Saturday, June 04, 2022

film notes | spooky little girls

 A few weeks ago, I got really excited at the news that there was going to be a new Firestarter film, and what's more, that it would star the young actress who killed it (literally) in the last season of AHS as probably the most irredeemably evil character in AHS history (and that is saying a lot considering one of those villains was the antichrist himself.) I eagerly joined Peacock premium to stream it, and sat down to watch it and...well..meh?  Not that I think it was terrible, and it was well-acted, but somehow it was missing something that made the original something I watched over and over again as a child.  So much so, that I could quote it, verbatim, all the way through. While I was obsessed with it at age 8 or 9, I don't think I ever really crossed paths with it as a young adult, and definitely not in the last couple of decades.

I finally sat down to rewatch the original after not being all that impressed the new,  and I think I've narrowed much of it to the actress in the new one, who while super talented in some respects, doesn't quite garner as much sympathy in her plight that tiny Drew Barrymore fresh off her ET debit did.  She's younger, or at least it seems like it, and far more a victim of her circumstances (and therefore what happens to her seems even worse.) There is also Rainbird, the George C Scott character, who is much less pedo-creepy in the new one, something they veered entirely away from to make him more sympathetic and I imagine set up a sequel. It's the characters' creepy evil and the "The Shops" string-pulling and corruption that makes the original movie worse somehow and brings you fully to understand how it all goes nuclear at the end. 

I always lump Barrymore's Charlie in with Carrie as one of Stephen King's vengeful little girls, just at different stages of their lives, and this makes them two of my favorite King novels for the same reason.  It was something I was thinking about in particular as I watched the most recent season of Stranger Things. While I admittedly was only half on board for seasons 1-2, I've been much more enthusiastic about the last two, and part of it truly is that female characters play a larger role--mostly in the screen time given to the female characters and the cultural reference points of my own childhood like mall trips and roller rinks. And of course, Stranger Things feels like King even when it's not--the comparison's to IT, of course, and just the general trope of youngsters saving the world while adults (mostly) seem oblivious.  Eleven, like Charlie in Firestarter, is a little girl with great power at the mercy of a corrupt system. Are little girls capable of great power they may not even have a handle on themselves. And worse, that evil will gravitate and try to control it at every chance. And I think that may have been what was missing in the new Firestarter, which definitely refers to that system and places her within it, but it's not quite evil enough to work that kind of magic


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