The Burning (1981)
PLOT - A prank goes terribly wrong at a summer camp one night when the drunken caretaker Cropsy is horribly burned and left disfigured. After five long years recovering at the hospital, he's released and returns to a nearby camp to seek revenge on the teen who harmed him. With a pair of sharp gardening sheers, he stalks the surrounding woods, picking off young campers and councilors one by one.
LOWDOWN - Old age is a terrible thing. I honestly can't remember if I ever gave this movie a proper review. I know I've posted about this movie before, but I think this is the first actual time I'm giving it a full fledge review and explain why this slasher is so near and dear to me heart. First off, pretty much my whole life I've been a massive horror and slasher fan. I discovered the Friday the 13th films very early on in my life and adored them. I still remember reading up about this movie in an old issue of Fangoria when Tom Savini was asked why he didn't return to do the makeup for Friday the 13th part II. I guess there were several reasons behind him not coming back, but the biggest was because he had taken the job of doing the makeup for this movie instead. Many horror fans have augured over which movie ripped off who? Friday the 13th 1/2 or The Burning. Yes The Burning was one of many knockoff camp slashers that followed the success of Friday the 13th, but the campfire tale of Cropsy had been a local legend in up state New York since the early 70's. I for one feel that The Burning is just as good, and dare I say it maybe even better than the first two Friday the 13ths. Mind you I adore all these movies, but The Burning was far better than the camp slashers that followed in the early 1980's. In fact I think The Burning and Sleepaway Camp are two of the better slashers that followed the Friday the 13th boom.
I had known about this movie, and the fact it was one of the Video Nasty films that was banned and cut to hell in the UK. Besides that, growing up I could never seem to find it. Finally in 2008 I still for some strange reason remember this day perfectly, It was June and I had just finished a whole day of training for my summer job. I was out with a friend afterwards and went to my local Newberry Comics and happened upon the bare bones MGM release of The Burning that had just came out. Picking it up, I shrugged figuring it was worth a blind by and bought it. That afternoon I watched it with my parents and this holds a pretty special memory for me since both, mostly my mother loved it. I still remember being in complete and total awe at what an truly awesome slasher this was.
I guess the big things that stood out for me were three simple things.
The first being the music. Rick Wakeman's score is by far one of the greatest I've heard in a horror movie. In fact it's most likely right behind the Phantasm theme for having one of the greatest scores for a horror movie. This music truly captures the mood for the sort of film your watching. The best use of the music is at the very beginning and end of the movie. The beautiful score truly feels like you've just woken from a dream. I've searched high and low for this soundtrack and unless your willing to sell out some serious cash online, it's a no go with finding it on vinyl.
The second is the cast. I hate to agree with Mr. Savini but he was completely right when he said once in an interview that 99% of the time while watching a slasher movie the cast is filled with unlikeable character actors. Dumb and annoying teens you just can't wait to see get picked off. In The Burning this is the opposite. For a slasher movie the film does a pretty great job at establishing the characters and all seem like pretty cool people. In fact, after several characters are killed you feel down right bummed out. This movie is most famous for featuring a young Holly Hunter, Jason Alexander, and Fisher Stevens. It still floors me they were able to get the cast they did for such a low budget movie. Mind you all three of these people were unknowns, but it's crazy that two are now Oscar winners, and one was on one of the funniest TV shows of all time. I got a serious fan girl crush on Mr. Stevens from this movie. In fact I've always found him attractive (what can I say, he's a handsome smart talking Jew!) but this movie he sports some skinny legs, a fannypack, and some stunning sandy colored hair. Long before Short Circuit, Early Edition, and winning Oscars about Dolphins, Fisher was getting his fingers chopped off. I adore his character so much I've sculpted his Woodstock character, along with Cropsy. I've painted him from this scene, and yes even dressed up as his character (cut off fingers and all!) for a party back at school.
The third thing is the makeup. I truly feel Savini peeked in the early to mid 1980's with this movie, The Final Chapter, and Day Of The Dead. I'll admit, I'm a fan of the man's early work, I've gone to his school, I've met him several times and as much as people think he's a tool he's always been nice enough to me (maybe it's because I have boobs) but his makeup in this movie is truly awesome. The raft massacre is by far some of the most brutal killings I've ever seen in a horror movie before. Even his burn makeup on Cropsy is amazing. This is a gory blood soaked film that is truly awesome. In fact I did a makeup gig up in Boston once where they were showing this movie and I got all excited about seeing the raft scene on the big screen, well low and behold it was the cut version. Safe to say I was a little pissed.
This is a movie with a killer opening, and an even greater closing. It features fun characters, great jump moments, and very cool camera shots. One of my favorite effects was now the POV shots of the killer is all blurred showing the damage to his eyes. With a killer showdown, and a super awesome final line/shot The Burning is a must for any horror fan out there. In fact it's one of my favorites to watch around the summer.
So if your ever looking a truly awesome slasher, go pick up Scream Factory's new blu-ray release of this film and take a canoe ride to Camp Blackstone!