Sunday, 25 July 2010

The Burning (1981)

"Don't look – he'll see you, don't move – he'll hear you, don't breathe – you're dead!"

Riding the high wave of the slasher boom Tony Maylam's The Burning opens with Camp Blackfoot caretaker Cropsy suffering horrific burns after a late night prank goes disastrously wrong. Stumbling ablaze from his burning shack, Cropsy throws himself into a stream. Shortly afterwards the camp is closed…

Fast forward five years and following a series of failed skin grafts Cropsy is released from hospital looking like a "fuckin' big Mac – overdone" and harbouring a deep resentment for adolescents. Unsurprisingly doctors believe that Cropsy will have difficulty adjusting to normal life again and not wanting to upset the applecart of medical opinion Crospy picks up a hooker, stabs her in the stomach and pushes her through a window before hightailing it back into the woods to wreak his bloody revenge on the kids of Camp Stonewater – conveniently situated just a short hike from the old Camp Blackfoot!

Up at Camp Stonewater student leader Todd frightens his charges with the campfire legend of Cropsy, whose charred body was never found and who wanders the woods, looking for young victims. It isn’t long before the legend becomes reality and Cropsy is making merry and hacking his way through the stock assortment of oversexed jocks and the chicks willing to oblige. Best moments of butchery include bad boy Blazer being rammed through the throat with a pair of shears before being embedded in a tree and a multi-victim onslaught on a raft!

As the body count rises Todd confides in misfit-cum-peeping tom Alfred that he was sent home from summer camp five years earlier – no surprises for guessing that Todd was one of the kids responsible for the opening prank on Cropsy! Can Todd now confront his past and survive the wrath of Cropsy?

Subtlety is dumped unceremoniously out of the window with this flick, with absolutely no attempts made to disguise the identity of the killer! Whilst the vast majority of slasher movies will chuck in at least a few red herrings or dead ends to disguise the nature and motive of the killer, The Burning happily shows its’ hand from the off! But despite its' predictability, The Burning still manages to hit the mark, courtesy of the fine effects work of Tom Savini, who turned down the opportunity to work on Friday 13th Part 2 in favour of The Burning. The most inspired moment comes during the raft attack, Cropsy rearing like a colossus over his victims-to-be before massacring the poor unfortunates in a frenzy of stabbing, hacking and slicing! And it was the slicing that really earned the film it's "video nasty" spurs in the UK, in particular the shots of a protective hand having its' fingers snipped off before the stumps start pumping crimson! Distributor Thorn EMI attempted to recall and re-cut all copies but failed to do the job properly the first time around and had to recall the film again just to make sure! Subsequent cut copies were routinely date stamped to reflect their neutering.

Rob Bewick