This review was written 32 years too late
Surprisingly not buried by its makers – current Paramount CEO Brad Grey and Miramax’s Weinstein Brothers, among others – The Burning is a standard US early 80s gore-a-thon that, like most US early 80s gore-a-thons, isn’t that gory. Made the “video nasty” list in the UK, it’s now available uncut – and unexciting.
Kids at a summer camp accidentally immolate weirdo caretaker Cropsy, leaving him looking like pizza. Five years later, Cropsy leaves hospital with mayhem on his mind and heads back to camp, after setting the scene of what’s to come by sticking scissors into a prostitute who failed to notice his charred, melted features.
At camp, we see the usual collection of irritants who don’t die quickly enough at Cropsy’s hands, or garden shears in this case, which are his preferred MO. Among the kids you want to see massacred are Jason Alexander a long time, a lot of hair, and quite few inches off the waist before he was George Costanza in Seinfeld; and a barely recognisable Holly Hunter.
The film then sets up a series of faux scares where we think an innocent is going to get it only for it to be revealed as a prank or some other non-entity trying to scare all and sundry. There’s a little T&A here and there, lots of Cropsy POV shots in the woods at night, but the whole film never really gets going.
Even when the kids get stranded without their canoes, there’s ample opportunity to pick-off victims one by one that’s not exploited. When you compare this fodder to what the likes of Mario Bava was doing years before, it is a real disappointment. A supposedly notorious raft massacre scene that helped contribute to the film’s UK ban is particularly dull.
The Burning is a distinctly – here it comes – tepid affair otherwise.