I remember when staying up late was a badge of honor, defying the body and mind’s need while testing the limits of  my own endurance … just so I could watch “Porky’s” on Cinemax at 2 a.m.

Last night’s effort was more noble, but the results were every bit as debauched.

I had planned to watch “IT” last night. Because it’s like three hours, I was going to start it about an hour or so earlier, but I forgot that the second presidential debate would appear smack-dab in the middle and there was no way I was gonna miss that Thunderdome showdown or participate in the current American pastime of choosing between the proverbial rock-and-a-hard place presidential candidate.

I now officially understand what “hate-watching” is, and kinda hate myself for participating.

Firestarter movie poster

And given that I’m old and need my sleep, I called and audible, switching “IT” for “Firestarter” and it’s far more manageable 90-plus minute running time. But have no fear (or actually prepare for lots of it) we’ll be with Pennywise in the sewers of Derry tonight.   

Plus, with the debate and “Firestarter” in a single night, it was like getting two horror shows for the price of one.

But I (thankfully) digress. Drew Barrymore may have made her star turn in “E.T.” but for me it’ll always be “Firestarter” that proved the kind of acting chops she’d had. Barrymore plays Charlie, a by-product of a secret government experiment conducted on her parents while they were in college. Her father, played by the guy NOT Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman, can control people with his mind and her mother, played by Heather Locklear, can … well … just being Heather Locklear is power enough.

Charlie can shoot fire with her mind. Only Charlie doesn’t like her power and in fact whines about it pretty much the entire move before turning an entire government base to cinders.  Still, Charlie is cute and the government is bad and setting stuff on fire taps into the Beavis in us all.

I went through something of a pyromania phase as a kid that had nothing to do with the Def Leppard record. But I melted G.J. Joe action figures rather actual G-Men, like Charlie.

At the root of Charlie’s problems are her father’s mixed messages. One  minute, after a temper tantrum when Charlie sets her mommy’s oven mitts ablaze, he’s saying  “fire is bad” but when Daddy’s Jedi mind tricks are causing nosebleeds and migraines, he’s saying “Burn it all down,” which she does.

First rule of parenting … consistency.

But things work out just fine for Charlie as she escapes and finds a home with a sweet old couple that – of course – was never able to have kids of their own. And Charlie lives happily ever after, the sweet old couple never has to cook their own meals again.

In hindsight, I wish I’d skipped the debate and just stuck with “Firestarter,” because only one of those experiences gave me nightmares of a pending apocalypse.