The Burning is a 1981 American slasher horror film directed by Tony Maylam from a screenplay by Peter Lawrence and Bob Weinstein. It was “created” and produced by Harvey Weinstein, his first production. Jason Alexander, Fisher Stevens and future Oscar winner Holly Hunter all made their motion picture debuts in this film.
The film features a soundtrack by prog rock musician Rick Wakeman (from the band Yes).
A cruel, alcoholic, sadistic caretaker at a summer camp (nicknamed “Cropsy” and based on the urban legend of Cropsey) falls victim to a prank that went out of control, leaving him horribly burned and disfigured. Following his release from hospital, he returns to his old stomping ground and begins a murder spree…
British director Tony Maylam’s direction is classy, even at times stylish – look out for a great Argento-like shot early on in the film where a jet of blood hits a mirror, momentarily illuminated by a flash of lightning. Maylam maintains a furious pace throughout – even the film’s most infamous sequence where some teens are slaughtered on a raft is furiously cut together…” Wes M, Plutonium Shores
“There is no waiting until the end for the big reveal of the maniac’s identity; you know from the onset. Otherwise it’s a virtual paint-by-numbers of slasher film clichés (disfigured loner returns to the scene of his embarrassing and tragic mutilation to systematically kill teenagers).” Jason McElreath, DVD Drive-In
“While the Friday the 13th series got all the glory, this movie also provides sufficient jumps and gore. There are some problems with pacing. The series starts out strong with the attack on Cropsy and then his murder of a prostitute, but then there is a lot of counselor hijinks before a huge slaughter on a raft.” JP Roscoe, Basement Rejects
” …there is a more important point that can easily get lost amid discussions of the minutiae of face-charring and finger-chopping. In addition to offering a high-grade fix for gore lovers, The Burning is an uncommonly effective horror movie from almost any perspective. This is the film for anyone who ever wished that Friday the 13th, Part 2 had a stronger, more sensible script.” Scott Ashlin, 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting
“Like other forgotten slashers such as The Prowler and My Bloody Valentine, it’s a sadly overlooked movie. It’s not the best you’ll see, but when the blood starts to flow, it’s more than you were expecting.” Bryan White, Cinema Suicide
The Burning appeared on the British Director of Public Prosecution’s list as a so-called ‘video nasty‘ when major company Thorn EMI issued it in an uncensored version seemingly by mistake, but was quickly dropped from the list when the BBFC ‘X’ rated version was substituted. This censored version was stamped by EMI on its label to differentiate it from the uncut version, dealers being encouraged to return any ‘rogue’ copies.
Read the film’s UK censorship history on the Melon Farmers website.