The Burning (1981)
By: J.R. McNamara on September 10, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
MGM (USA). Region 1 NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced) English DD 1.0. English, Spanish, and French Subtitles. 91 minutes
The Movie
Director: Tony Maylam
Starring: Brian Matthews, Leah Ayers, Brian Backer, Larry Joshua
Screenplay: Harvey Weinstein, Tony Maylam, Brad Grey
Music: Rick Wakeman
Tagline: "A legend of terror isn't a campfire story anymore!"
Country: USA
Those who have read other reviews of mine will know I have a special fondness of the films of the eighties. Hot off the exploitation scene and riding on in the wake of late seventies classic fright flicks like Dawn of the Dead and Halloween, the eighties started with a bang. Some of these films were branded 'Video Nastys' due to the 'extreme' lengths they went to, and some of them were either heavily cut or banned outright. These films became sought after collectors items on VHS, and when released on DVD, usually have a platoon of fans anxious to add them to their DVD library.

The Burning is one of these flicks.

Seemingly tame when compared to the intense gross-out gorefests that get squeezed out of Hollywood's giant pus-filled pimple, and even in comparison to Academy award winners like Saving Private Ryan, The Burning is chockablock with blood, gore, tits and bush (and for the girls, a couples of men's butts) and is a wonderful example of a cool, and mean-spirited slasher that still holds up against most of today's horror movies.

The Burning tells of the alcoholic and violent caretaker of summer camp 'Camp Blackfoot', Cropsy, who one night has a practical joke played upon him by a group of kids who are staying at the facility. As with all horror movies, the practical joke goes horribly wrong, and Cropsy is severely burnt. Flash forward 5 years later as Cropsy is finally released from hospital, horribly disfigured and filled to the teeth with rage. He makes his way back to Camp Blackfoot, where he has now become the stuff of legend, to exact his vengeance on a new batch of campers, one of whom is one of the original teenagers, now older and wiser, working as a camp councilor. The kids are dispatched in traditional slasher style, thanks to the brilliance of Tom Savini's special make-up and gore effects, but who will survive?

This film could be technically described as the first film by Miramax. Harvey Weinstein has a 'Story by', 'Created by' and 'Produced By' credit, Bob Weinstein has a 'Screenplay by' credit (along with Peter Lawrence) and mother Miriam (the MIR in MIRamax) worked as a pre-production assistant. While this film has a lot of never-see-again actors, it did have several people that went on to become name actors in it: Tony award winner Brian Backer, Short Circuit's Fisher Stevens, TV regulars Larry Joshua and Ned Eisenberg, not to mention Seinfeld's Jason Alexander and Academy Award winner Holly Hunter!

The Burning stands up with the big boys of the slasher genre for several reasons: Tom Savini is at his best with the effects, the soundtrack is incredibly impressive, and most slashers have the teens dispatched one by one, this one has one amazing scene where the killer performs an act of mass murder than has to be seen to be believed!! My favourite thing about this movie, other than the female nudity and gore, is the fact that it was never belitted by a series of sequels that either don't make sense, or just plain out suck!

I have to say the only real disappointing things about this release, is the terrible noir-ish cover that really doesn't represent the film as adequately as the well known image of Cropsy with his shears held above his head, ready to strike. This cover makes it look more like a serious toned thriller, than an exploitative video-nasty slasher from the eighties.

A really nice print can be seen here! The Burning is presented is widescreen 1.85:1.
Only in original mono, which is a shame, as Rick Wakeman's kick ass soundtrack would have sounded great with a 5.1 remix.
Extra Features
The commentary on this disc is by horror aficionado Alan Jones and director Tony Maylam. It is an incredibly insightful commentary, and Jones is a welcome addition, pushing Maylam to talk more and more about both his experiences on this film and his opinions of the much-criticized Weinstein Brothers.

Blood and Fire Memories is a great mini doco starring make up legend Tom Savini. This doco has some great 'tricks of the trade' bits and some excellent behind the scenes footage, and has comments from Savini about the filming of the Burning, and some wonderfully scathing ones about the Friday the 13th series, and how Jason shouldn't even exist in the 9 of the 10 sequels the original spawned.

There is a photo gallery of some on set scenes.

There are also trailers for The Burning, Jeepers Creepers 1 and 2 and a generic MGM 'horror' one, advertising their available horror output.
The Verdict
Fantastic. The Burning is a great slasher that thankfully never had a pile of ridiculous and unnecessary sequels. It still amazes me that the guys who screwed up the release of Grindhouse could have once been so cool. This film deserves its legendary notoriety, and should sit proudly alongside films like Halloween, Friday the 13th and their ilk. You don't have a slasher film collection if you don't have this!
Movie Score
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