42nd Street Cinema

The Burning (1981)

Tony Maylam's Summer Camp themed slasher The Burning.

Riding on the success of several previous slashers notably including Cunningham's Friday the 13th (1980), the then newly formed Miramax Films (Bob & Harvey Weinstein) set out to capitalize on this boom with a budget of $1,500,000.

The Burning starts off at Camp Blackfoot with an innocent Summer camp prank going hideously wrong, ending with the camp's caretaker being set ablaze. A plot device revisited later in House on Sorority Row (1983). The prank itself involves a decomposing skull with candles stuck all over it being placed in Cropsy's room while he's asleep. Out of sheer terror he jolts up, knocking everything over causing the flames to come in contact with some flammable substances ultimately engulfing him in flames. Cropsy amazingly manages to survive this act and lands himself in hospital, the doctor's best efforts fail and he's left fuming (excuse my witty wordplay) and grotesquely disfigured. Needing to let off a little steam he goes and gets himself a hooker, who he kills before heading back to camp. C'mon, we all knew he would.
It's almost the end of camp and the kids are set to go on a rafting trip, all the while being stalked by a vengeful Cropsy. Let the body count ensue.



The Burning's story doesn't stray far from the summer camp slasher mold and without grisly effects work by Tom Savini it wouldn't have the cult status it currently treasures. Savini has stated that he considers this film to be some of his best work, rightly so too. In particular the infamous raft sequence in which Cropsy pops up with his garden shears and dispatches a group of 5 teens in quick succession, this in tow with the other kills is no doubt what granted The Burning it's Video Nasty status in the UK. Without a doubt it is the impressive kills that make this one of the most enjoyable 80s slashers.
By all means, The Burning isn't the gem we sometimes hype it up to be, sure it's up there with Sleepaway Camp and Friday the 13th, Part II & Part III but when compared to them it falls short, considerably with it's stop and start pacing, wooden acting and unfitting musical score by Rick Wakeman keyboardist of prog-rock band Yes.

6 comments:

The Film Connoisseur said...

Ive had this one on my list of films to watch for a while because its one of the Weinsteins first productions and because it gets compared to Friday the 13th a lot. But it sounds like this one is more along the lines of slashers like The Prowler, with Tom Savini doing make up effects work, and the cool kills, but ultimately being a boring watch.

Unholy Moly said...

the true summer of George

Starmummy said...

Saw this on VHS a long time ago and loved it. I was very happy when it finally made it to dvd a few years ago. Still hard to believe it has Jason Alexander and Holly Hunter in it.

Will Errickson said...

I've seen both the original theatrical version *without* the raft massacre and the DVD version with it. The raft massacre is amazing, all those likable kids getting killed. Without it, the movie is pretty run-of-the-mill.

James said...

@ Will - i completely agree with you, the raft scene is something that makes this so memorable.

Jack Veasey said...

The raft scene is my favorite scene too. The image of those fingers being snipped off with the big shears really sticks in your head!

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