THE BURNING (1981)
Directed by: Tony Maylam
Produced by: Harvey Weinstein
Screenplay by: Bob Weinstein, Peter Lawrence
Story by: Brad Grey, Tony Maylam, Harvey Weinstein
Starring: Lou David, Leah Ayres, Brian Backer, Brian Matthews,
Jason Alexander, Fisher Stevens, Holly Hunter
Released: May 8, 1981
In the summer of 1976, a bunch of no-goodniks at a summer camp decide to play a prank on the mean ole drunk groundskeeper, Cropsy.
They placed a gross skull, crawling with worms and lit candles in the eyes, on his dresser and watch thru a window for him to wake up. When he does, Cropsy is so terrified of the head that he knocks it over and the flaming candles ignite a jerrycan filled with fuel beside Cropsy’s bed. Within seconds, he is fully in flames. The kids watch in terror and then run away to hide, as Cropsy runs out of his cabin fully aflame and collapses in a creek. He is taken to a hospital where he survives, but with fourth degree burns over his entire body. He spends 5 years hospitalized, with multiple failed skin graft surgeries and remains horribly horribly disfigured. Cropsy is finally released from the hospital and he heads straight back to the camp to enact his murderous revenge — right after he tries to pop his rocks off with a hoo-er. Let’s just say that he’s so ugly that SHE couldn’t get it up, and Cropsy didn’t take to kindly to that.
In the early 1980’s the slasher film was at its height, and many of them took place at a summer camp (cheap to produce at a camp or ideal setting for “boogeyman” stories — my inner jury is still convening on this). Unlike many of it’s contemporaries, I found The Burning to be quite good. A group of counsellors and older teen campers are stranded up river from the camp while on an overnight canoe trip. Cropsy systematically eliminates the unsuspecting group one-by-one and in a very cool group sequence (not gonna spoil it, the scene alone is worth watching the movie).
The film has the distinction of being the launching pad for both Bob and Harvey Weinstein at Miramax. Harvey was one of the producers on the movie, and brother Bob co-wrote it. The Burning also introduced the world to several actors who would go on to become quite successful in Hollywood: Jason Alexander of “Seinfeld” fame plays joker Dave, Fisher Stevens from “Short Circuit” plays the prankster Woodstock, and a young Holly Hunter has a bit part as camper Sophie. But Cropsy doesn’t discriminate. He murders “A” thru “D” listers without even batting a burnt eyelash. Just ask Fisher Stevens’ character Woodstock to open up a jar of peanut butter for you (he can’t — Cropsy diced off all of his fingers in one swoop with those shears).
I had no knowledge of The Burning until I watched a Top 20 horror countdown on You Tube and saw the trailer for the movie. It looked pretty good, it had me hooked enough to look for it, and after watching it a couple of times — I’m glad that I did!
Watch The Trailer below. You know you want to!