The Burning (1981)
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“On a moonlit evening many years ago, a group of young campers a trick on Cropsy, the camp caretaker. The trick backfired, and Cropsy became a horribly disfigured maniac, a mutilated killer with a thirst for revenge. . .
THE BURNING is the suspenseful, terrifying account of the demented Cropsy’s return to summer camp, and of the trail of blood he leaves in the dark woods. His sinister presence shadows the sunny, sexy fun of the campers, and Cropsy stalks his victims, ruthlessly pursuing his macabre revenge. Great performances, frightening special effects, and the spectre of a crazed killer combine for a horror feature that’s a spectacle of shocks.”
Director: Tony Maylam
Starring: Brian Matthews, Jason Alexander, Fisher Stevens, Lou David
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The Cropsey legend differs from campfire to campfire but the shared theme is typically one of a crazed killer who hides in the woods of the Hudson River Valley, emerging to murder young campers. One story suggests that Cropsey was a man whose sons death was caused by campers and now seeks revenge (inspiration for Friday the 13th) while another version claims that he worked at a summer camp where a prank disfigured him and he now seeks revenge on campers in general which is the plot of this week's movie, The Burning!
The Burning marks many firsts: the first Miramax film, the first Weinstein Brothers film, and the first big screen appearances of Jason Alexander, Holly Hunter, and Fisher Stevens. It also features the special effects of Tom Savini who turned down a job on Friday the 13th Part 2 to do the film. His reason for doing so was “because Jason was running around in Friday the 13th Part 2 and as you know there is no Jason. Jason was a kid that died in the first movie. If you watch a Friday the 13th movie past Part 1, you’re stupid. ‘Cause there’s no Jason—there shouldn’t be a Jason.” This, of course, was how he felt at the time and we’re sure you can understand his confusion. Savini would eventually come around to do special effects for Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, which is probably why it’s one of the best sequels, the other reasons being Crispin Glover’s dance moves and a young Corey Feldman.
The Burning works surprisingly well as a cheesy ‘80s summer camp movie, rivaling the likes of Meatballs, before the addition of some great kills and terrifying gore effects. Jason Alexander in his first role is so much fun to watch and if you close your eyes, you’ll swear it was George Costanza selling rubbers to his cabin mate at a markup. Holly Hunter’s role is relegated to the background but we think she might yell “Hey Todd” at one point. The always amazing Fisher Stevens looks shockingly young and plays a role in one of the best kill scenes ever filmed. As is to be expected from any summer camp movie, the guys are horny and the girls are not havin’ it. If only those pushier guys knew they were in a slasher movie, they might’ve backed off a little. We all know what happens to those guys.
While The Burning wasn’t a commercial success it was a stepping stone for some great actors and filmmakers and has since achieved a loyal cult following. Watch The Burning for it’s likeable characters, great visual effects and. . . the infamous Raft Scene!