MGM Studios DVD presents
The Burning (1981)
"Right now, he's over there—watching...waiting."- Camp Counselor (John Tripp)
Stars: Brian Matthews, Leah Ayers, Brian Backer
Other Stars: Larry Joshua, Lou David, Jason Alexander, Holly Hunter
Director: Tony Maylam
MPAA Rating: R for (language, violence, extreme gore, disturbing imagery, nudity, sensuality)
Run Time: 01h:31m:22s
Release Date: 2007-09-11
DVD ReviewFans of slasher horror are always thrilled when another of the legendary "Video Nasties" banned outright by the British courts reach DVD. The Burning, one of the more notorious of them all, doesn't disappoint in the nastiness department either thanks to its wickedly realistic gore effects, and remains banned in its uncut form. But it also has an unusual point of historical interest: this was the picture that launched the Weinstein brothers in the motion picture industry.
The prologue sets up the actual title burning itself, as Cropsy (Lou David), the sadistic caretaker at Camp Blackfoot, is disliked by the campers, who decide to pull a prank. Unfortunately for all concerned, the prank goes badly and Cropsy is horrifically burned, and Camp Blackfoot is destroyed. Five years later, Cropsy is finally released from the hospital, and it's clear that he's out for blood. At Camp Stonewater, not far from the ruins of Camp Blackfoot, counselors Todd (Brian Matthews) and Michelle (Leah Ayers) lead a group of kids on a canoe trip up the river. Alas, Cropsy is waiting for them, with his trusty garden shears and a thirst for revenge upon anyone who makes themselves convenient.
The imitation of Friday the 13th in the camp setting and the punishment of sexually active teens is obvious, right down to borrowing goremeister Tom Savini to do the effects. The common giallo feature of the killer being portrayed by a subjective camera is used here as well, and often serves as code for when the characters are in real danger versus when they're not. The usual sampling of false scares are here too, though they're frontloaded in a way that helps sustain the suspense level pretty well. Where The Burning differs is in some ways unusual for the subgenre: Cropsy isn't after any particularized revenge; anyone convenient will suffice. Although sexual activity is a guaranteed death sentence, Cropsy is more than willing to kill virgins too. And the final confrontation isn't between Cropsy and a woman, but against Todd. Todd has his own issues, however, which are mentioned but there's a rather unsatisfying lack of dealing with the consequences of them. One thing not well established about Cropsy is that we never see him being cruel to the campers before the burning; one could read him as just as much victim as the teens, since we only know about Cropsy's prior behavior through Todd, who may or may not be a reliable narrator. If more had been made of this, one could treat it as true psychological complexity, but given it's a slasher picture thrown together on the cheap that's a jump that probably gives the script far more credit than it deserves.
The real fun comes with seeing Savini's elaborately gory effects, which remain highly effective. He's clearly having fun figuring out ingenious ways to slay teens in the most gruesome ways possible. The highlight is a great setpiece as Cropsy lures a raft of escaping youngsters right into his clutches and then has his bloody way with them, a sequence denounced on the floor of Parliament, so you know it has to be good. The effects hold up very well over 25 years later, even though they're all done practically, though Cropsy's burn makeup (which is seldom seen clearly) isn't entirely convincing.
The leads are appropriately bland, but the cast of campers are more entertaining. Unlike most such body count pictures, one almost starts to like them and feel bad when Cropsy offs them. Amongst the cast is a young Jason Alexander, with a full head of hair but with his persona fully developed already. Holly Hunter also makes her first film appearance, if you're interested in such things, though her role is very small and includes only a couple lines. It's by no means groundbreaking, but there's plenty of entertainment for gorehounds and it lives up well to its reputation.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The Burning comes to DVD in gorgeous fashion. The source print is virtually immaculate with hardly a speckle to be seen. Detail and texture are excellent for standard definition, and at times it rivals an HD transfer. Cropsy's subjective view is soft and blurry, an intentional effect that isn't a point of complaint. Particularly nice are the differentiations of greens in the woods around the camp. Black levels are rich and deep, with hardly any artifacting and zero edge enhancement. An excellent transfer on every count.
Image Transfer Grade: A
Audio Transfer Review: The audio features the undistinguished 2.0 mono soundtrack. The synth score by Rick Wakeman sounds reasonably good, considering it's mono. There are a few important sound effects that are startlingly real, such as the heartbeat opening and the sound of flies buzzing around corpses in nauseating fashion that emphasizes the charnel house atmosphere superbly. It's not a showpiece but it does the job more than admirably.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Jeepers Creepers, Jeepers Creepers 2, Horror
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Tony Maylam with journalist Alan Jones
Layers Switch: 01h:01m:14s
- Photo gallery
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsOne of the more esteemed slasher movies finally hits DVD in a drop-dead gorgeous transfer. Some solid extras make this worth seeking out for modern horror fans. Watch out for the flying blood!
Mark Zimmer 2007-11-30