Twelve Hours of Terror: The Burning

The Burning (1981), dir. Tony Maylam. Miramax Films.

Regular readers may recall that we covered the Belcourt Theater’s 12 Hours of Terror last year. Sadly, circumstance prevented a return trip this year, but thankfully most of the films were ones previously seen. To be begin this descent into nightmares, we open with the Weinsteins’ first film, 1981’s the Burning.

We open on a summer camp. Several campers have banded together to play a prank on misanthropic groundskeeper Cropsy (Lou David). The prank in question seems harmless enough; a faux severed head with a candle inside it is placed next to the sleeping Cropsy’s bed. The campers then wake the man up and expect him to be scared.

It works, in that Cropsy is so terrified of the prop he knocks onto his himself, flame and all. On fire, he runs around the shack he calls home, igniting his collection of kerosene, oily rags, and rotgut liquor. By the time Cropsy has thrown himself into the lake, there is very little left for the doctors to work with.

Five years later, Cropsy is released from the hospital. After murdering a prostitute, Cropsy picks up the biggest set of clipping sheers he can find and heads back to his place of employment, where a new batch of campers have taken up residence. From there vengeance and blood flow freely, along with copious amounts of nudity.

As one reviewer once said, this was the film Friday the 13th Part 2 wished it was. Unlike many slashers of the period, the Burning forgoes any attempt of mystery, instead letting us know that Cropsy is the killer. We never see inside his mind, however, so his exact motives are unknown. Tom Savani’s gore effects, however, more than make up for the plot’s few shortcomings, but no doubt helped it land on the U.K.’s Video nasty list.

The Burning is a good 1980’s horror title and worth a rental.

“A Legend of Terror is No Campfire Story Anymore!”

The Burning – theatrical trailer.