The Burning (1981)
Directed By: Tony Maylam
Starring: Brian Matthews, Leah Ayres, Brian Backer, Larry Joshua, Jason Alexander, Carrick Glenn, Fisher Stevens, Holly Hunter
The Burning is a lesser known slasher gem brought to us by none other than the Weinstein brothers, Harvey and Bob. They were looking to cash in on the slasher craze started by John Carpenter’s Halloween. Harvey and Bob co-wrote the script and Harvey took up Producer responsibilities as well. They discovered a early version of the slasher blueprint that would make successful entries for years to come. They took a cast full of young and upcoming actors and had a hideous killer come up with imaginative ways to kill them off. Perhaps the biggest key to a successful flick was the employment of FX wizard Tom Savini.
Anyways, The Burning starts with a flashback to Camp Blackfoot, where we hear the tale of Cropsy, a mean old caretaker at the camp, who picks on (and maybe kills) all the kids. Well, it is time for the kids to strike back with the mother of all practical jokes. A couple of boys place a rotting skull with candles on it at the foot of his bed, intending to give ol’ Cropsy the scare of his life. Sounds great, except Cropsy inadvertently kicks the skull in his panicked state, engulfing himself in flames. We see a quick montage of Cropsy’s rehab and learn that he is very deformed and very pissed off. Pissed off enough to kill a hooker. That’s pretty pissed off, and now he is headed back to the camp for some well deserved revenge.
Now it is time to meet the victims campers. Now everyone remember Kevin Bacon and Johnny Depp getting their starts in horror flicks, but The Burning has its fair share of names in it as well. Jason Alexander, Holly Hunter, Fisher Stevens and Brian Backer all show up here, as well as Leah Ayres, who you would probably recognize from Bloodsport. The story is the usual camper fare, with the older kids taking off on a canoe trip. There are some minor plot lines in between, but the real gravy is Cropsy taking out the kids.
There are some pretty inventive kills throughout, almost all of them utilizing Cropsy’s trademark weapon, garden shears. One particular scene was the victim of pretty heavy editing thanks to our friends at the MPAA. The raft massacre, where 5 of the campers bite it at the same time, was the victim of slashing in its own right in order to obtain an R rating. Lame. Anyways, Savini does another great job here. The Burning is worth checking out just for his work. He is on record as saying he wasn’t all that happy with Cropsy’s look , as he looks like he is melted, rather than burned, but Savini only had 3 days to come up with the look.
The Burning ranks pretty high up there on the Slasher list, and deservedly so. Check it out before Hollywood decides to remake it.