The Burning was one of a mass of summer-camp themed horror flicks that hit theaters in the wake of the massively-successful Friday the 13th. While none were able to capture the lightning in the bottle produced at Camp Crystal Lake, there are a few noteworthy films within this group - including The Burning.
Burning is based on the Cropsy urban legend that has haunted summer
camps in New York and New Jersey for decades. In this film, a group of
campers play a mean-spirited trick on Cropsy, the caretaker, that
results in a fire that leaves Cropsy terribly burned (and really pissed
off). After his release from the hospital several years later (they were
never able to repair the horrific burn damage done to his face), Cropsy
heads back to camp to seek his revenge (well, first he heads into the
city to kill a hooker, because, come on - isn’t that what you would do?)
we pick up at a camp not far from the one that was closed down after
the Cropsy incident. Summer is in full swing, as the campers prepare for
a multiple night excursion that will see them taking a canoe trip into
the woods. Lost in the standard summer camp activities (joking, fighting
and sleeping with each other), the campers and counselors are unaware
that an uninvited guest is on their trail.
really don’t know why, but one of my favorite things about this movie
is that you can’t really separate the campers from the counselors. You
have a group of camp-aged kids just sort of filling in the background,
but everyone that we follow is like 22. The first time I watched The
Burning, I really couldn’t figure out which ones were the campers and
which ones were the counselors until over half-way through the flick.
This isn’t really a strike - I consider it to be one of the strange
charms of The Burning.
(and more legitimate) charm is the make-up and FX work from Tom Savini.
He reportedly turned down Friday the 13th, Part II to work on this
project, and his contribution is really what makes it stand out (though
he does re-use the Kevin Bacon death gimmick, but I imagine it was at
the absolute insistence of the Weinsteins. Either way, it still worked).
But rest assured, a crap-load of blood, limbs and sharp objects went
into the making of this flick. It’s slasher-tastic.
Burning features an interesting cross-section of major Hollywood
players before they were major Hollywood players. It was created by Bob
and Harvey Weinstein, with Bob co-writing the script. Brad Grey, who
would later head Paramount, was also given a story credit. And it was
one of the first films that Miramax released. Plus, it sees the film
debuts of Jason Alexander, Fisher Stevens and Holly Hunter (which is
just sort of fun to watch).
film was the source of a great deal of controversy upon its release,
due to a particularly graphic death scene (this scene is actually
instrumental in helping The Burning stand out among the thralls of
Summer Camp slashers. In addition to being gory, Cropsy takes down half
of his victims en masse). The subsequent outrage was particularly
intense in Britain, where it landed on the Video Nasties list. It is my
understanding that the versions available today include all of the
original footage (though, please correct me if that is wrong).
The Burning is one of a long line of slasher films that came through
during the early ‘80’s, but it absolutely earned its place in horror
history. If you have never seen it, it’s a good option for Halloween,
and even though it’s not one of the major players, it is worthy of your