Saturday, 8 October 2016

The Burning (1981)

“Shear Classic Slasher Horror”

A terrible pun hopefully appreciated by anyone familiar with this, Tony Maylam’s post FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980) slasher created by Bob & Harvey Weinstein, and now given a limited edition steelbook (!) dual format release by Arrow.

Mean old Cropsy (Lou David) is the caretaker at Camp Blackfoot. Some students decide to scare him by placing a burning skull by his bedside close to the large can of kerosene he presumably keeps there for any midnight fuel emergencies.
In the tradition of the best public information films, Cropsy pays dearly for his improper storage of a flammable liquid, and ends up in a burns unit for five years before being wheeled to the door and bid a not-so-cheery farewell as he’s dumped on the streets of New York.

Understandably miffed by his lack of follow up in the community, and unable to express this as a result of his face resembling an unskilled five year old’s attempt at a papier mache Guy Fawkes before it goes on the bonfire, Cropsy takes out his frustrations on a prostitute before setting off for one of those US countryside summer camps we don’t have here in the UK and a bunch of teenagers on whom he can vent his rage that include Jason Alexander, Holly Hunter and Fisher Stevens.
Sadly, despite gaining skills in canoeing, the use of certain garden tools and most of all, in creeping threateningly around a forest for lengthy periods of time without actually doing anything to anyone, Cropsy meets a grim end as he mistakenly messes about with a blowtorch in an abandoned mine - another public information lesson there, I think.

THE BURNING was one of a wave of movies that followed in the wake of Sean Cunningham’s FRIDAY THE 13TH and is neither the best nor the worst of them. With a bigger budget than many it comes across as rather more polished than some of the ropier efforts, and the standard of acting ranges from okay (the leads) to rubbish (where did they get that chap who works in the burns unit from?). The synth score by Rick Wakeman has been highly praised but I’ve always considered it mediocre at best in a decade that gave us the best work of composers like Fredric Myrow, Charles Bernstein, Richard Band and of course John Carpenter. 

The real star of THE BURNING is, of course, Tom Savini, whose ‘Grande Illusions’ as he called them in his book, are still a grisly joy to behold. Those who fondly remember THE BURNING from its initial (mistaken) uncut UK VHS release on the Thorn EMI label may be surprised to discover just how briefly these effects are seen.
Arrow’s Blu-ray of THE BURNING gives us an excellent transfer and plenty of extras, including three commentary tracks (one of which is new) and interviews with stars Lou David and Leah Ayres, editor Jack Sholder, makeup god Tom Savini and a new interview with composer Rick Wakeman, who is always good value and doesn’t disappoint here. You also get a trailer, image gallery and some behind the scenes stuff. The first pressing also comes with a booklet by Julian Kerswell. 

THE BURNING is getting a limited edition steelbook dual format release from Arrow on 10th October 2016. 
If you prefer to wait for the standard edition that will be out on 19th December 2016, just in time for Christmas! 

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