Andy McGee (David Keith) met his future wife, Vicky Tomlinson (Heather Locklear), in college while they were earning money by participating in an experiment in which they were given a dose of a low-grade hallucinogen called LOT-6. The experiment grants them telepathic abilities; Vicky has the ability to read minds, and Andy can take over minds and make others do and believe what he wants, but the effort gives him nosebleeds (the novel revealing them to be "pinprick" hemorrhages). Andy and Vicky went on to get married, and they now have a nine-year-old daughter named Charlene "Charlie" McGee (Drew Barrymore), who has pyrokinetic abilities (meaning she can start fires with her mind). Charlie can also see the near future.
Andy comes home from work one day to find that Vicky has been murdered and Charlie abducted; the family had already suspected that the government agency that sponsored the experiment, the Department of Scientific Intelligence (aka "the Shop"), was checking on them. The government wants Charlie to harness her powerful ability as a weapon. Andy rescues Charlie from abduction by agents of the Shop by making the agents blind and for the next year, they are on the run.
To protect themselves, Andy writes letters to major newspapers, but mailing them reveals their location. They need to rest and end up taken in by a farmer and his wife. Andy tells the farmer the truth so when the Shop arrives, he is ready to stand with them. However, he soon sees that there is no need since Charlie makes quick work of the agents who have invaded the quiet refuge they have found. They again are on the run, but Andy is weak from the use of his gift. They go to their secluded cabin to rest and prepare to finally go public with their story. Unfortunately, the head of the Shop, Captain Hollister (Martin Sheen), sends Agent John Rainbird (George C. Scott) to capture them and stop the release of information. After capture, father and daughter are kept separated. Andy is medicated and subjected to tests, which show his powers have decreased. Meanwhile, Rainbird takes on the role of "John the friendly orderly" to befriend Charlie and gain her trust to encourage her to submit to the tests.
Charlie's powers increase exponentially, and she continually demands to see her father as they promised. Andy is revealed to be faking the acceptance of his drugs, meaning that his powers have never decreased and it was all a ruse to make Hollister drop his guard. Then once alone on a walk far from the house, he uses his power to get information from Hollister (such as John's true identity) and arrange to leave with Charlie that night. He slips Charlie a note and she immediately tells "John" about the escape. He has wanted to kill Charlie since first hearing about her and hides in the barn so he can kill her father as well. Charlie enters the barn first and "John" succeeds in convincing her to begin the climb up the ladder to him. His plan is put to an end once Andy enters and Charlie instead runs to her father. She tells him that John is present and asks if they can take him with them. She is saddened and angered to find out the truth, yet believes John when he states that he will not kill her father if she comes to him. To save his daughter, Andy instructs Hollister to shoot at Rainbird. However, Rainbird kills Hollister and fatally wounds Andy and after he causes Rainbird to leap to the ground, breaking his leg. Charlie then kills Rainbird and cries at her father's wound. He pleads with her to use her powers to bring the facility down after he takes his last breath. The entire security team arrives and she dispatches them all one by one to make her way off of the property.
Charlie returns by hitchhiking back to the farm. Without a word, she reveals what has happened since she left with her father and is welcomed back. Shortly afterwards, Charlie and the farmer head to New York City to tell her story to the media.David Keith as Andrew "Andy" McGee
Drew Barrymore as Charlene "Charlie" McGee
Freddie Jones as Dr. Joseph Wanless
Heather Locklear as Victoria "Vicky" McGee (née Tomlinson)
Martin Sheen as Captain Hollister
George C. Scott as John Rainbird
Art Carney as Irv Manders
Louise Fletcher as Norma Manders
Moses Gunn as Dr. Pynchot
Antonio Fargas as Taxi Driver
In the 1980s, Universal Pictures offered John Carpenter the chance to direct the film, in which he eventually made the deal with them. Carpenter had his collaborator of The Thing, Bill Lancaster to write the screenplay. Stephen King approved of it. It was months later, Carpenter hired Bill Phillips to work on another draft with Richard Dreyfuss attached in starring as the role of Andy, but when The Thing bombed at the box office, Universal went cold-feet by trimming the original budget that Carpenter intended to use for the production from 28 million down to 15 million, causing Carpenter to walk away with both drafts by Lancaster and Phillips abandoned.
Lancaster's father, Burt Lancaster, was originally going to portray Captain Hollister, but had to withdraw following heart surgery, instead Martin Sheen replaces Burt.
It was the first film shot in Wilmington, NC, and is regarded as starting the town's film industry.
Firestarter received mixed reviews from critics. It has a 39% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert gave the film two stars out of four and wrote that "the most astonishing thing" about it was "how boring it is." Ebert wrote that "there's not a character in this movie that is convincing, even for a moment, nor a line in this movie that even experienced performers can make real," and "we don't feel sorry for Barrymore because she's never developed as a believable little girl -- just a plot gimmick." King described the film as one of the worst made from his books.
Firestarter is the fifth soundtrack album and 22nd overall by Tangerine Dream.
Allmusic rated the soundtrack four out of five stars. The score is composed by electronic music group Tangerine Dream.Edgar Froese – keyboards, electronic equipment, guitar
Christopher Franke – synthesizers, electronic equipment, electronic percussion
Johannes Schmoelling – keyboards, electronic equipment