Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Burning (Tony Maylam, 1981)

Who kills a vengeful burn victim by burning them? Talk about insensitive. Let's say, your entire body is burnt beyond recognition by a bunch of  juvenile pranksters who think every week is Prank Week ("I live with snakes and lizards and other things that go bump in the night / 'Cuz to me every week is Prank Week / I have given up hiding and started to fight"), and when you're well enough, you decide exact your revenge by heading over to the local wooded area to slaughter yourself some sexually active campers (it doesn't matter if they had anything to do with your burns, just as long as they're sexually active while camping). Instead of chopping off his head or stabbing him with a pitchfork when his killing spree is eventually thwarted by said sexually active campers, they choose to set him on fire. And not only that, just before he's burned...again, we get a quick montage containing all the grisly, Tom Savini-orchestrated deaths he was responsible for over the course of The Burning, the summer camp slasher film where hedge clippers are the teen-dispatching weapon of choice. Implemented to remind the audience that the burn victim is the film's villain, not the sexually active campers, the montage re-demonizes the burn victim. Wait a minute? Hedge clippers?!? So this what it's come to, eh? Hedge clippers? All right. Anyway, get this, it's the burn victim who's deemed the menace to society in this film's upside down universe, not the pranksters. Maybe my brain works differently, but I thought it was absurd that the burn victim was the one being portrayed as wicked and threatening. Either way, much enjoyment was extracted from this humdinger of a slasher flick.
I've just been handed a note telling me that the burn victim at the centre of The Burning wasn't a nice person. In fact, it says that the burn victim was a bit of a sadist. First of all, you can't be "a bit of a sadist," you're either a sadist or you're not...a sadist. Call me someone who licks dick for a living, but I refuse to believe there's any middle ground when it comes to sadism. And secondly, stop trying to justify "the burning." I know, the pranksters who carried out "the burning" didn't intend on burning the burn victim. But that's exactly what did happen. And you can't exactly un-burn a burn victim (believe me, I've tried). They're isn't enough ointment in this world to undo that humdinger of a boo boo. What's this? It's looks like I'm being handed another note. Let's see. Huh, it says here that I should stop using the word, "humdinger."
As the pranksters watch the burn victim hopelessly try to put himself out, they must know, if he doesn't die, that he's going to come after them one day wielding a pair of hedge clippers. Oh, and before you start making wisecracks about your hedge being in need of a trim, he has no intention of straightening out your bushes and sculpting shrubs into weird shapes, he wants to murder you by penetrating your yuppie ass until it oozes blood, and, fingers crossed, hopefully a little pus as well.
Since "the burning" takes place five before we see George Costanza with a full head of hair, that means the film, directed by Tony Maylam and produced by Harvey and Bob Weinstein, begins in 1975, where a group of disgruntled campers are planning to pull a prank on Cropsy (Lou David), the caretaker at Camp Blackfoot. And like I said, the prank goes terribly awry. Instead of scaring him, Cropsy ends up engulfed in flames. While recovering in hospital, we quickly learn that Cropsy has become a bit of sideshow attraction. In that, some of the staff, I'm looking in your general direction, Mansoor Najeeullah, like to haze the interns by showing them his flame-broiled body.
After five years, Cropsy is finally released from hospital. Told by the nurses to "try not to blame anyone," Cropsy heads immediately to the sleazy part of town to look for some action. And by "action," I don't mean...Come to think of it, I have no idea what I mean by "action." Let's just say, he solicits one of the most beautiful prostitutes the city of Buffalo, New York has to offer. If the sex workers in Buffalo actually looked like K.C. Townsend circa 1981, I'd be down there every other weekend.
Oh, and just to clarify, I wouldn't be going down to Buffalo to fornicate with Western New York's finest prostitutes. No, I'd be down there to accompany them when they went shopping for new hooker clothes. Duh.
Luring the dark stranger to come up her room, the luminous K.C. Townsend (Bellow the Belt), who is wearing a short black skirt, black pantyhose, and a teal blouse, temps Cropsy inside with the promise that he will be able to molest her tender flesh...for a price. As the garish light from the neon sign outside her window causes her succulent, pillowy lips to shimmer like diamonds, Cropsy slowly enters the room. Now, here's the question: Was Cropsy there to kill her? Or did Cropsy kill her because of the way she reacted when she saw his ghastly appearance? I'm going to go with the latter, as you'll notice doesn't use his trademark garden shears to dispatch K.C.'s prostitute. In fact, I think was K.C.'s reaction that caused Cropsy to head down to the hardware store, pick up a pair of garden shears, and catch the next bus to North Tonawanda.
Why would a burn victim wielding garden shears want to go to North Tonawanda of all places? That's simple. It's where Camp Stonewater is located. Yeah, but didn't "the burning" take place at Camp Blackfoot? That's true, it did happen there. But if you remember, that camp burnt down. And, besides, as we'll soon find out, Cropsy has good reason to visit Camp Stonewater. 
When we arrive at Camp Stonewater, the female campers are engaged in a heated game of baseball. What are male campers doing, you ask? Well, some of them, like, Alfred (Brian Backer, Fast Times at Ridgemount High), are cheering them on, while others, like, Eddy (Ned Eisenberg) and Dave (Jason Alexander), are admiring the ass attached to the lanky frame that belongs to Karen (Carolyn Houlihan), who is playing, oh, let's say, short-stop. Hey, I'm not one to judge their taste in women. But if I was at that game, my eyes would be all over Tiger (Shelley Bruce), the team's angelic first basewoman. Sporting cut-off jean shorts and a blue top tied at the belly for added sex appeal, Tiger is a baseball-playing goddess.
If my affection for Tiger is coming off as a tad creepy, that's good. As that is exactly the note I'm trying to strike. Actually, creepy with a touch of unpleasantness is the most accurate way to describe the tone I'm going for. Anyway, the best part about watching Tiger play baseball was the fact that she gets to introduce the audience to Cropsy's garden shears. Wait, she's not the first camper to buy it, is she? No, don't worry. A chick who kinda looks like Amy Smart hits a foul ball into the trees, and it's up to Tiger to find it. The first of the film's many non-kills, Tiger is unwittingly stalked by Crospy as she looks for the missing ball. Bending over repeatedly, which causes the coarseness of the denim material of her shorts to press tightly against her undercarriage, in a veiled attempt to locate the ball in question, Tiger has no idea how close she came to being brutally murdered by a burn victim wielding a pair of hedge clippers .
Not to give anything away, but Tiger does eventually find the errant ball. Which should come as no surprise. I mean, Tiger is not the type of gal to give up so easily when she sets her mind on something. After she throws the ball back into play, she engages in a celebratory hair flip. No one probably noticed this, especially Eddy and Dave, who are still admiring Karen's bony ass. Either way, I thought Tiger's celebratory hair flip was awesome, and don't care who knows it.
I'm surprised they didn't utilize Tiger's ball finding skills later on the film, as I'm sure she could have easily found those missing canoes. Think about it, a canoe is nothing more than a canoe-shaped baseball.
Just before another non-kill is about to take place, a misdirection involving a showering blonde camper named Sally (Carrick Glenn), you'll notice that Tiger has a pair of white knee-high socks hanging on her bed frame. Yeah, so what? So what?!? Well, I don't know if you know this, but Tiger doesn't wear knee-high socks, she wears lavender-coloured socks that barely go past her ankles. Again, so what? Don't you want to know whose socks they were? Not really. Fine
Your obsession with Tiger, who can't be older than fourteen, is starting to even creep me out, and I'm the slightly demented voice in your head. Hey, did you know Shelley Bruce played Annie on Broadway? It's true, she did. Oh, and, by the way, Shelley was fifteen going on sixteen when she made The Burning, so there.
Since I've already talked at length Tiger, who's a real troublemaker, judging by her mess hall theatrics (she likes to throw food), I might well introduce the others. Who haven't I mentioned? Okay, there's the Fisher Stevens-esque Fisher Stevens plays Woodstock, a couple of bland camp counselors named Todd (Brian Matthews) and Michelle (Leah Ayres), there's Glazer (Larry Joshua), a musclebound bully who likes to pick on Alfred, who, like I said, is played by Brian Backer; don't forget Fish (J.R. McKechnie), a kid who sort of sounds like Jason Lively, Marnie (Bonnie Deroski), a bespectacled blonde with large breasts, and a gaggle of nondescript brunettes. A gaggle that includes: Sophie (Holly Hunter), Diane (Kevi Kendall), Rhoda (Ame Segull), and Barbara (Sarah Chodoff).
Truth be told, there's nothing nondescript about Ame Segull and Sarah Chodoff. Well, for starters, Ame is a big gal, whose equally big butt should have been the focus of Eddy and Dave's ass appreciation during the baseball game. And Sarah had a coquettish vibe about her that was quite appealing (her many flirtatious encounters with Jason Alexander were awkwardly adorable).
Seeing all the teens gathered in one place during the scene that takes place at the lake, the girls are sunning themselves on one of them swimming platform thingies (check out Tiger, rocking a dark green one piece bathing suit on the life guard tower - no wonder they call her Tiger, rawr!!!), the guys are busy goofing off on shore, you have to wonder: How is Crospy going to kill all these people in a such a short amount of time? What they [the producers] need to do is to have a mass cull. Yeah, just wipe five or six campers is one fell swoop. Just as long as Tiger isn't one of the five or six. Aw, man, if I see Tiger getting abroad that makeshift raft, which we all know is not going to make it very far, I'm going to freak out.
In closing, I'd put The Burning up there alongside Sleepaway Camp and Little Darlings in terms of summer camp movies that managed to scratch most, if not all, of my many itches. Oh, and I almost forgot, Ralph Wiggum: "I ated the purple berries... They taste like...burning."

uploaded by Coldheart9009


  1. That 1st still was the exact same one I used. It's so good. Like, saucy good.

  2. The bunk bed upt-shirt pic? Yeah, I think you mean that one. I mean, there's nothing saucy about Brian Backer. ;)

  3. You captured the flick's "saucy" vibe. And let's not ignore that rich Rick Wakeman score. It IS Cropsey's mania (if you can forget the banjos).

  4. Dude, did you let your monkey run around the Toronto Ikea????

  5. @pop: That's weird. Why didn't I mention the Rick Wakeman score?!? I guess it wasn't synthy enough or something. Anyway, don't worry, it won't happen again.

    @Karim Amir: I sure am glad I know what you're talking about. I mean, imagine if I didn't? I'd be like, monkey? Ikea? What have you been smoking, K.A.? But thankfully the Ikea monkey is front page news around these parts.

    Oh, and to answer your question: No, that's not my monkey. My monkey wears leather jackets and listens to Judas Priest. In other words, it wouldn't be caught dead at an Ikea.

  6. I dunno. I never got all jazzed up about camp based slashers.

    But I saw photos of the monkey! Monkey!

    And here I was thinking Ikea was metals:

    I don't know about Judas Priest, but this is the metal I've been listening to a lot lately:

    That and BEHERIT.

  7. I like camp movies. Or maybe I don't. I mean, I haven't seen any of the Friday the 13th movies from start to finish.

    Who knew? Ikea is metal.

    I'm not a metal fan. It's too loud. ;)

  8. Have you seen the womens wrestling film Below The Belt? It also has K.C. Townsend in a small part as a boozy rassler. And the world is a lesser place because John Waters never had Jane O'Brien in one of his films.
    Below The Belt's IMDB Page

    Great site/reviews by the way, sometimes I get stuck in a hole of clicking reviews from the side list.

  9. I saw some of Below the Belt last Friday night when it aired on TCM. I'm kicking myself for not recording it, as the little that I did see of it looked cool.


  10. If there's anything positive about this film that cannot be said about its predecessor ("Friday The 13th"), it would have to be that at least the writers of "The Burning" had the integrity to permanently kill off "Cropsy" at the end instead of leaving room for the possibility of him continuing to return and kill off more campers again... and again... and again...

    I've reached the point now to where I'm still waiting for THE final installment of the "Friday The 13th" series -- "Friday The 13th, Part (pick a number beyond 50)".

  11. I think burning Cropsy twice was enough. I mean, I can't imagine them burning him a third time, that would be just plain cruel. R.I.P. Crospy.