Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Burning

From the Rotting Skull of Alan Trehern

A famous movie review blogger once asked me, "Wait, do you mean it's literally 'campy'?"  Of course, we were talking about The Burning, and that famous movie blogger started this site, and that happened a couple of hours ago.  Nevertheless, after about a year of saying, "I'm totally watching The Burning tonight," I finally sat down on a dark and stormy night and watched the movie that melds Wet Hot American Summer with Friday the 13th and then jabs you in the stomach with scissors.

Don't worry, Little Jimmy, he's just showing her CPR...
The Burning (1981)
Directed by Tony Maylam
Starring Brian Matthews, Leah Ayres, Larry Joshua and Jason Alexander

It has been historically proven that if you went off to summer camp in the 1980s, there was a 98.7% chance there would be a killer on the loose, and most (if not all) of your childhood friends were going to die.  We saw it popularized with Friday the 13th in 1980, and almost EXACTLY a year later [1], we saw the same sort of formula applied, except this time the camp was open for the season!  Children were loose!  The cafeteria is packed!  Canoes go adrift!  And blood is spilled whilst fornicating near germ-infested still-water!

He gave this movie...uh...two thumbs??  No, three fingers??  Up?
With a prank gone wrong at the very beginning, innocent groundskeeper "Cropsy" is burned to within an inch of his life by a bunch of snot-nosed kids.  The hospital sends the deformed patient back out into the world after months of therapy and skin grafts that didn't take.  "Don't think about revenge," they told him...  "People will cower and scream at your hideous complexion, but just try to get used to it," was the doctors' sage advice.  So Cropsy does the most logical thing: takes revenge on anyone who crosses his path.

How can I quit you, Glazer?
Fast forward to Camp SomethingOrOther, and we see a long string of campy pranks and hijinx, unnecessary/completely necessary nudity, stereotypical outdoor activities and George Costanza with hair.  Hard to believe, I know.  Every camper above the age of 14 is trying to bang each other, camp counselors are trying to bang when they're suppose to be counseling, and social outcast Alfred (the pervert) tries to creep around and see girls naked in the shower and then stare at them awkwardly while they scream.  You've got some real pick-up moves there, buddy.

Todd is a camp counselor now (he was one of the kids who burned Cropsy and left him for dead at the beginning), and he reminisces about his crime in the form of comical ghost stories.  At no point in time does Todd ever feel guilty for what he and his friends did to Cropsy, which makes the audience (me at least) root for Cropsy.  I mean this guy was mauled by fire while he slept and his face now looks like a melted cheesecake.
Maybe she's born with it...Maybe it's Maybeline.
Cropsy's effectiveness as a killer never comes into question.  The guy can slice and dice with the best of them, and his lawn shears are by far the sharpest around.  Fingers, throats, foreheads?  All are sufficiently hacked by this sufficiently gruesome groundskeeper.  The kids, on the other hand, don't really fall into the "stupidly asking for it" category, because the killer finds them effectively instead of the campers walking around calling out and giving away their position.  So in reality, you feel bad for everyone except Todd.

Glazer and Eddy are real dicks in the movie, and have no character redemption at all.  All of the girls don't really have any character development either.  Wait a sec.  My sources are telling me that this is NOT a movie that has great character development.  Sorry, folks. The music is very derivative of those Halloween/Friday the 13th overtures, with the heartbeat bass and what not. There are some great "jump moments", and the suspense is well-executed. It's also worth noting the Weinstein's were involved in the production and story.

In conclusion, see this movie.  If you like teen screams that take place in a stereotypical 80s campsite, death by lawn clippers, or bloody/comical deaths, this is the horror movie to check out as soon as you can.  Take it from me!  I've seen horror movies WORSE than this, and that's describing MOST of the horror movies I've seen.  And stay tuned for more movies in the Spooktacular Shocktoberfest Big Horror Movie Scare-A-Thon!

[1] Friday the 13th opened on May 9, 1980, and The Burning opened May 8, 1981.


Nudity Neftali said...

Interesting. I've never even heard of this, other than when you would mutter something like, "I'm watching The Burning, it's a [sic] documentary about Burning Man, a festival of which I've attended eight years running..."

Although it sounds spectacular, I don't think I could refrain from comparing it to Jason's romp. Congrats, Trehern, you managed to watch the camp slasher version of the movie that wasn't Dante's Peak.

Dexter’s Lobotomy said...

How come you’re not on the podcast? Silly question, but why the movie is called the burning while some person is running around cutting people with shears. The lost boy bullied at camp reference iconic.