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Firestarter – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Scream Factory first dipped their toes into the world of Stephen King last fall with its definitive release of the initial classic (And one of horror’s all-time best) Carrie.  Now, they are at it again with another of his telekinetic girls with the Drew Barrymore-led Firestarter.  Yes, its already on Blu-ray, but that lackluster release is getting a masterful update with Scream Factory’s Collector’s edition.  Not only does this boast a lot of brand next extras for this disc, but its been given a brand new 2K transfer as well.  As per usual, this thing will be well worth the upgrade, or the holdout you’ve had for the movie (Even just the curious bystander that picks up based on Scream Factory’s choice to release).  But, lets dig into this anyway, shall we?  The release is set for March 14th, but you can make sure you have one come release day by pre-ordering on the Amazon link below.

Film 

Based on the unforgettable best-seller by esteemed horror author Stephen King, Firestarter chronicles the extraordinary life of Charlene “Charlie” McGee. Eight-year-old Drew Barrymore stars as the child who has the amazing ability to start fires with just a glance. Can her psychic power and the love of her father save her from “The Shop,” the threatening government agency which wants to control her…or destroy her?

Its kind of funny I’m covering this movie just right after Logan has dropped on us in theaters.  The on the run, hiding a child with special powers while being hunted by some form of suits and dread story really does feel like it could have been an inspiration for the mutant opus.  Before that movie came out though, this very much felt like a Stephen King X-Men story.  Take out the father/daughter background of this movie and this really could be some other kind of take on Charles Xavier and Jean Grey.  Except with King’s vision its a big more destruction, raw and in many degrees, more interesting.

From the outset, the film has a leg up, as the score begins right as the Universal logo starts.  Its from the electronic group, Tangerine Dream.  If you’ve ever heard them (Sorcerer, Thief), you know you’re in for a treat.  Whatever you are about to watch could suck, but your ears are going to be pleased and you’ll probably pick up the soundtrack.  This is one of their more understated works but it still flies in quite strong overall.  And with this kind of story, I really think Tangerine Dream was the correct pick and strengthens the feel of the film and helps carve it a little more legacy in film history.

While I mentioned an X-Men connection on this story, I’d say its also moreso King going back and putting a different spin on his own well.  It feels like he is revisiting the character of Carrie White from his first book.  Just, this time giving her the other gendered parent to work with, realizing her powers, but on the run and dealing with people in the world rather than coming of age.  This could be the sort of next step.  Drew Barrymore takes it on here, and while she’s no Sissy Spacek, she sells and completes the role enough to come to successes.  In her father, you get David Keith who is both good and campy at the same time, but it all works.

Firestarter isn’t greatness, but its a movie that sits on the cusp and potential of being something greater.  The structure of the story really works for it, bringing intrigue and letting background details unfold naturally through dialogue and flashback.  It has some cool sequences and memorable characters, but overall its just sort of “all right”.  In terms of King movies and television adaptations it falls somewhere on the top side of the middle/average in the collection.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  This boasts a brand new scan of the 2K interpositive.  I was not an owner of the previous Blu-ray release, but I understand the thoughts on the transfer were quite poor.  This new one look pretty rock solid and quite above average with its details and strong looking characters and environments.  Its gets across that late 70s/early 80s look very well.  Details on things like wallpaper, denim, George C. Scotts bad eye, and carpet texture all hit strong marks.

Depth:  Good, strong work here, with a clear and concise separation of foreground and background imagery with smooth character movements weaving in and out with no real blur.

Black Levels: Blacks come through deep and rich.  Nighttime and dark room/shadowy sequences come across working quite with a level of definition and sharpness added while still keeping textures on clothes and surfaces visible.  No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are natural in their appearance.  Teals and reds come on a little stronger than others, while greens light up the screen with a rich look (Grass, trees, bushes, etc).

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and maintain a consistent appearance thorughout the movie from scene to scene and both modern and flashback sequences.  Skin looks full and bold on the screen.  Facial details and texture comes through quite well on stubble, wrinkles, dried blood, blemishes, make-up, sweat and lip texture and more in both medium and close up shots.

Noise/Artifacts:  A nice layer of grain, with very minimal spots/dirt.  The print here looks to be in good shape.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: Firestarter carries its previous mono track the other release has.  Its an okay, track as things are about monotonous in terms of flexibility and variation in the nuances and intricacies.  It does a pretty standard job of everything but improvements could be made.  With how wonderful the score is for this movie, I wish it could have sounded a bit more prominent and bold in the mix.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Vocals are pretty good, clear and audible at most all times throughout the features’ runtime.

Extras 

Firestarter – Collector’s Edition comes with a reversible cover featuring the original theatrical poster.

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Mark L. Lester

Playing With Fire: The Making of Firestarter (HD, 52:40) – Interviews with director Mark L. Lester, actors Freddie Jones and Drew Snyder, stuntman/actor Dick Warlock and Johannes Schmoelling of Tangerine Dream.  This retrospective is strongly led by director Mark L. Lester as it is 10 minutes before anyone else enters the picture to speak.  Not a bad thing, the guy has a quite a cool, confident memory on how things went in the early production of the film.  And as it goes on, you’ll quickly realize he’s the most interesting figurehead to listen to.  Its a nice, lengthy look back, but it would have been nice to have had one living major player back to discuss (Keith, Sheen, Locklear, Barrymore).  I’m betting Scream tried, but the parties declined.

Tangerine Dream: Movie Music Memories (HD, 17:07) – Interview with Johannes Schmoelling (Subtitled). He goes over how the band got their foot in the door and how Michael Mann’s Thief is where he felt they really started to take off.  He goes a bit film to film through the scores they’ve done, but they also creep around with details on where inspirations come from the scores, interactions and relationship with bandmates, his thoughts on cinema and other anecdotes.  In closing he recognizes what a pioneer he was to electronic music and mentions that he listened to their 20 year run of scores before doing the interview.

Johannes Schmoelling of Tangerine Dream Plays “Charlie’s Theme” (HD, 2:33) – On the piano.

Theatrical Trailers (HD, 3:43)

Radio Spot (HD, 4:34) 

Still Gallery (HD, 5:57) 

Summary 

Firestarter isn’t of the best of King’s cinematic works, but its still very entertaining and plenty memorable enough.  Making itself memorable is this very easy to recommend upgrade over the previous Blu-ray edition.  The fact that is contains bonus features at all is enough, but these are the ideal, perfectly executed interviews we come to expect from Scream Factory.  While you’re getting the same audio here, the new transfer is pretty terrific and in my opinion, better than what came before.  A solid pickup and addition to your horror/Scream Factory/Stephen King collection.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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