As Bad As You Thought? Summer Fun Edition: The Burning


Sorry it has been so long since my last review but Stephanie Meyers confronted me about all the things I said about her, and well the less said about what followed the better. So onto new bidness, at the other web site I write for, Film Dispenser, we recently got together and we each picked our top five movies about summer, and naturally being me I had to pick one that was not exactly a classic nor even all that good for that matter, The Burning It’s a shameless knock off of Friday the 13th with the kids being killed by a burn victim instead of a drowned kids mother. Featuring early acting turns from Holly Hunter and Jason Alexander and some admittedly great make-up effects from Tom Savini (is there any other kind of make-up work from that guy?) this movie has fallen into obscurity as a relic from the era where slasher flicks ruled the cinemas, but as in the case of TerrrorVision, does obscurity equal badness?

One hot summer night at Camp Blackfoot many years ago, the crickets are chirping and the campers are plotting. Apparently the campers have a chip on their shoulders against the groundskeeper for some reason, and I mean they REALLY hate this guy for something. Their plan of revenge consists of putting a decomposed skull lit by a candle in the poor man’s room so it will scare him poopless when he wakes up from his drunken stupor. I’m sorry but when I was a kid at summer camp we treated the drunken adults with the awe and respect they justly demanded and deserved. When the3 groundskeeper wakes up from his booze induced coma he is freaked out by the kids’ prank and while they yuck it up outside his window, he kicks the skull over and combined with the gin flowing in his system freely he bursts into flames and runs off screaming into the lake. Whatever happened to the traditional camp pranks? As a kid I never would have gotten the idea of putting a flaming and decomposing skull in someone’s room, mainly because I have no idea where to get one of those at a summer camp. Naturally the groundskeeper is rushed to the hospital where an orderly promptly pronounces him, “cooked like a f—–g Big Mac.” Despite my inadequacies with medical lingo I think I get what he means. As expected the guy is pretty upset and those dumbass kids and their prank and is looking to give them a stern talking to about fire safety, but he’ll settle for slicing them up.

Five years later, he is released from medical care after being told that they can no longer do anything for him and to not hold a grudge against the kids responsible, they really don’t know alcoholic groundskeeper too well. Upon his release the world is his oyster he can go to the park, or get a burger, or head to the movies, or murder a prostitute, but he only has time to do one of those things, so he settles for killing the hooker.

At Camp Stonewater a group of teenage girls have fun at a softball game while a young Jason Alexander

The summer camp adventure Jerry and George swore never to talk about

is cuddled and caressed by a fellow male camper, while they check out the ass of one of the girls playing and making the standard crude remarks, I guess in 1981 people were not all that tolerant so if two guys wanted to be together they had to act like they were checking out a woman. When one ball gets hit into the woods a poor mop-headed girl goes out to find it; and as she searches we see a pair of gardening shears glistening in the sunlight, I guess the dead prostitute gave the burn victim great directions back to camp.

Throughout the day we learn that every kid in camp as well as the teenage counselors are all crushing on someone once in camp and that there’s an awkward guy named Alfred who creeps around the outdoor showers the girl (why are there outdoor showers?) use and is meant to be a sympathetic everyman character. I can’t help the age range of kids attending this camp aside from the two counselors who are understandable older, all of the guys are easily in their twenties and the girls are all between like twelve and probably thirty, oh and the girl who looks like she’s twelve openly smokes in the cabin in front of everyone. I’m also beginning to think there are no rules or anything in place everyone just seems to be goofing off, smoking, looking at porn and playing games all day, where are the classes to learn how to make wallets or carve out a human skull and such? My summer camps were never this much fun.

Everyone also seems to be anxiously awaiting an approaching canoe trip they are all going to be going on. As you can guess a bunch of unsupervised obnoxious kids in flimsy water crafts go as well as you might expect so they decide to camp out for the night. That night around a campfire they hear the story of Cropsey the groundskeeper from Camp Blackfoot who was burned alive. ghee I wonder where he heard this story from. In true tradition of the summer camp slasher, a couple of the kids go off in the woods for some romancing. Two of them apparently did not get the memo that skinny dipping alone at night in a slasher movie is as good for your health as drinking battery acid. Sure enough after the swim the girl of the couple finds her clothes are hidden and she has to go searching for them throughout the dark forest (okay it’s not really all that dark) and is caught off guard by Cropsey and his gardening shears.

The next day the other campers wake up to discover the canoes are all missing leaving them stranded up river from camp; and since walking a couple of miles back to camp is too hard, they resign themselves to the fact that they must find the missing canoes….or die trying. When forced to the brink they resolve to build a raft to float a couple of miles up river to camp for help and send some of their youngest campers as the test monkeys. During their journey they come across my favorite part of the movie; they discover on the river one of the missing canoes and they foolishly paddle closer and to their surprise Cropsey appears out of thin air with his gardening shears and chops the kids into pieces. I don’t know how long he laid down in that canoe waiting to surprise them or how they did not see a full grown man covered in burn scars until it was too late, but I’m glad it happened. I have tried to stand upright in a canoe with gardening shears before (long story) and I the boat capsized and I was mocked, so I respect Cropsey, the burn doctor who treated him must have taught him how to balance like a madman.

“AAAHHH!! My fingers I need those for stuff!!!”

Back on land two other campers decide top go off alone for some loving, because it worked out so well for the girl who tried it the night before. As soon as he heads back to camp for a beer or something Cropsey shows his gal pal just how clean his shears have gotten with the new stainless steel polish he has been using; and when he gets back to her, the guy is also shown the gardening tools from the Cropsey Collection. And remember the creeper, Alfred? Well, he saw the whole thing and leads the counselor to the crime scene, where he too is attacked by Cropsey who starts chasing down Alfred, I guess to thank him for his victim delivery, but unfortunately the camp counselor survived. The counselor heads back to camp where the others discover the raft full of their friend’s body parts that Cropsey sent to them, I use the term “friends” loosely these people all seem like casual acquaintances at best.

They decide their best course of action is to empty the raft and take another group back to the camp; you know like those who don’t know history are doomed to do something. Sadly this group makes it back to camp and seek help. While upriver, Alfred runs and hides in an ancient ruined city, yeah I’m just as much at a lost as to how an ancient civilization built a city that nobody seemed to know about. But while trying to hide, Cropsey finds the kid and stabs him with his shear right in the….shoulder? Great kill shot, stupid. When the dashing male counselor shows up at the ruins he uses an axe that I guess he had all along just never showed it or mentioned or in any way indicated he had it. Not to be outdone Cropsey rigs up some kind of flame thrower and goes looking for the guy, very slowly; and right before reaching the guy, Cropsey uses his magic to disappear. Lulled into a false sense of security, our hero, for some reason goes to save young Alfred but Cropsey reappears somehow. While the two do battle Alfred sneaks up behind Cropsey and unceremoniously stabs him with his own shears in a very anticlimactic fashion. When Cropsey doesd the standard last pop up scare he is axed in the face and set on fire again. The end….wait there’s another group of kids around a campfire telling the movie we just saw as a movie and saying that Cropsey’s body was never found (did they loom at the charred corpse stuck to the pole) and his spirit is still around; this whole scene has nothing to do with anything.

Was it as bad as I thought? It was bad but in a stupid fun kind of way. Sure the characters are bland and not particularly likable and Cropsey with his low body count would never be in the same league as Freddy or Michael; but the movie is mildly entertaining Savini is on top form in this flick but sadly is not given much to do. Overall this movie is nothing special but it is a good way to kill time.