Friday, May 13, 2022

Firestarter (2022)


Streaming Service: Peacock
Movie Name/Year: Firestarter (2022)
Genre: Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi
Length: 1h 50min
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Blumhouse Productions, Angry Adam Productions, BoulderLight Pictures, Night Platform, Universal Pictures, Weed Road Pictures, United International Pictures, Universal Pictures International, Peacock
Director: Keith Thomas
Writers: Scott Teems, Stephen King
Actors: Zac Efron, Michael Greyeyes, Danny Waugh, Darrin Maharaj, Gavin MacIver-Wright, Gloria Reuben, Isaac Murray, Kurtwood Smith, Lanette Ware, Neven Pajkic, Phi Huynh, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Shannon McDonough, Sydney Lemmon, Tina Jung, Vas Saranga
IMDb Blurb: A young girl tries to understand how she mysteriously gained the power to set things on fire with her mind.

Cat’s Point of View:
I have been looking forward to this new remake of Firestarter, even if I have remained torn as to whether or not it really should have been made in the first place. It exists now, and I love the works of Stephen King (Christine, The Stand, IT), therefore it was a must-see for me. Firestarter was #6 on my May 2022 Top 20 list, afterall.
A new look at the Firestarter story afforded a better opportunity for higher production value, given the effects technology advances. The casting also seemed to be on point. Horror legend, John Carpenter (Halloween, The Power of Nightmares, Studio 666), also worked on the music for Firestarter. Bonus points awarded because it became available on Peacock immediately upon release. Anyone who has access to the service wouldn’t need to pay for a movie ticket should they still be on the fence. Win-win.

Before I get into the nuts and bolts of things, I don’t want to bury the lead. I enjoyed this new version. I think it fixed a few of the more problematic aspects present in the 1984 movie. Was it the best it could have been? There was room for improvement. It wasn’t the most fantastic horror movie I’ve ever seen – but I don’t think Firestarter is deserving of the dismal ratings I’ve been seeing professional critics lobbing around.
It has been quite a while since I read the book these films were based on. Take that for what you will. I’m merely offering that I’m unable to draw parallels between the Firestarter movies and the original text. I can, however, offer a perspective between the 1984 and 2022 productions. I actually watched them back to back to offer a fresh perspective.

The original Firestarter wasn’t without its own problems. Fire effects weren’t so seamless and you could see where the mechanisms were generating the flames, etc. Further, the father’s psychic powers requiring all that head-squeezing was a little too over-the-top –but hey, it was the ‘80s.
Today’s new iteration fixed some of this. Telekinetic and pyrokinetic events flowed more seamlessly and enhanced the action rather than distracting from it. I love how they reflected Zac Efron (The Lorax, The Greatest Showman, Gold) using his powers both in a physical and effects-driven combination. Before I get further into the cast, I feel I must give cheers and thanks for the production team updating the overall time period of the setting and incorporating as well as addressing things such as smartphones and the internet. While I adore nostalgia, this was definitely not a place to remain in the past, since parallels were already going to be drawn between the 1984 flick and this one. It needed more to stand apart, and it delivered.

Let’s revisit the cast. Sydney Lemmon (Velvet Buzzsaw, Helstrom, Fear the Walking Dead) felt more connected to the mother character than the original. The whole parental dynamic felt more believable in the update. While I adore the original actor for young Charlie McGee’s role, Ryan Kiera Armstrong (It Chapter Two, Anne with an E, American Horror Story) fit the part and delivered a strong and edgy performance.
In my Top 20 article blurb, I mentioned appreciation that the role of Rainbird was cast to Michael Greyeyes (True Detective, Blood Quantum, Wildhood) – not only because he was a phenomenal actor, but because he also fit the part as someone of Indigenous American descent. I actually enjoyed his version of Rainbird more. The story made more sense, felt more intense, and was definitely less creepy than the vibes from George C. Scott (Dr. Strangelove, Patton, Malice) in the original.

There were definitely some story tweaks between the two iterations of Firestarter. I believe this new version was an improvement. Of course, those wanting something more literally ‘by the book’ would still likely find dismay in differences – but such is the way.
We really got to dig into Charlie’s character more in the new Firestarter. We saw her problems and desire to just fit in like a normal kid – and how not being normal magnified the horrific situation that even ‘regular’ kids find themselves in with bullies and the like. Things got more personal and gritty rather than the plushies, dolls, horseback riding, and video games that watered down the first incarnation. While I love the innocence and naiveté of the original character, the darker tone seemed to fit the trials her life had undergone in its short span better.

I went on a little ramble here. The ratings I was seeing frankly irked me, and I don’t think Firestarter was as bad as the critics are making it out to be. Keep in mind that quite literally some of these very same professional ‘Top Critics’ trashing Firestarter gave positive reviews adding up to an over 90% rating for an unwatchable movie.
My recommendation is that if you like horror with a side of sci-fi maybe give Firestarter a shot and form your own opinion. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 13%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 46%
Metascore – 33%
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score –4.9/10

P.S. - Trigger warning for cat (or animal) lovers. There is a graphic scene involving a cat.

Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3.5/5
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

The Sadness (2022)

Streaming Service: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: The Sadness (2022)
Genre: Horror
Length: 1h 39min
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Machi Xcelsior Studios, ESC Editions, Capelight Pictures, Shudder
Director: Rob Jabbaz
Writer: Rob Jabbaz
Actors: Berant Zhu, Chi-Min Chou, Emerson Tsai, Lue-Keng Huang, Ralf Chiu, Regina Lei, Tzu-Chiang Wang, Wei-Hua Lan, Ying-Ru Chen
IMDb Blurb: A young couple trying to reunite amid a city ravaged by a plague that turns its victims into deranged, bloodthirsty sadists.

Selina’s Point of View:
Writing about The Sadness is going to be a little bit difficult. I’m honestly not sure that I want to give it any publicity at all.
When we went through all the trailers for films coming out in May of 2022, on our monthly Trust the Dice stream, I noted that The Sadness had a hell of a time getting a rating that wasn’t the equivalent of an NC-17. You hear that a lot with horror films, and it’s usually some kind of PR stunt to get people to see it. In this case, I absolutely think there’s more truth to it than that. In fact, I think the finished product should still have the aforementioned rating.

The Sadness was the single most violent film I have ever seen. I don’t say that lightly. Violence doesn’t usually trigger me at all, but almost every scene in this flick did. There are a huge number of rape scenes mixed in with the rest of the blood-spilling, and I found it to be unnecessary – to say the least. Gratuitous is too mild of a word. Numbing might be closer to correct.
There are very few things that will make me think art – of any kind – has crossed a line. In this case, though...
The Sadness took things too far. It had the potential of a great zombie flick but turned out to be too much for even me to stomach. I do not believe it’s something people should watch. 

Cat’s Point of View:
Holy shit.
The Sadness was one of the most difficult-to-watch films that I have ever viewed.
I’m not generally squeamish, but this production had a level of violence and brutality that was uncomfortable, over-the-top, excessive, and really disturbing. I will admit there were several places I simply had to look away from the screen or cover my eyes.

Trigger warnings abound with The Sadness. If you’re sensitive to flashing lights, don’t watch the credits- and that’s the least problematic element here. If you can think of something heinous that one person could do to another, it’s probably represented in this movie. In addition to mountains of blood, gore, and foul language, rape, torture, sexual sadism, physical assault, as well as graphic cannibalism infect the screen much as the narrative’s virus spreads through its population.
With as many movies we watch with similar themes, you’d think I’d have had the ending for this one pegged. I wasn’t entirely off base, but it still caught me off guard.

The Sadness was truly terrifying on so many levels. I don’t think I’ll be sleeping well tonight. It’s a safe bet that I’ll likely never watch this production again. Further, I would offer a heaping helping of disclaimers to any prospective viewers. The Sadness is absolutely not for the young or faint of heart. Watch at your own risk.
The Sadness will become available to stream on Shudder starting May 12th.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 93%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – 76%
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 6.4/10
Trust the Dice: Parental Advisory Rating – NC-17
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 0/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 1/5
Movie Trailer: