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4.5 STARS: Don't look, he'll see you...don't breathe, he'll hear you...don't move, you're dead!!!
on August 6, 2007
In my daily search for lost horror movie gems, I thought to myself that I may have found one in the notorious slasher movie called "The Burning". Indeed, the movie is notorious because it was previously banned in some countries as the gore is considered to be graphic in the extreme. However, upon a viewing of the movie, I came away thinking to myself that it wasn't so much the gore that would offend the average viewer especially horror movie lovers (Tom Savini was terrific as usual), but, if anything, perhaps the sex scenes and nudity were a little strong for younger viewers, certainly not enough to be banned, however.
Anyway, "The Burning" starts off simple enough as the audience is thrown into the middle of Camp Blackstone as an ornery man named Cropsy is being conspired upon by a group of boys who want to "pay" Cropsy back for his sinister ways. The trick goes bad and Cropsy is burned so badly that no skin grafts would take and Cropsy is reduced to an inhuman freak of nature. Still, Cropsy recovers his physical strength and then some it seems as he begins his mission to gain revenge upon those campers that wronged him, including any other girls or adolescent sex-crazed boys that might be in the area.
The plot in "The Burning" is simple and quite effective as it is based upon the age old act of revenge. After he leaves the hospital, Cropsy haunts the woods of another camp where one of his former pranksters/assailants is now a camp counselor. Now, if you have seen "Madman" or any of the "Friday the 13th parts 1-6" movies, you have a basic idea of what it going to happen, or do you? An element of surprise along with some graphic violence brilliantly orchestrated by the legendary, Tom Savini, marks this slasher as a cut above the rest. Interestingly enough, even children, in broad daylight no less (which is certainly not the norm in horror flicks), are not spared in this movie, and I think that makes this movie more realistic, scarier and certainly more horrifying. No one is exempt from the vicious and evil Cropsy. Perhaps, it is this graphic violence where not even the children are safe in the broad daylight that shocks the conscience of the audience and sets this movie apart from the abovementioned horror flicks.
Indeed, "The Burning" is similar to "Madman" and "Friday the 13th" but also different. "The Burning" is constructed differently and, as I mentioned above, the majority of the death scenes occur in the daytime, which as I said is quite unusual for horror flicks, but very effective in creating a sense of realism which only works to magnify the horror of this film.
The infamous "raft scene" (***SPOILER ALERT***) takes place in broad day light as well, and the audience really has no idea about what is about to happen, and that's part of what makes it so great along with the brilliant special effects of Tom Savini and the brutal violence associated with this scene. The setting of the raft scene is rather unorthodox for a horror movie as you have children safe in a raft during broad daylight and having a great time no less. However, a lonely canoe emerges, the contents of which are largely unknown or to say the least surprising. The audience knows that the campers' canoes are missing, that a girl is also missing, therefore, the viewer thinks it could be the body of this girl, but when the kids on the raft come upon what seems to be this lonely canoe, a scene which ranks highly as one of the greatest scenes of pure horror ever filmed in a slasher flick (or any horror movie for that matter) ensues. The "raft scene" is an absolutely brilliant piece of cinematic horror and the movie is worth owning for this scene alone, although the movie is very good overall as well.
Cropsy, as a villain, is quite formidable, sadistic, perverted, strong and evil, and after the burning of his body, it is apparent that Cropsy takes on a rather inhuman form with monstrous characteristics and qualities that only amplify his prowess as a villain. In fact, it's safe to say that Cropsy is an evil, sadistic and perverted freak of nature.
The main things I like about "The Burning" is the unexpected scene the audience gets with the raft, the realistic-type atmosphere and the brilliant job done by Tom Savini on the blood and gore associated with the murders in this movie. The kills are violent, shocking to the conscience, come without warning, vicious and are committed without remorse leaving the audience horrified and paralyzed with fear of Cropsy.
Criticisms of this flick are few but not entirely insignificant. As with many slasher movies, there is some needless dialogue, gratuitous nudity and some scenes that maybe funny in a sense, but have absolutely nothing to do with the movie as far as its merits as a horror movie are concerned. However, there is some constructive character development in these scenes and the camp theme is presented only too well (gives me flashbacks) and quite accurately in the movie. It is unfortunate that some of the scenes do reflect some weak acting at times, and if you are not really into the humor of sexual inuendos and such, you may find yourself bored as the movie tends to drag just a bit in the middle.
Still, "The Burning" heats up into a very nice horror movie and while "The Burning" may be inferior to some of the elite horror movies on certain levels of producing scares and atmospheric "horror" in the sense of inspiring fear in the audience, the movie is still very effective as a horror movie with its graphic violence and shocking death scenes. The theme music with Cropsy is very effective and the audience settles right into Cropsy's dark, morbid and isolated world of evil. The atmosphere in "The Burning" with regard to its support of the movie as a horror flick comes and goes with Cropsy really, but when it's there, it's very effective. In other words, when Cropsy appears to be out of the picture, the movie takes on a kind of comedy-like atmosphere in a sense and it is funny, but this also works to ease the uneasy emotions and tension in the audience stimulated by the horror and fear that "The Burning" produces.
At times, "The Burning" struggles to maintain the pure horror movie spirit and the effect is spurts of virulent horror (albeit very effective spurts of horror), but we do not have in this movie the unrelenting terror and building tension of "Halloween". The acting in "The Burning" is average and the characters are not very likeable which may temper the horror just a bit. With all of that being said, "The Burning" is a must-own horror movie classic in my opinion, and is clearly superior to all of today's trash and sacreligious remakes of horror movie classics. Indeed, "The Burning" is very effective as a horror movie and is one of the greatest slasher flicks ever made while also earning a nice little place on my DVD shelf. "The Burning" is a clear-cut classic in my opinion, although the rating says FOUR STARS, my official HorrorMan rating is 4.5 STARS.
As a side note, look for Jason Alexander who plays a happy-go-lucky type of guy who fosters comedy during the dry scenes as the movie tends to drag a bit in its efforts to inspire a horror-movie like atmosphere...the now famous actor on the hit TV sitcom "Seinfeld" was able to steal a few weak comedy scenes with his buddies. GLAD THEY FINALLY CAME OUT WITH THIS MOVIE ON DVD!! THANKS FOR THE HEADS UP CLINT!!