The Burning!

A legend of terror is no campfire story anymore!

THE BURNING (1981)

A mischievous group of young campers assemble under the cover of darkness and prepare the biggest number that Camp Blackfoot has ever seen. The kids plan to scare the shit out of a cruel and sadistic summer camp caretaker named Cropsy. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the bizarre prank involving a rotting skull and candles backfires in a big way and Cropsy’s bedding catches on fire. The flames ignite a can of gasoline and in seconds Cropsy’s shack is engulfed. Tragically, Cropsy wasn’t familiar with the “stop, drop, and roll” concept and instead ran around screaming while trying to make his way into the nearby lake.

Cropsy survives the fire, but is very badly burned. He looks so bad that hospital orderlies describe him as “a fucking Big Mac, well done.” Five years of unsuccessful skin graphs leave Cropsy horribly disfigured and more than a little pissed off. Once he finally regains his strength he leaves the hospital with a burning hatred raging in his mind. Cropsy makes one final attempt at regaining his humanity by hiding his burns and picking up a hooker, and the whore’s eventual and inevitable repulsion and rejection of Cropsy is enough to make him finally snap and shove a pair of scissors into her abdomen.

Now completely deranged, Cropsy grabs his trusty pruning shears and returns to Camp Blackfoot to finally have his revenge. As Cropsy slowly takes his time prowling around the camp, we are introduced to a number of campers. The potential body count fodder includes the wisecracking and porn peddling Dave (Jason Alexander aka George from “Seinfeld”), fast talking ladies man Eddy (Ned Eisenberg, who stole the show as a horror freak in “Moving Violations”), shy and misunderstood Alfred (Brian Backer, who also proved in both “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” AND “Moving Violations” that he can play a geek with the best of them!), junior jerk off champion Woodstock (Fisher Stevens aka the comic relief Indian from “Short Circuit”), a menacing meat head named Glazer (Larry Joshua, who went on to play…Pong, in his underwear), and Glazer’s incredibly hot virgin girlfriend Sally (Carrick Glen, who also appeared in the Brain Hammer approved slasher clas-sick “Girl’s Nite Out!”).

Cropsy bides his time until a large group of campers and two counselors leave the camp for an adventurous overnight canoe trip. Cropsy tags along for the ride and when night falls the bloodshed begins. Not in the least bit concerned about who he kills, Cropsy makes mincemeat out of any unhappy camper that crosses his path. This legend of terror isn’t just a campfire story anymore. The pain is all too real to Cropsy, and he uses his wicked shears to hack life and limbs away from all whom enjoy a normal existence. Don’t look, he’ll see you. Don’t breathe, he’ll hear you. Don’t move…YOU’RE DEAD!

THE BURNING is a true masterpiece of 80′s horror. It was written by future billionare Harvey Wienstein shortly before the similar “Friday The 13th” turned the world of horror on it’s ear and was released just afterwards in time to cash in on the booming slasher market. This is also truly one of the very best slasher films set in a summer camp. Few flicks, horror or otherwise can rival this film when it comes to capturing the madcap spirit and sexual energy of summer camp. A lot of quality time is spent getting to know and appreciate the characters, and I think it ultimately adds to the impact of the film. It also gives us a chance to enjoy an extended shower scene with Carrick Glen and her beautiful soapy chicken breasts. The rest of the cast is also fantastic, and the kids are all innocent, sympathetic characters, which makes their wholesale slaughter at the hands of Cropsy even more potent.

Tom Savini’s gory special effects were the major selling point of the film. Savini already had a well deserved reputation as a wizard of gore thanks to his fantastic work on clas-sick flicks like “Dawn Of The Dead,” “Maniac,” and “Friday The 13th.” Interestingly, Savini turned down a lucrative offer to do the effects for Steve Miner’s “Friday The 13th Part II” and chose to work on “The Burning” instead because he didn’t want to repeat himself. Tom Savini has created many incredible effects over the years, but “The Burning” perhaps more than any other slasher film is the best showcase for his brilliant work.

The multiple stabbings, slicings, skewerings, and shearings are about as bloody and over the top as anything ever splashed upon the screen. The incredible “raft massacre” scene is the highlight of the film and is the stuff of legend. Much credit must also be given to director Tony Maylam, as well as editor Jack Sholder (who later helmed the clas-sick “Alone In The Dark”) for knowing how to use these special effects to their fullest potential in the film. The numerous death scenes are tightly edited for maximum impact. Cropsy’s hideous burnt visage is frightening, especially in closeup. The special effects and makeup are spectacular and still look great today. The soundtrack music performed by Rick Wakeman is also excellent. All around, “The Burning” is a quality 80′s slasher flick that more than stands the test of time.

It’s well known that “The Burning” is one of the all time great slasher flicks. It also had a sad reputation for being one of the most heavily scissored victims of the MPAA morality police. The original R rated vhs releases, and most of the region 2 dvd releases were all heavily edited, missing vital organs, and were therefore worthless. Several years ago I paid $25 for a murky looking bootleg vhs copy of the uncut Japanese print – and thought it was quite a bargain. Better than nothing. Looking back I could kick myself for such a foolish purchase, especially when I watch the beautiful looking remastered dvd print of “The Burning” that MGM officially released in September of 2007.

After several years of having this one tucked up their ass, MGM went the extra mile with this dvd release. First of all, they were wise enough to present the UNCUT version of THE BURNING with all of the juicy splatter intact. The dvd features beautiful picture quality and is much clearer looking than any previous release. Best of all, we get several brand new bonus features – including a 17 minute Tom Savini special effects featurette entitled “Blood N’ Fire,” a commentary track with director Tony Maylam, a photo gallery, and the theatrical trailer. After years of anticipation, this dvd release wound up being well worth the wait and was my DVD PICK for 2007. No respectable horror collection is complete without a copy! It will take you further than fear.

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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