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"The Burning" showed up on Showtime late one night, as I've noticed many rare films have (one time, I saw a really strange Italian action-adventure movie from the 80s, complete with bad dubbing and all) so I decided to tape it, hoping to finally see the infamous "raft scene," which was probably the only reason I wanted to see this.
Well, let's just say the movie didn't live up to ALL my expectations, but it wasn't terrible. The story is fairly generic, complete with rehashed backstory about Cropsy being burned to near-death by some mischevious campers. After five years in the hospital (!) he's finally released, so what's the first thing he does? Solicits a prostitute, of course, with terribly gory results. Eventually, he makes his way to a summer camp, armed with some gardening shears, to do some dirty work as only a slasher movie villain can.
The real deal doesn't start until some counselors and campers (well-established in the "Meatballs"-like interum of forty minutes) head off on a canoeing trip down the river. Cropsy comes along, and only then manages to do away with some (not enough) of our unlucky characters. So, who are these people? Well, there's Todd (Brian Matthews), the brawny head counselor who only wants everyone to get along; Michelle (Leah Ayres), his likable co-counselor and girlfriend, I suppose; Alfred (Brian Backer), the weird outcast who seems to eternally annoy Glazer (Larry Joshua,) our stock bully character. Rounding out the main characters are Karen (Caroline Houlihan) and her slimy boyfriend Eddy (Ned Eisenberg), kindly prankster Dave (Jason Alexander), Glazer's girlfriend Sally (Carrick Glenn), and Woodstock (Fisher Stevens), who...well, who's just plain weird, and he's got the stupidest laugh ever.
Anyway, most of these people are all killed before the credits roll, and only the ones you really end up liking survive. As far as who survives, well, it's usually a bit more predictable earlier on in the movie. Took me a while to figure out who was playing who. I thought Karen was the "final girl" at first, and Michelle was the slutty friend. In the end, though, there really is no "final girl," at least not in the conventional manner. Sure, there's a female character left standing (I wonder who, take a wild guess) but most of the climactic action is left to two male characters, which while unique to the genre, did not work for me. I mean, I realize that Alfred's character was supposed to be sympathetic and we were supposed to worry about him during that delirious, never-ending run through the woods, but that job is better performed by a token heroine. I guess I'm just old-fashioned. I don't mind a male hero (sort of expected, I guess) but when all the heroine is given is one scene of peril, and then some dull scenes on a boat, the tension all but dies away for me.
Anyway, speaking of all this carnage, the gore in this movie is unbelievable. I definitely winced a few times (particularly with the prostitute's murder) and would expect nothing less from Tom Savini. And that, my friends, leads me to the raft scene. It was, I'm sorry to say, a letdown. I mean, the suspense that builds as you realize what's going to happen in the scene, is really well-established, and I was on the edge of my seat. But then...it's over in a few seconds. The scene is extremely rushed and while somewhat gory, didn't really seem like a whole lot of carnage. Now, I'm not a fan of watching mass killings or anything, but I suppose I was just hoping the scene lived up to its reputation, and it really didn't.
As far as music, there's an excellent score that works well with the movie, and always adds a little edge to things. Acting-wise, everyone does pretty well. Leah Ayres was a little uneven. While at some points she was excellent, and her delivery was right-on, at others, like when she was angry, she got a little melodramatic. Jason Alexander shines, and it's no surprise he went on to be something big. Holly Hunter, the movie's other budding star, is barely in the movie. You see her a few times once they go on the rafting trip, but she has very little dialogue, and not much to do. Oh well. Everyone else is decent, to say the least. There's quite a bit of nudity in this one, more than I expected, and the shot of people mooning someone, a staple of camp slasher films, is here, and is quite hideous, thanks to Fisher Stevens. Probably one of the most hideous butt shots in film history.
Anyway, "The Burning" isn't a bad movie, but it isn't great. There aren't many genuine scares, and towards the end, things seem to inexplicably lose a lot of suspense. I suggest you see it, though. It's probably required viewing for slasher fans.
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