Quick Review: The Burning (1981)

Directed by: Tony Maylam

Written by: Tony Maylam, Brad Grey and some other bloke

A former summer camp caretaker, horribly burned from a prank gone wrong, lurks around an upstate New York summer camp bent on killing the teenagers responsible for his disfigurement. IMDB

So, confession time – I had never seen The Burning before watching it recently. Yep, I know it is a classic and know about Cropsy (Lou David) but it is one that I just have never gotten around to watching. I thought it was about time, so grabbed a copy in a recent ARROW sale, along with Horror Express and Theatre of Blood which I have also recently reviewed.

And what can I say? It is clearly a classic and has all the hallmarks of a great 80’s slasher; teenagers, a camp, a lake, a disgruntled and disfigured boogeyman, death after sex – check, check and check. It also has a classic set-up; some dick kids play a “prank” on Cropsy, camp caretaker, and inadvertently set fire to his cabin and him, leaving him horribly disfigured and hellbent on revenge. Our boogeyman also has a signature weapon; his garden shears!

At a nearby camp, years later, Cropsy returns to wreak revenge on the mostly innocent kids that are just trying to have a fun summer and cop off with each other. And I say ‘innocent’ because one of the main characters, Todd, played by Brian Matthews, was one of the kids responsible for Cropsy’s ‘accident.’

And that is the only real problem I have with The Burning (and it really isn’t a problem) – but I kinda feel sorry for Cropsy! While the kids at the beginning suggest he is a bit of a grumpy bastard and a pain in the arse, we never get to see him act that way – at least not before he is turned into a hideous monster. He never asked to be burned so badly and, if the doctors in the hospital were so shocked by his burns that they use him as an example to other doctors in an attempt to disgust them, then it is no wonder he got hacked off and developed a taste for revenge!

Yes, most of the kids at the new camp weren’t involved, but Cropsy wasn’t to know that, he was just angry and wanted closure! Poor guy.

But that is a minor point. As slashers go, this is up there as an enjoyable tale of terror. There are plenty of teenagers ready for the slaughter and, for the most part, the acting is decent. There is a good level of gore and the practical effects still look great 40 years on, but then what do you expect if you have Tom Savini on your crew?

I suspect most horror fans reading this will have already seen The Burning but if you are also new to the experience, check it out, I don’t think you will be disappointed!

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