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THE BURNING (pre-cert UK video cover).jpg
This is one of the group of horror movies banned in the UK in the early 80's; which came to be known as the 'Video-Nasties'...   2 and a half stars  Cheese Rating: 50% Fiesty Fromage!

"Don't look he'll see you.
Don't breathe he'll hear you.
Don't move you're dead.

The most frightening of all maniac films"

directed by: Tony Maylam
starring: Brian Matthews, Leah Ayers, Lou David, Holly Hunter,
Jason Alexander

Japanese promo art for THE BURNING(back of video blurb):
       "On a moonlit evening many years ago, a group of young campers played a trick on Cropsy, the camp caretaker. The trick backfired, and Cropsy became a horribly disfigured maniac, a mutilated killer with a thirst for revenge. This is the terrifying account of Cropsy's return and of the trail of blood he leaves in the dark woods..."

choice dialogue:

"After you see this guy you'll never wanna come here again!...
Man, this guy is burned so bad he's cooked.
A fucking big mac... Overdone!

slash with panache?

        Truly a ‘rip off’ of FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980) (which itself was a loose ‘remake’ of Mario Bava’s BLOODBATH (1971), THE BURNING is gleefully unashamed of its magpie nature but ,at least in the un-cut version, delivers on the gore score.

       The movie opens with a prologue set at Camp Blackfoot, a group of kids plan a joke on the much hated caretaker- Cropsy. It goes horribly wrong and results in him becoming a human torch. Incredibly he survives and spends the next five years in hospital receiving (unsuccessful) skin-grafts and quietly fuming, eaten up with hatred.Cropsy- post barbeque!.jpg He is released from hospital amid many voice-overs from psychiatrists telling him "I know you resent those kids, but try not to blame anyone.", he disappears into the night and becomes, how shall I put this...well, lets just say he’s not exactly the perfect ambassador for ‘care in the community’! No sooner has he left the hospital, the killings begin...The action shifts to Camp Stonewater (it turns out that Camp Blackwater was closed after the fiery accident five years previously), where Summer shenanigans are in full swing. The audience is subjected to about half an hours worth of ‘character development’- which naturally consists of teen fart humour and sub-PORKY’S pranking. All the while somebody, carrying a gleaming pair of garden shears, is lurking in the woods just to remind us that we aren’t watching MEATBALLS (1979). Eventually, two counsellors and a group of teens embark on a three day canoe and camping trip (a cacophony of psychotic banjo’s provide the soundtrack to the trip, presumably to mimic DELIVERANCE (1972) !). Once they set up camp and split up to explore the woods the action finally kicks in....

       THE BURNING delivers cliché after cliché and its only claim to any originality is the fact that it has a ‘final boy’ rather than a ‘final girl’ battling the killer at the end. It is fun in it’s own way, but is too generic Cropsy corners another one!.jpgto provide many jolts- the few that are on offer are usually provided by Tom Savini’s excellently visceral and graphic gore effects (and they are usually trimmed from most prints). His special effects help make THE BURNING’s one bravura moment- the scene which includes the infamous finger snipping sequence (which helped the (un-cut) version of the film get banned on video in the UK), I won’t say anymore as that would spoil one of the only scenes in the movie that makes it worth sitting through! (...but if you want to see what I'm talking about there is a realplayer clip at the bottom of this review- and it's uncut to boot!)...Interestingly enough, Savini chose to work on THE BURNING over the same years FRIDAY THE 13TH: PART 2- they are virtually interchangeable although the latter is the better of the two. Both employ the use of campfire tales and urban legends to set the story. In THE BURNING one of the counsellors tries to scare the kids around the woodland embers, recounting the legend of Cropsy, "...He’s out there watching...waiting. So don’t look- he’ll see you. Don’t breathe he’ll hear you. Don’t move...YOU’RE DEAD!"- a tall tale which proves to be all too true. Unfortunately the acting is pretty lamentable at times and any frisson of fear is usually lost. Also the production values are a little less than the slaughterthons over at Camp Crystal Lake and THE BURNING rarely (if ever) reaches moments of high (or even low) gothic.

       Perhaps the one thing that singles THE BURNING out is the array of ‘talent’ on show. I’ve already mentioned the FX expertise- courtesy of Tom Savini, but this camp-slasher also marked the ‘acting’ another one bites the dust.jpgdebuts of, not only, Jason Alexander (SEINFELD) but also Holly Hunter- star of high-brow product like the period piece THE PIANO. Hunter doesn’t have a pivotal role (to say the least), in fact she only has two lines to herself in the whole movie. But her desperate gurning at the camera in a "Look at me!...Look at ME!!" way ,is quite amusing. What is even more amusing is the fact that THE BURNING doesn’t appear on her official filmography anymore- I wonder why?! Another alumni is editor Jack Sholder who went onto to direct slashers; ALONE IN THE DARK (1982) and ,the much maligned, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE (1985). It was also an early film for the MIRAMAX group who have ,of course, gone on to make a pot of gold with their post-modern slashers including SCREAM 1&2. Not forgetting- Corky Burger, who, as far as I know, hasn’t gone on to do anything else of note, but whose name always makes me chuckle!

       THE BURNING was one of those films that I really wanted to see when I was about thirteen- I remember thinking it looked absolutely terrifying when I gazed upon it's forbidden cover at my local dodgy video emporium. Unfortunately when I did see it, it didn’t live up to my expectations- but then again how could it!

BODYCOUNT 10  bodycount!   female:5 / male:5

       1) Female stabbed with scissors and pushed through window
       2) Female teen has throat cut with garden shears   to screen captures of this scene...
       3-7) Mass teenacide (2 female/ 3 male)- finger snippin' good!   to screen captures of the infamous scene. A slasher quintet no less!...
       8) Female teen stabbed with shears (offscreen)
       9) Male teen impaled on shears (through neck)   to screen captures of this scene...
     10) Male impaled on shears, head split with axe and then set on fire!

THE BURNING- finger snipping good!

THE BURNING (1981) - raft of death!
(real player clip)
            ...marvel at the most infamous scene in teen slasher history in all its completely uncut glory!
(*WARNING*: not suitable for kids!)
download clip (347kb)
(*note*: you will need RealPlayer G2 to play this clip; you can download a free version from www.real.com. And, for some bizarre reason it apparently only works with IE, but those with Netscape Navigator could give it a try.... Many thanks to Mirko for the clip!)

(POSTERS: click on thumbnail image below to see larger images)

CARNAGE (French poster for THE BURNING)Australian cinema poster for THE BURNINGUK cinema poster for THE BURNING