The Burning

06/27/2017 16:36

Film: The Burning

Year: 1981

Director: Tony Maylam

Writer: Peter Lawrence and Bob Weinstein

Starring: Brian Matthews, Leah Ayres and Brian Backer



This film begins at Camp Blackfoot. There are a group of campers that are going to get their revenge on the man that runs the camp; he is named Cropsey and played by Lou David. Their prank is to light the candle eyes of a skull that has worms and gore on it. They knock on his window so he wakes up to it. He panics though and knocks it on to his bed. This causes it to catch on fire. He has gasoline in his cabin and it ignites. David is engulfed in flames and rolls down a hill to the lake. He ends up in a burn ward at the local hospital. There is a scene where an orderly brings a new doctor to see him and David grabs the orderly’s arm, terrifying him.

We then jump three years into the future. David is being released from the hospital, but his skin graphs didn’t work. We hear nurses and doctors telling him to let go of his rage, that what happened to him was an accident. He leaves the hospital and picks up a hooker. He goes up to her room and kills her with scissors.

The film then shifts to another camp, one that is not to far from Blackfoot. There is a game of baseball being played. Through this we are introduced to many of the main characters. Leah Ayres is a senior counselor here. Brian Backer is a nerdy guy who doesn’t seem to have many friends. Jason Alexander and Ned Eisenberg are two very horny guys. There is also Carrick Glenn and Carolyn Houlihan. Houlihan is wearing bikini bottoms and Eisenberg is interested in her. There is a scene where a younger girl, played by Shelley Bruce, goes off into the woods and David is stalking her while she looks for the ball.

The next morning, Glenn goes to shower and she screams. We see Backer as he flees. Ayres goes to scold him when the senior male counselor shows up, played by Brian Matthews. He scolds him, tells him to go back to the cabin and then calms Ayres down. It turns out that they are seeing each other as well. Matthews goes and talks to Backer, making him come clean and gives good advice to deal with camp. In the girls’ cabin we learn that Glenn is interested in the tough guy at camp.

The tough guy is played by Larry Joshua. He bullies Backer until Matthews shows up. He tells Joshua to back off.

From here we go to the lake where Alexander, Eisenberg and J.R. McKechnie are going to swim. Backer is with them, but he can’t swim. The guys jump into the lake and Joshua comes up behind Backer, pushing him in. He then goes out to the raft where the girls are. We then meet another guy from their cabin, played by Fisher Stevens. He has a BB gun and shoots Joshua in the butt with it as revenge.

There is a canoe trip that is coming up that the older members of camp are going on. The first night they are told the legend of Cropsey. Eisenberg also pulls a scare on them. He goes off with Houlihan that night and they go skinny dipping. He gets a little forceful and she rebuffs him. She leaves and is killed by David. The next morning Matthews and Ayres ask Eisenberg where she is and he tells them he doesn’t know. All of the canoes are gone and David is stalking them. Can they get back to camp alive? Can David be stopped before it is too late?

This film I heard a lot about from horror podcasts I listened to, so I was excited to check it out. I personally had not heard the legend of Cropsey, as I’ve never went to summer camp and from what I can tell it is not an urban legend around where I grew up. I love that the film was based on the urban legend though, also having it play out to see why the killer is what he is. It is really hard to blame the guy for being burned as bad as he is, even though it was an accident. I was a little disappointed in the film though unfortunately. It is pretty slow. We get a kill early on, but then it goes for a long stretch of nothing. There are a few moments where the film builds tension, but the gaps between them hurt it for me. It does hit most of things that the slasher films needed, which included nudity.

I will say for the acting that it was pretty good. I liked to see a young Alexander, who I loved in this film. Stevens was a guy who hasn’t done much, but I remember him in Short Circuit 1 and 2, which I used to watch all the time. There is also a young Holly Hunter, who doesn’t have much in this film. Matthews was solid in his role and I didn’t catch on to the interesting twist with him until the end. I didn’t mind Backer, he played his part well. The rest of the cast wasn’t bad, none of them blew me away, but they all seemed pretty believable.

For this film, the effects were great. I came in knowing that Tom Savini did them and he is a master at his craft. The realism that he puts into them for this film is great. This is a slasher were the killer uses scissors or garden shears the whole time, so there isn’t creativity there, but the realism of the stabs is. It is very well done there. I also really enjoyed the musical selection for the film. It brings an eerie feel to the film which helps to build tension at times. I also liked that we are getting POV shots through Cropsey’s eyes; he put Vaseline on the lens since his vision is altered.

Now with that said, this is a solid slasher film. The story wasn’t bad, but it is lacking a little in how spaced out things can be. The cast has actors who have gone on to have solid careers and I think overall they did a good job. The effects alone are worth seeing the film and Savini is to thank there. The soundtrack helps the film and the feel of the scenes. The editing didn’t stand out, but it didn’t really need to be. They did make good choices on hiding Cropsey, as it built more suspense. This film is above average to me and I would definitely recommend a viewing.


My Rating: 7 out of 10