The Burning (1981)
AKA Cropsy, Carnage
Starring Brian Matthews, Leah Ayres, Brian Backer, Larry Joshua, Jason Alexander, Ned Eisenberg, Carrick Glenn, Carolyn Houlihan, Fisher Stevens, Lou David, Shelley Bruce, Sarah Chodoff, Bonnie Deroski, Holly Hunter
Directed by Tony Maylam
Expectations: High, once again because this features Tom Savini FX.
On the general scale:
On the B-movie scale:
The Burning is exactly the type of movie that led me to start writing reviews. I’ve always liked the Leonard Maltin review books, and I referred to my battered copy of the 1998 edition incessantly during my film snob phase. My love of horror movies often led me to search the book for what Maltin thought of the bloody affairs I loved so well, but this generally didn’t end well. Maltin isn’t much of a horror fan and he usually rated the films much lower than I thought they deserved. I can’t fault him for disliking a genre and its sadistic tendencies, and the genre does contain more than its share of shitty movies, but it seems kind of counter-intuitive to give a bunch of low-scored horror reviews when you’re not a fan. This is exactly why you don’t see me reviewing loads of romantic comedies. Anyway, I looked up The Burning in anticipation of watching it for the first time and was surprised to see the word BOMB in bold, dark type. Maltin reserves his BOMB rating for those films he finds unworthy of any rating stars, but thankfully I knew not to fret. The Burning is excellently made, and an absolute joy to watch for horror fans, and Maltin’s dismissal of this type of high-quality genre film is exactly why I felt the need to start writing reviews. It just took me a while to get around to it.
So The Burning is an incredibly simple story. Some might say too simple, but I say it’s just the right amount of simple to allow for a fun, easy-to-digest slasher. The film opens with a group of punk kids plotting to play a prank on their summer camp custodian Cropsy. Apparently he’s a drunk asshole, so the kids get a skull with worms crawling all over it, put lit candles in its eyes, and place it at Crospy’s bedside. They wake him up, and in his flailing he knocks the skull into his bed, lighting the whole thing on fire. He gets horribly disfigured, and after five years of healing at a local hospital, he’s ready to slice and dice his way to some sweet, sweet revenge.