The Burning (ooo… IT BURNS!!!)… This blast from 1981 should fit right in with the current holiday, that being Friday the 13th (or did you forget it’s a holiday?). I can’t say a movie reminded me more of Friday the 13th than this one although I’m sure there are plenty of copy cats out there. I don’t truly believe that The Burning is supposed to be a Friday the 13th rip off. I do believe it is capitalizing on the slasher boom of the late 70’s/early 80’s and even more so I believe that this movie and Porky’s share more than a few commonalities. I don’t fault The Burning for being so near and dear to so many of my favorite pictures. I will say that with a few tweaks probably prohibited by budgetary constraints, it could’ve been as gruesome as Sean Cunningham’s classic, but its influence is felt regardless of the amount of urine spilled at its behest.
For a movie that feels like the hockey masked one, or to be more specific the hockey masked one’s mother, it’s more direct with its back story. Our dear friend Cropsy, some relation to a certain documentary that leaping and bounding around like a juggernaut over the Indy circuit at present, is an innocent man who is burned alive by a bunch of prankster kids. He then returns to reap his revenge on the grown up (sort of) versions of said kids in true violent, ten little Indians fashion. His weapon of choice is a machete… NO. Caught you sleeping and believe me I understand how you could sleep through this blog. His weapon of choice is a pair of hedge clippers (still a fucking garden tool, punks). Murder, murder, murder. Creative blood letting. Teenage hijinx. The end. Takes place at a summer camp but he’s not a retarded kid who nobody was watching swimming so at least it has a some originality.
I have avoided watching this whole picture for quite some time. I watched the first twenty minutes or so at one point only to find myself bored. Slightly sleeping even. I turned off the television went to bed and thought to myself, “I wonder why Fearnet has such crap on it when it has such a great on demand viewing on their website but not on the cable station that I seem to pay infinitely more for.” That’s an argument for another day as was the question of the validity of The Burning on Fearnet. Is the Burning a movie that should be lauded as a primal entry in the slasher genre series? Yes. Need convincing? I may be the only one that needed a burden of proof presented for me, but here goes.
Item 1. You have a unique use of a tool. Hedge Clippers. Violent looking. Multi purpose tool that one could definitely find just a little bit creepy. Reminds us of scissors. Scissors are definitely creepy.
Item 2. Campy almost not humorous, humor. Jason Alexander in his first role. Seinfeld doesn’t happen without The Burning so it automatically gets a gold star for that. Bad dialogue dots the “i” and crosses the”t”. Let us not forget our daily Bacon (Kevin that is) who blossomed out of our Friday like a Tulip.
Item 3. Harvey Weinstein of the fabulous Weinsteins wrote the Burning or at least pars of it (the good parts I imagine). I consider this a stepping stone to some of the better films to come out of the horror genre. Dust Devil, Scream, Grindhouse, Rob Zombie’s Halloween. He’s got my backing for president of the United States. If he doesn’t want that, he can storm the MPAA, get control of that and rewrite the rulebook to make it equitable to our beloved genre.
Item 4. Rick Wakeman scored it. You know… from the progressive rock band, Yes? You’re allowed not to be all thrilled about this but I’ll have you know that many have carried on the tradition of synth/piano related scores that abuse rock’s more forward thinking talents. I’m sure you’d like to thank Wakeman for that… I don’t know, no one ever told me they adore the score to The Burning. Maybe start a new fad movement? Turn the Yes album covers into Thriller Zombie like homages to The Burning? This has gone too far. They released the score on LP. I’m sure it did well.
Item 5. It’s a Video Nasty in Britain. I think that gives it a few brownie points to say the least.
Item 6. Tom Savini on the latex gun… ok that’s enough. It’s a slasher classic.
This movie took some un-thinking for me. I had to remember that movies like this were actually new at the time and was not a rehash of the films that had come before (or at least not completely). The Prowler (recently reviewed) comes out around the same time and is a significantly better slasher flick for the same reasons that The Burning is great, but maybe, just maybe… a little less fun. The Prowler is even a little less camp. The blood and gore in the Prowler a little too real (still fun, but more real can push away the common house-audience). I’m pretty sure that without a stepping stone like this flick you don’t get Sleepaway Camp or it’s sequels. Unhappy Campers feels like it pays its respects to the Burning at least a couple of times. Also, the mask used in the camp fire, storytelling scene bares close resemblance to a movie that came out in March of 1981, Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse.
If The Burning started off the summer of slasher then The Prowler ended it. Again, go read the HorrorHound entry on this beloved film. After reading their 1981 throwback issue I was absolutely compelled to give this one a chance and actually not turn off the film. It was well worth it.
This Friday the 13th (with only a few hours left mind you) you might consider” Ya ya ya wo wo wo” (that’s yard work in Manfredini speak) rather than Ki ki ki, ma ma ma, translation Kill Mommy.
-Dr. Jason Terror Von Cropsenstein.