Movie: The Burning (1981)

I love the movie Cabin in the Woods, which subverts many of the clichés of the horror genre, especially the slasher sub-genre.  While it skewers, and pays tributes to, many such films, it might as well have been a direct parody of 1981’s The Burning

I may not like slashers but, even if I did, I would still likely rank this among the least of them.  This is such a blatant rip-off of Friday the 13th that it barely warrants a detailing of its plot.  So let’s see how few words I can use to do that.

Camp. Prank. Fire. Deformity. Five years later. New camp.  Creepy kid.  Sex and death.  Repeat.

Now for some really weird surprises. Jason Alexander is in this when he was young and had a full head of hair.  I suspect he immediately went bald about five minutes after shooting wrapped.  Holly Hunter is in this, too.  Fisher Stevens is here, as well, and…well, I’m not as surprised to see him here.  But the music, on the other hand, is by…Rick Wakeman?! I wonder if the former Yes keyboardist did this as a favor or was just cashing a paycheck.

Typical of this kind of venture, the ages of the performers are all over the place.  I especially found myself confused as to which ones were the counselors and which were the campers.  Some of the campers look older than some of those counselors.  If I’m being fair, the actors are largely decent, though it is hard to judge them when they have to work with such crummy material. 

One thing that struck me as particularly crass about this enterprise is the footage of a co-ed softball game.  We get lots of close-ups of one bikini-clad woman’s backside.  We also get super slow-motion footage of a braless woman running to first base.  It’s like a movie made by a guy who never got to first base, so to speak.  I find it odd I don’t have a problem with outright nudity, but I find stuff like this or wet shirts to be really skeezy.  I feel the same way about the Hooters franchise.

So, let’s see who was the producer here.  It is…Harvey Weinstein?!  Wow, is that telling or what!  He also gets a credit for “original story by.”  Yeah, very original story, Harvey.

The gore effects are quite realistic, so I guess props to Tom Savini for his usual expertise with the props.  What I didn’t care for is how the camera lingers on shots like a knife twisting into a woman’s stomach.  Odd how there’s a line between presenting gore and violence as something to appall viewers, as compared to something we are supposed to enjoy.  This film falls solidly on the side of the latter, and its mean-spiritedness was just one more aspect of it I hated.

Excuse me while I vomit out my random remaining thoughts.  In the UK, this movie was distributed by Handmade Films’ distribution arm, much to the irritation of staffers who wanted what they were putting on screens to be of the level of Life of Brian, The Long Good Friday and Withnail & I.  And I thought it was telling how this picture uses every lazy trope possible, such as putting banjo music over the canoeing scene.  Then there’s a scene that immediately brought to mind Zoolander, when a character says, “This looks like a houseboat for ants!” and my mind added, “What is this, a school for ants?”  Lastly, I found it bizarre that all I needed was footage of a burn victim to end up with the track “Hamburger Lady” by Throbbing Gristle stuck in my head for a day.

Lazy, stupid and trashy, the one thing The Burning doesn’t manage to be is “fun”.  If nothing else, it is curious to see actors starting out who would go on to much better things.  Much, much, much better things.

Dir: Tony Maylam

Starring Brian Matthews and…oh, let’s just skip down the list until we hit some names: Jason Alexander, Holly Hunter, Fisher Stevens.

Watched on Amazon Prime