We continue our journey through a month of frightening, bloody and violent films. For more, check out our 31 Days of Horror homepage.
Synopsis: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Some kids at a summer camp pull a prank that ends up having deadly consequences. But there’s a twist. The victim of the gag gone awry doesn’t actually die, he lives on as a deformed monster and one day returns to the camp where he goes about exacting brutal revenge on a group of horny, party obsessed teenagers. Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so, but that’s not important. No matter how many of these Friday the 13th clones come out, they’re still all pretty entertaining in a cheesy way. And The Burning is definitely the cream of the crop when it comes to the pretenders, being just a notch below the genre milestones like Friday the 13th and Halloween, and certainly being better than their sequels.
The killer here is Cropsy, a drunken and despised camp janitor who gets burned alive when some kids try to freak him out by putting a flaming skull in his bunk. His weapon of choice is a pair of gardening shears, which he uses to chop and slash tender young flesh. He’s silent, he’s dressed in black, and he kind of looks like a charred version of Sloth from The Goonies.
There’s a mass slaughter out on a raft that’s pretty gruesome. All of the camp’s canoes have been turned loose, so four or five of the kids put together a makeshift raft to go out and find them. When they get to the first one they don’t find it empty, instead they find Cropsy laying inside of it.
In quick, caveman-ninja fashion he takes his shears to them, stabbing them through their necks, chopping off their fingers, and cracking their heads open, all while blood splatters their screaming faces. The gore is over the top and comes lightning fast in a jump cut tornado of blood. From that point on, you know that Cropsy means business.
The gore in this movie is served up by legendary makeup man Tom Savini who has done the mutilations for a who’s who of horror movies, including the original Friday the 13th; and apparently he turned down the chance to work on Friday the 13th Part 2 to work on this one instead. So you know you’re in for some decent splatterings. There’s men being burned alive, hookers getting killed with scissors, tons of stabbings, slashings, and limb severings perpetrated on campers. Plus, all of the guys in the movie are super date-rapey. Does that count as violence too, or was that just an 80s thing?
For as much nudity as there is in this movie, it sure doesn’t manage to be very sexy. The only scene we get where there’s actual intercourse performed is particularly passionless and pathetic. Generally whenever things start to get hot and heavy between a couple of characters the girls start to get squeamish and pull away and then the guys start pawing at them and grunting like serial sex offenders. There is a bunch of nudity though. There are bouncing, bra-less boobs during a baseball game; bare boobs during a shower scene; and some pretty sweet female full frontal during a skinny dipping scene. And also, there’s a scene where a bunch of guys moon somebody on a pier, and I’m pretty sure you get to see a young Fisher Stevens’s balls. If you’re into that sort of thing, then this could be your only chance to see them.
There’s a pretty good stretch of time between when Cropsy gets to the summer camp and when he actually starts killing people, and in the meantime the movie hits you with a bunch of fake-out jump scares. So it builds tension pretty well and is scary in that respect. But when the blood lettings begin it’s more glorious and joyful than it is scary.
Think of it as a fireworks display with blood instead of multi-colored sparks. The last scene, where the kids who survive to the end of the line confront Cropsy in what looks like an abandoned rust mine, plays more like an action climax than it does a horror scene. The very nervous girl I live with jumped pretty high when a bird flew by the camera at one point though, so those jump scares count for something. I’d say they’re enough to put this one somewhere in the range of mediocre when it comes to horror movie chills.
Seeing as this movie was one of the first releases by Miramax Films, Harvey Weinstein has a story by credit and Bob Weinstein a screenplay credit. So I guess they’re the guys I have to thank for getting the chance to hear George Costanza deliver the following line, “I told you not to beat your schlong last night! It drains your power!” Oh yeah, did I mention that a young George Costanza (you know, Jason Alexander) is in this movie, playing the wise cracking camper who swims with his shirt on? Well he is, and it’s amazing.