The Burning – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

MGM presents The Burning. Written by Peter Lawrence and Bob Weinstein. Story by Harvey Weinstein, Tony Maylam, and Brad Gray. 91 minutes. Rated R for nudity, graphic violence, language and drug use. Originally released in 1981.

Directed By:

Tony Maylam

Cast:

Brian Matthews. Todd
Leah Ayres. Michelle
Brian Backer. Alfred
Larry Joshua. Glazer
Jason Alexander. Dave
Holly Hunter. Sophie
Fisher Stevens. Woodstock
Lou David. Cropsy

The Film:

Friday The 13th was not the first slasher film, but it was very successful and paved the way for many films to litter the genre. Certainly some were better than others and it’s always hard to tell the good from the bad. I am happy to report that The Burning, which came one year after Friday The 13th, and also takes place at camp, falls into the good category.

At the end of summer a bunch of kids decide to play a prank on the summer camp caretaker, Cropsy (David) who they don’t like. Unfortunately this prank goes horribly wrong, and the caretaker is savagely burned. Five years go by before he is released from the hospital, but he is still quite disfigured and thirsts for revenge.

It’s a typical slasher plot, with typical slasher mainstays. You have lots of gory violent death scenes and a fare amount of nudity. This film also implements the very popular tool of the genre, the P-O-V shot of the killer. All slasher films have a weapon of choice and here the killer uses garden sheers and his use of them is effective and brutal; one need only see the raft massacre scene to know I’m telling the truth. The Burning exudes suspense very well, keeping the viewers on their toes. The killing starts right away with the caretaker killing a prostitute with a pair of scissors.

Most slasher films suffer from being extremely boring when some one isn’t being killed. The characters aren’t interesting and you actually cheer when one of them dies. One place this film succeeds is building interesting characters that make the non-killing parts of the film fun to watch. Sure the acting and dialogue aren’t all that but it’s entertaining, and isn’t that all that matters? While The Burning contains many of the genres clichés they don’t quit feel like that when they’re used here. Plus it’s got a pretty sweet 80’s score by Rick Wakeman to boot.

The Burning has a few things going for it that most other slasher films don’t. For one, it’s got the first acting appearances from Jason Alexander, Holly Hunter and Fisher Stevens, which is very amusing. Then there’s the producer and one of the writers. This was the first film that the Weinstein brothers worked on with Harvey producing and Bob writing. This was the building block that the two brothers built their entire empire on and perhaps the film is worth watching for that alone. This film also benefits from having makeup effects master Tom Savini in charge of all the wonderful carnage. With a name like that involved you’re pretty much guaranteed a good time.


From Left to Right: Jason Alexander, Fisher Stevens and Brian Backer.

The DVD:

This film is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen and Dolby Digital Mono. It includes Spanish and French Subtitles.

Extras:

Commentary with director Tony Maylam and International Film Journalist Alan Jones: This is a surprisingly interesting commentary. Alan Jones provides Maylam with questions, which keeps the commentary going so there are few lulls. They talk about everything from the original conception and how me met the Weinsteins, to all the wonderful details that make commentaries worthy listening to.

Blood n’ Fire Memories: (18 min.) This is a great trip down memory lane with Tom Savini, who turned down Friday The 13th Part 2 to do this film. He talks about all the makeup effects he did for the film from the burning of Cropsy to all the mutilated kids. This is a great featurette because Savini is a very engaging person who is very entertaining to listen to. You also get to see some great behind the scenes footage of the film.

Theatrical Trailer

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for The Burning
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

7
THE VIDEO

7
THE AUDIO

7
THE EXTRAS

7
REPLAY VALUE

7
OVERALL
7
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

The Inside Pulse
This isn’t the greatest slasher flick, but if you’re a fan of the genre it’s pretty solid. While Cropsy the groundskeeper is no Mrs. Voorhees, Tom Savini does some good work here and it’s interesting to see some big Hollywood people – below-the-line and above-the-line types – participating in their first film.

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