated reboot looked downright explosive in the trailer. Let’s take a look at what the reviews are saying to help you decide if this movie will be part of your Friday the 13th plans (or any day after, obviously). 

Let’s start with the CinemaBlend review of Firestarter. Eric Eisenberg rates the movie 4 stars out of 5, noting that the reboot changes quite a bit — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a story that’s been around more than four decades — but still keeps the important parts. The original movie staying fairly loyal to the source material allows this movie to make changes that should surprise even die-hard Stephen King fans:

Firestarter doesn’t rank among the all-time best Stephen King adaptations, but it is an entertaining, well-made, and cinematic interpretation of the book that is far better than its predecessor. It won’t change the reputation of remakes, but can be remembered as an example of when they go right.

Not all of the critics are as pleased. Frank Schek of THR says this remake is better than the original, but just barely. He calls it competent but uninspired and says it feels more like a TV movie or the pilot for a streaming series.

To their credit, the actors give it their all, with Greyeyes compelling as the steely Rainbird and Efron affecting as the father desperately trying to protect his daughter and teach her how to control her powers. (Yes, Efron has aged into dad roles but not, as a shirtless opening scene demonstrates, a dad bod.) The film is also admirably fast-paced, running twenty minutes shorter than the bloated 1984 original. But while it has a few genuine scares (cat lovers will want to avert their eyes for one horrific scene), it never achieves the deliriously freaky heights one expects from a film version of one of King’s cheesier novels.

Carla Hay of Culture Mix also isn’t a fan of Firestarter — the remake or the original — but admits the 2022 version includes better acting. This critic is particularly thrown off by the ending, which strays from both the book and 1984 film in a way she doesn’t think makes sense:

The ending of the 2022 version of Firestarter is what really makes it irredeemable, because it’s just mindless mayhem that tries to overcompensate for the lack of scares in most of this disjointed, bland and misguided movie.

Meagan Navarro of Bloody Disgusting rates the movie 2 skulls out of 5, calling Firestarter severely underdeveloped. The first half builds the characters and sets the stakes, but the second half feels rushed and haphazard so that none of the emotional payoff lands, this review argues. That’s not to say there aren’t some positives to be found:

Despite a strong performance by Zac Efron, a few fun charred corpses, John Carpenter‘s superior score, and brisk pacing, Firestarter winds up mirroring Charlie’s story a little too closely. A promising beginning comes unraveled by the desire to burn it all down.

Owen Gleiberman of Variety says Drew Barrymore’s Firestarter was one of Stephen King’s worst adaptations, and this reboot is no improvement:

The visual effects feel dated, maybe because there’s only so much that you can do with things exploding into an oversize blaze. This Firestarter never catches fire, and rarely even finds a note of inviting retro-ness, maybe because King’s novel, beneath it all, was actually a warped piece of 1960s nostalgia, an homage to the days of ‘Burn, baby, burn.’

While critics have some positive things to say about the acting and some of the liberties taken with the source material, their reviews are lukewarm toward this reboot. However, moviegoers— especially fans of horror and Stephen King — should feel free to check the movie out and judge for themselves! Whether you make it a night at the theater, or grab the microwave popcorn to stream it on Peacock, Firestarter is out now. You can also see what other upcoming Stephen King book-to-screen adaptations are in the works, and check out our 2022 Movie Release Schedule to see what else is coming soon to theaters.

Heidi Venable
Heidi Venable

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.