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  • Writer's pictureAllan Major

The Burning 1981 Reviewed

Featured Image For The Burning 1981 Reviewed.   Movie poster for 'The Burning' featuring a pair of large, menacing scissors in the background and a couple kissing in the foreground with the tagline 'A legend of terror is no campfire story anymore!
In 'The Burning,' campfire tales turn into bloody reality. The legend's sharp blades cut through the summer heat, leaving a trail of fear and death.

The dense, dark woods of upstate New York serve as the eerie backdrop for "The Burning," a slasher movie that sinks its jagged shears into the psyche of the viewer and doesn't let go. From the first flicker of light across the summer camp, the movie casts a shadow, a dark promise of the terror to come. As the campfire flickers, casting ghostly shapes and shadows, the legend of Cropsy comes to life. The tale is spun by campers, unaware that this time, the ghost story is frighteningly real. In a genre awash with imitations, "The Burning" stands out not only for its gruesome artistry but for its sheer nerve and audacity.

Key Takeaways From This Film

  • Urban Legend Brought to Life: The film effectively brings the urban legend of Cropsy to the screen, creating a haunting and memorable villain.

  • Impact of Pranks: The opening scene highlights the catastrophic consequences of a prank gone wrong, setting the stage for Cropsy's vengeful return.

  • Iconic Weapon: Cropsy's garden shears are one of the most memorable weapons in the slasher genre, used with brutal precision throughout the film.

  • Special Effects Mastery: Tom Savini's practical gore effects are top-notch, adding a visceral realism to the film's violence and horror.

  • Tension and Suspense: The film excels at building tension, particularly in scenes like the raft sequence, which is a masterclass in suspense and shock.

A woman, her face pale and eyes wide with terror, fixated on the screen while watching the slasher film The Burning.
Campfire tales come to life, her deepest fears ignited by the flickering flames of Cropsy's revenge.

This is a story born of urban legend, molded by the horror mythos, and brought to life by the vision of director Tony Maylam and the unerring craftsmanship of special effects maestro Tom Savini. The film opens with a group of campers playing a prank on the camp's caretaker, Cropsy, which goes horribly wrong. Engulfed in flames, Cropsy is left burned beyond recognition, a living horror etched in flesh and torment. Released back into society five years later, he returns to the upstate New York summer camp with vengeance burning hotter than the fire that disfigured him.

The sheer audacity of the film's opening scene sets the tone for what is to follow. Cropsy, portrayed with a menacing intensity by Lou David, becomes a symbol of unstoppable, seething rage. His weapon of choice, a pair of garden shears, becomes a grim reaper, cutting through the lives of unsuspecting campers with brutal efficiency. The slasher genre has seen its share of iconic weapons, but Cropsy’s shears hold a special place in the pantheon of horror tools, each snip a testament to Tom Savini's top-notch gore effects.

"The Burning" excels in its ability to craft suspense, blending it with moments of sheer, unadulterated horror. The campfire story sequence is one of the most memorable parts of the movie, where whispers and flickering flames conjure up images of Cropsy, lurking in the shadows, ready to strike. It is in these moments that the film finds its voice, a chorus of fear and anticipation that echoes through the camp.

The raft scene is another high point, a masterclass in building tension and delivering shock. As the group of teens paddles down the river, unaware of the danger lurking beneath the surface, the film crescendos into a symphony of horror. Cropsy's shears emerge, slashing through the water and flesh with terrifying precision. This sequence is not just a highlight of the movie; it stands as one of the most iconic moments in slasher film history, showcasing the raw power of practical effects and expert direction.

The cast of "The Burning" is a fascinating ensemble, featuring several future stars in their film debuts. Jason Alexander, known later for his role in "Seinfeld," brings a natural charm to his role, while Holly Hunter, in one of her earliest screen appearances, adds a layer of authenticity to the camp setting. Fisher Stevens and Brian Backer round out the group, each delivering performances that anchor the film in a gritty, relatable reality. Leah Ayres shines as the final girl, her transformation from camp counselor to a survivor is both compelling and relatable, embodying the spirit of resilience in the face of relentless horror.

A man, his brow furrowed and a look of unease etched on his face, absorbed in the gruesome events of The Burning.
The shadows lengthen, mirroring the creeping dread that consumes him as he witnesses the chilling reality of summer camp nightmares.

The Dark Heart Of Revenge

Brian Matthews, as the heroic camp counselor Todd, delivers a performance that is both commanding and sympathetic. His connection to Cropsy’s past adds a layer of complexity to the narrative, transforming what could have been a simple tale of revenge into a deeper exploration of guilt and redemption. Carolyn Houlihan, Shelley Bruce, and Carrick Glenn add depth to the supporting cast, each contributing to the film's atmosphere of dread and uncertainty.

The film was produced by Harvey Weinstein, marking one of the earliest entries for Miramax in the slasher genre. Co-written by Bob Weinstein, the script masterfully weaves elements of urban legend with the classic slasher tropes, creating a narrative that is both familiar and refreshingly original. "The Burning" doesn’t just ride on the coattails of "Friday the 13th"; it carves its own bloody path, creating a niche for itself in the crowded horror landscape.

The musical score, composed by Rick Wakeman of the band Yes, adds another layer of haunting beauty to the film. His compositions create a soundscape that is both eerie and mesmerizing, enhancing the film's ability to unsettle and captivate its audience. The soundtrack becomes a character in itself, guiding the viewer through the labyrinth of fear and suspense that is "The Burning."

The film's cinematography, by Harvey Harrison, captures the beauty and isolation of the camp, juxtaposing serene landscapes with moments of brutal violence. Each frame is carefully composed, creating a visual narrative that complements the unfolding horror. The use of natural light and shadow enhances the film's atmosphere, making the camp feel both idyllic and ominous.

As the film reaches its climax, the confrontation between Todd and Cropsy is both inevitable and gripping. The final showdown in the abandoned mine is a testament to the film's ability to maintain tension until the very end. Cropsy's demise is as brutal and unrelenting as his rampage, bringing the story full circle in a blaze of vengeance and retribution.

In conclusion, "The Burning" is more than just a slasher flick; it is a testament to the power of storytelling and practical effects in horror cinema. It stands as a reminder that even in a genre known for its formulaic approach, there is room for innovation and artistry. The film’s legacy is cemented by its unforgettable characters, masterful direction, and groundbreaking special effects. For fans of the slasher genre, "The Burning" remains a must-see, a film that not only lives up to its reputation but continues to set the standard for horror excellence.

And that is The Burning 1981 Reviewed. Another classic camp slasher we think you should check out. 

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If You Liked The Burning You Might Also Like These Films

Friday the 13th (1980)

Set in the eerie Camp Crystal Lake, "Friday the 13th" follows a group of camp counselors who are stalked and murdered by an unknown assailant. Known for its suspenseful atmosphere and shocking twist, this film is a cornerstone of the slasher genre. The character of Jason Voorhees has become an iconic figure in horror cinema, though he does not fully emerge as the killer until the sequels.

Sleepaway Camp (1983) "Sleepaway Camp" is a cult classic that combines typical slasher elements with a deeply unsettling twist. The film centers on a shy girl named Angela who experiences a series of traumatic events at a summer camp. As campers start turning up dead, the mystery deepens, leading to one of the most shocking endings in horror history.

Madman (1981)

Inspired by the same urban legend as "The Burning," "Madman" tells the story of Madman Marz, a farmer who returns from the dead to exact revenge on those who dare speak his name. Set in a secluded summer camp, this film is known for its atmospheric tension and grisly kills. The legend of Madman Marz adds a layer of folklore that enhances the film's creepiness.

The Prowler (1981)

Directed by Joseph Zito, "The Prowler" follows a masked killer who returns to a small town after 35 years to seek revenge during a graduation dance. The film stands out for its realistic and brutal special effects, created by Tom Savini, and its relentless pace. The suspenseful atmosphere and well-crafted kills make it a standout in the slasher genre.

My Bloody Valentine (1981)

Set in a mining town, "My Bloody Valentine" revolves around a vengeful miner who kills those who celebrate Valentine's Day. The film is celebrated for its unique setting, inventive kills, and strong character development. The claustrophobic environment of the mines adds an extra layer of terror, making it a must-watch for slasher fans.

The Burning 1981 Reviewed FAQs

Q: What is "The Burning" about?

A: "The Burning" is a horror film directed by Tony Maylam and produced by Harvey Weinstein, with a screenplay co-written by Bob Weinstein. It follows the story of a former summer camp caretaker named Cropsy, who seeks revenge after being horribly disfigured in a prank gone wrong. Released back into society after five years, Cropsy returns to an upstate New York summer camp, where he goes on a killing spree targeting campers and counselors.

Q: Who are some of the notable actors in "The Burning"?

A: The film features a notable ensemble cast, including Larry Joshua, Ned Eisenberg, and Jason Alexander in one of his earliest roles. The cast also includes Holly Hunter in her film debut, Fisher Stevens, Brian Backer, Leah Ayres, and Carrick Glenn. Lou David delivers a menacing performance as the antagonist Cropsy.

Q: Can you provide a brief movie review of "The Burning"?

A: "The Burning" is a quintessential summer camp slasher film that stands out for its graphic gore and expertly crafted suspenseful scenes. Renowned for Tom Savini's groundbreaking practical effects, the film has been praised for its intense kill sequences and the palpable tension it maintains throughout. It’s considered one of the best slasher movies of the early 1980s, often highlighted for its raw and gritty portrayal of horror.

Q: What are some similar films to "The Burning"?

A: Fans of "The Burning" might also enjoy other classic slasher films such as "Friday the 13th," which also revolves around a summer camp setting, "Sleepaway Camp," known for its shocking twist ending, and "Madman," which features a similar theme of a caretaker turned maniacal killer. Additionally, "Maniac" is another slasher film with intense gore and psychological horror elements.

Q: What is the significance of the character Cropsy in "The Burning"?

A: Cropsy, portrayed by Lou David, is the main antagonist of the film. He is depicted as a vengeful maniac seeking retribution against those he believes are responsible for his severe disfigurement. Cropsy's character is based on an urban legend prevalent in New York and New Jersey summer camps, which adds a layer of eerie authenticity to the film. His presence drives the suspense and fear factor, making him one of the memorable villains in the slasher genre.

Q: What makes "The Burning" stand out as a slasher film?

A: "The Burning" distinguishes itself with its intense and realistic kill scenes, thanks to Tom Savini's exceptional practical effects. The compelling storyline, combined with well-developed characters and a genuine summer camp atmosphere, adds depth to the film. The movie's ability to build and maintain suspense, along with its raw portrayal of violence, makes it a top-notch entry in the slasher genre. Additionally, the early appearances of actors who later became well-known, such as Jason Alexander and Holly Hunter, contribute to its enduring appeal.

Q: Where can I find top posts or discussions about "The Burning"?

A: You can find top posts and discussions about "The Burning" on various platforms. Reddit has several threads dedicated to horror films, including discussions in subreddits like r/horror and r/slashers. Horror movie forums such as Bloody Disgusting and Horror News Network also feature in-depth discussions and reviews. Additionally, dedicated fan websites and IMDb's user reviews and message boards offer a wealth of information and community insights about the film.

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