Is it hot in here or is it just me?
A bunch of stupid teenagers accidentally set fire to their camp’s drunken caretaker leaving him scarred badly enough that latex hookers have no interest in him. This makes him a mite bitter, so he returns to the camp to kill some of the superfluous teenagers that seem to congregate there. Some of those degenerates are Jason Alexander, Fisher Stevens, and Holly Hunter as well as some other recognizable faces….
The killer of this piece is, of course, Cropsy (Lou David), presumably named as a ‘clever’ play on the word ‘crop’, to cut. None too stable from the beginning and now mad as hell that the kids have ruined his hooker appeal, he brings his shears back to the camp to have his revenge, though his method is a little odd to say the least. Because Todd, our hero, was one of the ones who caused Cropsy to do a rather piss-poor Richard Pryor imitation, Cropsy wants to make Todd into a crispy critter as well. While this motivation is not too bad, all the other stuff Cropsy does makes little sense. Why would he kill so many other teenagers? Why would he return to the area where he had been burned? Why would Todd return to the place where he had ruined a man’s life? How would Cropsy know that Todd would be there? Finally, where did Cropsy get a flame-thrower from anyway? So many questions and so little worth caring about.
The heroes of this piece are Todd (Brian Matthews) the all-around great guy head counselor and Michelle (Leah Ayres) his girl who is the all-around great chick counselor. Very atypically for this sort of film, Todd serves as the final boy who has to defeat the evil Cropsy, who he turned into a psycho. You see, when he was a young man, Todd was one of the kids who burned Cropsy up. This means that, according to horror movie logic, he should die for what he did. However, that is not what happens, the obligatory weirdo kid Alfred (Brian Backer) helps him to kill Cropsy and they even burn his body, as if to add insult to injury (rather, to add injury to injury). This shows an interesting thought process as the film confirms that playing a near-fatal prank on someone because they are a jerk is okay because they are almost a psycho killer anyway which will give you post-facto justification for whatever you did. Yeah. If I was a jerk I might make the connection between an end-justifies-the-means attitude and the Weinsteins, but I’m not as jerk so I will leave that comment unsaid.
The other characters of this film exist to be nothing more than meat. Sally (Carrick Glenn) and Karen (Carolyn Houlihan) are part of the film so that we would have some nudity, they do not disappoint. Glazer (Larry Joshua) was written in to be the standard film jerkoff who, in addition to being a pushy bastard steroid enthusiast womanizer is a bad actor who mistreats Alfred for looking at Sally’s breasts. The other characters exist to be victims or survivors, otherwise they are of little interest. Strangely, this film is half over before the first person is killed (the prostitute from the prologue does not count, prostitutes are not people), but we still do not know much about any of the characters because much of the running time is taken up by tedious fooling around and jerky behavior as guys strut and girls pretend that they could not care less. After 45 minutes with these kids I hoped that Cropsy would emerge from the woods and begin sticking them with his garden shears. When he did not I figured that the death that he would be dealt later in the film would be much-deserved.
Since the major reason to watch a slasher movie is to see a killer slashing at a bunch of nubile victims, the restraint shown here is annoying. When the film does show us what is going on, the special effects, despite being done by Tom Savini, are pretty lackluster. The stabbings are very obviously done with latex that does not resemble skin well enough to fool most viewers. The camera lingers on rubber hands as fingers bounce off their stumps in effects that would fit in perfectly in a Monty Python film. The terrible day for night filters in use would make Hammer cinematographers laugh hysterically. So even from a technical standpoint this film is a failure, except the Cropsy burn makeup; Tom Savini‘s makeup design is something special, but it only appears for a few seconds at the end, it makes me wish that Todd and Cropsy had talked for a moment giving the film a much-needed infusion of drama, but instead the dork had to stab Cropsy. Oh well.
This film also suffers from a severe case of really stupid stuff syndrome; including Cropsy’s clichés discussed above, there are many moronic moments. We have spacial problems as Cropsy seems able to compress himself to the size of the Weinsteins’ combined integrity. Using this power, Cropsy is able to appear from a sleeping bag holding a girl he has butchered for not showing him her tits. Cropsy uses these mad skills again to hide himself in a canoe (which he, somehow, got ahead of the rafters) without anyone being able to see him until they are within arm’s reach of him when he leaps out to stab latex. Now, a bald man in a boat who becomes erect at the approach of teenagers for some reason reminds me of a female sex offender, I wonder why? I also have to wonder how Cropsy is able to stand up in a canoe and slaughter a bunch of teenagers without falling into the river. Especially since he seems to lose these amazing powers of not being a victim at the end when the director was running out of script.
This flick was cut a bit by the MPAA, but was mercilessly butchered by the BBFC as part of the whole video nasty overreaction. Eventually of course the BBFC decided that The Burning was too dangerous for video because it, presumably, definitely would encourage other burn victims to seek out and kill as many teenagers as possible, something to be avoided at all costs. Thus it became a video nasty for now and forever; it was released cut in 1992, uncut in 2002.