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A janitor at a summer camp is accidently burned severely from a prank. Years later, he is released from an institute, and returns to the camp with a pair of hedge clippers to take revenge on the campers. Written by
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The Burning has the great fortune of being a product of the early 80's slasher fest that greeted audiences in the hundreds. Some genre highlights were produced from ca. 1980-1984, a time when these films took themselves semi-seriously and were moderately successful at creating creepy atmosphere, displaying gratuitous nudity and inventing some spectacular death sequences. The late seventies laid the groundwork for what was to become a stable formula for these movies and for a minimum budget and isolated surroundings the films could provide some solid shocks and gore that pleased audiences.
The Burning is nearly identical in plot and storyline to Friday the 13th. Here the bad guy is a burn victim as a result of a prank gone awry and years later he takes vengeance on unsuspecting campers in gruesome fashion. While the movie is pretty slow and the gore fest doesn't really start until an hour in it's never boring. Here's where the film is different from Friday the 13th and many others: The teens aren't merely disposable pricks who you can't wait see get their grisly demise. They're actually a pretty likable bunch, well played by some future stars (Jason Alexander, particularly likable here, and Fisher Stevens among them) and when some get slashed you kinda feel bad for them.
Now for what really counts. Two things; gore and mood. The Tom Savini gore effects do not disappoint. Keep in mind that this is 1981 and digital effects have improved horror gore somewhat but this is pretty impressive stuff. The raft scene is a particular standout. As for mood, you can't beat these early 80's alone-in-the-woods scenarios and they're all well played out here. Although there are a lot of false scares here, they're buildups are great and the creepy surroundings go a long way. If films like Psycho made people afraid to take a shower and Jaws made people afraid of the water then films like The Burning and Friday the 13th must have made a few parents hesitant at sending their kids to summer camps.
Fans of slasher films will not want to miss The Burning. Although Friday the 13th is more suspenseful and The Burning feels a bit too stretched, it nevertheless has plenty of good moments and top notch kill scenes. What's not to like?
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