The Burning (1981)

the burning poster 1981 movie
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Good looking, slasher film

Story takes some stumbles

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Burning

Studio:  Miramax Films

Genre(s):  Horror

Release Date(s):  May 8, 1981

MPAA Rating:  R

the burning cropsy fire

A little help here, guys…I’m burning…please?

At Camp Blackfoot, Cropsy (Lou David) is one of the meanest groundskeepers of all time.  When the counselors decide to get revenge on Cropsy with a prank, the prank goes horribly wrong, and Cropsy ends up with burns covering most of his body.  Now years later, Camp Stonewater is welcoming a new bunch of campers, and the legend of Cropsy has grown.  A camp outing on the river could be a perfect getaway…or the means of a killer to seek his revenge!

Directed by Tony Maylam, The Burning is a horror slasher film.  The movie is one of the first films produced by Miramax and Harvey Weinstein and was written by Bob Weinstein and Peter Lawrence.  The film received moderate reviews but a so-so box office return though the film since has become a cult classic.

the burning jason alexander

I think after I leave here, I’d like to be an architect or an importer-exporter

I didn’t get on to The Burning until a lot later.  I remember it at my video store growing up, but the rather generic “killer” box didn’t inspire as much as something like a Friday the 13th, Halloween, or A Nightmare on Elm Street.  Jason, Freddy, or Michael were institutions for kids in the 1980s and 1990s…Cropsy did not rank at the time.  As the years passed, The Burning became more popular and recognized as a solid, stand-alone slasher film.  When I finally did track down and see The Burning, it was a film that was better than most of the “big three” slasher film sequels.

The story in general is rather typical of slasher movies.  The writers used the popular Cropsy story which was told around the New Jersey and New York area at the time and developed that into a story involving a burned man and of course campers that needed to be killed.  Surrounded by horny teens, the killer has a lot to work with and survival becomes the key…which isn’t original, but it still can be fun.

the burning raft attack fisher stevens

Yeah, that’s gonna leave a mark

The core cast of the film is rather bland.  Brian Matthews and Leah Ayres are kind of the stars of the movie as the head counselors (and with Matthews having a secret tie to Cropsy), but the memorable cast includes a young Jason Alexander, Fisher Stevens, and Holly Hunter.  While Jason Alexander and Fisher Stevens’ roles are rather large, Holly Hunter is primarily a background character.  A lot of the fun of viewing The Burning today is watching adn spotting these actors in the scenes.

The movie’s special effects are rather good.  Tom Savini was hired for the special effects (he turned down Friday the 13th Part 2 to do them), and the gore and ingenuity of the killings are a step above a lot of the contemporary slasher films of the time.  In some ways Savini outdoes himself.  The classic raft attack would be the high point of the film and that happens long before the ending which is a bit of a letdown in comparison.  The movie’s gore did get it banned and with limited releases in some areas…which of course makes it a plus for fans of horror.

the burning cropsy make-up

Hey, fella…can I borrow your Chapstick?

If you haven’t seen The Burning and you are a fan of 1980s horror, you need to do yourself a favor and seek it out.  It is a classic slasher movie, and the fact that there were so many at the time allowed it to be buried…it didn’t deserve that.  The Burning stands proud on its own and I’m glad that it is finally getting recognized as a pillar of the horror from the time…I might not have ever gotten to see it if it hadn’t been.  The Burning might not provide anything new to the slasher genre, but it is a solid entry, and a movie that has you jumping with surprises and gore.

Related Links:

Cropsey (2009)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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