HORRORFEST: The Burning (1981)

The Burning has everything you could possibly ask for in a slasher flick.  Gratuitous nudity, a bad-ass murderer, and lots of blood and severed limbs.  Despite its uneven pace, it just might be my new favorite 80’s slasher.

So much about the plot of this movie makes absolutely no sense, but that’s part of what makes it so awesome.  A group of teenagers at summer camp despise the caretaker and cook up a prank to make his life miserable.  But things of course never go according to plan in a horror movie.  The kids wind up setting the man on fire in his bed.  He thrashes around completely enveloped in flames (you can clearly see the dude wearing a flame suit, mask and all) before eventually collapsing into the lake, at which point the teens flee.  Naturally, the burned man seeks his revenge by murdering prostitutes and dismembering promiscuous teen girls.

The movie starts off quickly with the introduction and then the mutilation of some random prostitute.  But after that, it’s fairly slow going for quite awhile.  There is lots of fake suspense and diversions (like the shower scene where the chick DOESN’T die for once), and it takes some time before the slaughter picks up again.  But once it does, oh boy is it glorious.  People start dropping left and right in horrific fashion.  But far and away the best scene in the entire film is the raft massacre.  I watched the movie with some friends, and we all thought for sure the body of one of the girls was going to be in the canoe.  But when Cropsy popped out and unleashed carnage, we all cheered and clapped, laughing hysterically.  The scene was so awesome and overwhelming that I think it maybe have wormed its way into my favorite horror scenes of all time.

The raft massacre scene.

Most surprising of all to me was the amount of star power in this movie.  Granted, it was the film debut of all of the stars in question, but it was still cool to see them at such a young age.  The Burning marked the feature film debut of Jason Alexander, Holly Hunter and Fisher Stevens.  Also, the legendary Tom Savini did the make-up for the film.  Apparently he only had three days notice to come up with the make-up for Cropsy, which explains why it just looks like his face melted rather than looking like a burn victim.  That being said, I loved the final product.  The tiny glimpse we got of his face towards the beginning had me in anticipation of the moment when we finally get a good look at him.  That moment doesn’t come until almost the very end of the movie, which made it all the more satisfying.

The Burning is the epitome of what a slasher movie should be.  It can never top the granddaddy of slashers, Halloween (my favorite horror movie ever, for the record), but it most definitely ranks among the best.  This is the perfect Halloween movie, so if you haven’t seen it, be sure to work it into the rotation for October.

4.5/5

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