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Simplistic slasher delivers the gory goods
on 1 April 2003
(USA - 1980)
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Theatrical soundtrack: Mono
An abusive caretaker at a lonely summer camp is disfigured by fire during a prank which goes horribly wrong. Five years later, he returns to the area to take revenge against one of his former persecutors (now a camp counsellor) and the kids in his charge.
Makeup artist Tom Savini turned down the opportunity to work on FRIDAY THE 13th PART 2 (1981) in order to create effects for Tony Maylam's THE BURNING, yet another in the assembly line of low-budget horror movies which emerged in the wake of HALLOWEEN (1978). Savini warned the film's producers - including a fledgling Harvey Weinstein! - that the script for THE BURNING shared uncomfortable similarities with the 'Friday' sequel, though fans may have been too dazzled by the gruesome set-pieces to either notice or care. In truth, THE BURNING shares only a handful of superficial details with 'Friday 2', including a late night campfire episode in which the villain is dismissed as an urban legend, culminating in a false 'scare' which today's audiences will probably see coming a mile off. Despite a couple of groan-inducing incidentals ("Oh, I forgot my vitamins - I'll have to go back to my cabin through the dark, creepy woods!"), the narrative develops organically from one scene to the next, and characters react believably to the unfolding scenario. Unfortunately, the climax - set mostly within an abandoned mineshaft - is a disappointment, staged and executed with little flair or suspense.
Of course, the main point of interest (besides seeing some familiar faces in early roles, including Jason Alexander [TV's "Seinfeld"], Fisher Stevens [SHORT CIRCUIT] and an unrecognisable Holly Hunter) is Savini's horrific makeup effects, all of which are presented here uncut for the first time on home video in the UK. Victims are slashed, stabbed, punctured and poked in graphic detail, and blood flows copiously from some horribly convincing wounds. The film reaches a high-point of absolute horror during a notorious sequence involving an 'abandoned' canoe, which I'll leave first-time viewers to discover for themselves. Briskly paced, and scored with a series of electronic doodles by no less than Rick Wakeman (!), THE BURNING may seem awfully simplistic to modern viewers, but it delivers the goods in spades and will satisfy gore-hounds everywhere.