Review: The Burning
Blu-ray: The Burning (1981)
Released a year after Friday the 13th and continuing the ongoing trend of ‘slasher’ movies that would become part of the zeitgeist of the 1980’s, The Burning tells the story of ‘Cropsy’ (played by Lou David) who stabs, slices and chops his way through a succession of teenage campers…after first honing his skills on an unlucky prostitute.
With a prologue that shows the origins of Cropsy and how he becomes disfigured and vengeful against teenage campers, the story swiftly moves forward in time to when a new group of victims….sorry….campers, appear at the camp in the woods. Gratuitous nudity, teenage frolics, screams and plenty of spilled blood soon follow as Cropsy makes his way through the camp. Can anyone stop him before the entire woods flow red?
While sharing many similarities with the aforementioned Friday The 13th (crazed killer in the woods, screaming teenagers and even makeup effects by Tom Savini who turned down Friday The 13th Part 2 to work on The Burning) it is worth noting that The Burning was written before Jason’s story began. Also, while Jason’s weapon of choice was often a machete (and if we’re going to be pedantic, Jason didn’t even kill anyone in the 1st Friday The 13th movie) Cropsy much prefers swinging a pair of garden shears about. This leads to some of the most iconic imagery and effects in slasher movie history.
I have to admit that I was hesitant about watching this Arrow Films HD presentation of a movie that I’ve seen many times (first time was on the cut UK VHS release many years ago), as I thought the sharp picture would make the practical effects work look too false. Hats off to Tom Savini though as, bar the ‘finger chopping’ scene (which never looked particularly convincing even back on VHS), all of the makeup effects hold up really well and had me wincing despite having seen them many times before. It is also great that one of the (many) special features has Savini showing how the effects were done. These would probably be all CGI now, and it is wonderful to see how ingenious filmmakers and effects artists had to be back then to create these scenes.
Director Tony Maylam does a decent job with keeping up the tension and not allowing the teenagers to become too annoying, while the cast all fulfil the usual role call of characters (annoying jock, weedy klutz, girl every boy wants to sleep with, etc) with aplomb.
Viewing The Burning 35 years on from its release for the 1st time, you may well be able to telegraph what is going to happen and possibly groan at some of the tropes that would become established within slasher movies during this period. However, keep in mind the time when this was made and you’ll revel in its execution (no pun intended) of despatching unwitting teenagers.
As always with Arrow Films releases, the special features are once again reason alone to buy this astounding disc.
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
- Original mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Audio commentary with director Tony Maylam and critic Alan Jones
- Audio commentary with stars Shelley Bruce and Bonnie Deroski
- Brand new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues
- Blood ‘n’ Fire Memories – a look at the creation of the film’s make-up effects with FX artist Tom Savini
- Slash & Cut – an interview with editor Jack Sholder
- Cropsy Speaks – an interview with actor Lou David
- Summer Camp Nightmare – an interview with actress Leah Ayres
- Synthly the Best – a brand new interview with composer Rick Wakeman
- Behind-the-Scenes Footage
- Theatrical Trailer
- Image Galleries
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and new artwork by Justin Erickson
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Justin Kerswell
Review by Dave (host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Arrow Films.