IMDB Rating: 6.5 / 10
While Jason Voorhees is the undisputed champion of killing hormone-driven teenagers at camp sites, we must never forget that countless others have come along to try and wrestle that crown from his machete-wielding hand. Thankfully Jason has very little to fear from The Burning and won’t be handing the championship title to its horticulturist killing machine Cropsy anytime soon (who the hell would be frightened of someone named ‘Cropsy’ anyway?) While I’m usually down for any slasher that was made in the 80s, this one came along a little too early to be filled with the flashing neon and poor fashion choices that I’ve fallen in love with over the years, and what you’re forced to watch instead is a comparatively tame little movie with very little ‘burning’ and, to be quite frank, even less ‘the’.
Several years ago Camp Blackfoot was home to a tragedy of middling proportions. A group of teenage boys decided to play a prank on Cropsy, the ornery caretaker, by placing a skull with candles in the eyes next to his bed while he slept. Sadly it would appear that the skull was coated in lacquer and fell onto Cropsy’s napalm blankets, and the poor man went up in flames. Cropsy survived the brush with immolation, but not without developing a bit of a temper. Five years and one murdered prostitute later Cropsy sets out to get his revenge against any camping teenagers he can find.
As luck would have it Camp Stonewater is positively infested with teenagers in short shorts and sporting haircuts that would put the feathered mullet to shame, and we’re going to have to deal with some internal power struggles before Cropsy gets round to his murderous rampage. After some initial nerd taunting and gigantic nipple spying, a small group of campers sets out on a canoe trip. Things go quite well until one poor girl gets her clothes littered across the woods and her throat slit, and the rest of the group wakes up the next morning to discover all of their canoes have been cut loose and have floated away.
With the gaggle of prematurely ejaculating teenagers all stuck on a small outcropping of land, Cropsy and his garden shears can off them one-by-one at leisure. Whether it’s taking out a barge-load of them in style or opting for the more traditional murder of a girl who just lost her virginity, Cropsy seems to think that he’ll get away with this quite easily. But there’s something Cropsy didn’t count on – our masculine, rugged, all-round good guy Todd! With his devilish charm, unmoving hair and an ass that won’t quit in a pair of jeans that would cut off the circulation of lesser men, it’s up to Todd and the axe he found just laying on the floor to save what’s left of the campers so that he can get back to sweetly sexing his girlfriend Michelle.
Even if you make allowance for the fact that this movie is nearly middle-aged and likely well on its way to developing a beer belly, the special effects aren’t great. Right from the outset it would appear that little effort went into making things seem realistic. When Cropsy’s immolated, for example, without slowing the movie down or paying particularly close attention you can see that the guy is wearing a giant mask and protective gear. I don’t expect someone to actually be burned alive for the sake of a realistic shot, but at least try and make it a bit more believable.
Post-immolation Cropsy also looks like he melted rather than being burned. For me this had the effect of making him into more of a monster figure rather than a disfigured human being hell-bent on revenge. If that was the point then 10 points to Gryffindor, but I didn’t sign on to watch a monster slasher.
When it comes to the killings, this is a go-big-or-go-home kind of affair. When those garden shears make contact with someone they’re either going to be mildly grazed or it’ll cause enough damage to cut through their skull – there’s no middle ground to be found. Irrespective of the damage done though the blood is the most unrealistic shade of red and the skin looks like rubber. As a side note, while not relating directly to The Burning‘s visual splendour, I’m fairly sure (although admittedly I’m not a doctor) that you can’t scream when your throat’s been slashed and blood is pumping out of the wound…
In my experience 80s slashers are either amazing or so-bad-they’re-good, and rarely have I come across one that’s whack in the middle of the road. The Burning just happens to be one of those underwhelming movies, attributed in large part to a serious pacing issue – more than an hour of its 90-minute runtime is taken up by inconsequential and poorly considered attempts by teenage boys to engage in sexual activity, with the majority of the killing taking place in the last 20 or so minutes. I was bored so long before the end that I couldn’t have cared less whether Cropsy won or not, and none of the characters were developed enough for you to care either way if they got stabbed through the neck.
Perhaps all the people on IMDB who elevated The Burning to a 6.5 rating watched a different version of the film to me, but in my experience the 80s has far more to offer in terms of slashers and big hair than this could ever hope to dish up.
My Final Rating: 4 / 10
Buy The Burning at Amazon.com