The Burning should probably be classed in the second level of killing-kids-on-camp films but only just behind Friday the 13th and Sleepaway Camp. If it had been actually scary at all and if not for few odd directions in the film it could have been a classic.
The plot is very familiar – After a horrible prank goes wrong and a fire disfigures a camp caretaker the legend of the cropsy killer is born and told around campfires. Many years later the campers are dying for real.
Very much your standard set-up, however this time there is no guessing as to the killer is as we know right from the start. This where some of the poor writing and plotting derails the film, as you’d imagine the killer would want to go after the kids that pulled the prank yet the first thing he does after five years recovery? Kills a hooker and it must be said – a very rough looking one, for no real reason. This scene is notable however as it has probably the most realistic flesh wound I have seen on film (the masterful Tom Savini at work).
|This is why you shouldn't swim in open water.|
From there is goes straight to camp and much like Sleepaway Camp we are subjected to some very weird and uncomfortable sexual/sexist/leering scenes, not sure if it was a sign of the times or if it is meant to be purposefully awkward. The body count takes some time to start rising but when it does, the special effects come to the fore. However the film's set piece and most controversial scene is a river raft massacre that you can see coming but one that still surprises some 33 years on with its brutality and effects work.
The acting is OK for a slasher film, Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame and Holly Hunter are two of the recognisable young stars and they all do a fine job, considering the dialogue is pretty awful. Written and created by the Weinstein brothers – yes those ones – The Burning never reaches any huge heights, which is a shame because it feels like the film got hamstrung a little by the script.
Stupid coincidences are nothing new in horror films but in The Burning they are really drawing a long bow. (Possible) SPOILER: That the killer would find the kids that burnt him is a stretch, even more so when one of the kids who did it is now a camp leader and even more so when he tells the story to the kids about the legend of Cropsy that he helped create and he doesn't feel remotely bad about it. So the hero is a total asshole.
Director Tony Maylam keeps the story going nicely with some really great shots that honestly look like they belong in a bigger budget picture. He manages to get some mileage from the killer POV shots but as mentioned before the thing that really made me feel icky was the leering at the proposed to be underage girls – it was almost Spring Breakers like.
The Burning certainly belongs in your 80s horror collection, plenty of great work from Tom Savini and some truly nasty deaths make it worth your while.
Review by Ryan Morrissey-Smith
Follow Ryan on Twitter @TigersMS78