THE BURNING (1981)
“Gather Around the Campfire to DIE!”
RUN TIME: 91 Min.
DIRECTOR: Tony Maylam
CAST: Jason Patrick, Lou David, Brian Mathews, Brian Backer, Larry Joshua
ANECDOTAL: The Finger Lakes Region of Upstate New York, it’s a wonderfully wooded area, ensconced in the simple pleasures of nature itself, it’s the place I called home for 20 years, and just down the road apiece was Babcock-Hovey Campground. Having been nurtured on the FRIDAY THE 13th films from an early age do not think for a second that I did not fear a masked and vengeful killer lurked there, waiting for some wayward teen to have sex or smoke some weed and take ’em out with a machete. Actually, I’m not really as much a pussy as all that, in fact, I loved camping and ventured into the woods quite frequently. My Huckleberry Finn-esque childhood was filled with forest expeditions, fishing, and a healthy amount of fort-building. While I enjoyed the woods, catching crawdads in the creek and whatnot, the idea that a masked or disfigured killer could be lurking smoldered in the back of my mind. THE BURNING (1982) was filmed in nearby Buffalo, NY while FRIDAY THE 13th (1980) was filmed in the neighboring New Jersey, and because of my familiarity with the terrain I found it easy to imagine these scenarios playing out in the woods surrounding the area.
SYNOPSIS: After a cruel joke goes awry, severely burning him and subjecting him to five years of intensive, unsuccessful skin graft treatments, Cropsy is back at camp… and ready to wreak havoc on those who scarred him.
THE FILM: The film opens with the kids of Camp Blackfoot devising an overly elaborate and ill conceived prank to fuck with the Cropsy, the camp janitor. Needless to say the prank goes awry as he knocks a flaming skull onto his bed sheets, setting himself aflame. He runs from the cabin engulfed in flame, through woods, leaping into the nearby river, he is severely burned over his entire body. He’s taken to the hospital, and while two orderlies are sneaking a peak at the disfigured Cropsy he grabs one by the arm, eliciting an over-the-top reaction, and it’s hilarious. Flash forward five years; Cropsy is being released from the hospital with disfiguring burns and a vengeful disposition. Upon his release he makes straight for 42nd St., picks up a whore and escorts her back to her place. After seeing his disfigured face she is horrified and panics, he proceeds to plunge a pair of sewing shears into her abdomen. It’s a gut churning scene; very grindhouse, brutal and chilling. From there we are taken to Camp Stonewater where summer camp is in full swing. Two of the counselors take the older teens for a rafting trip upstream for a bit of fun; things turn bad quickly thereafter, as Cropsy, armed with hedge clippers, has returned to the area, vengeance foremost in his mind.
VERDICT: THE BURNING is a classic, though underappreciated slasher. If you enjoyed MY BLOODY VALENTINE, THE PROWLER, FRIDAY THE 13th or HALLOWEEN I would be hard pressed to believe you would not love this film.
**** (4 out of 5 stars)