THE BURNING (1981) Reviews and overview

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‘It will take you further than fear.’

The Burning is a 1981 American slasher horror film directed by Tony Maylam (Split Second; The Sins of Dorian Gray) from a screenplay written by Peter Lawrence and Bob Weinstein. It was “created” and produced by the now-infamous 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 the hospital, he returns to his old stomping ground and begins a murder spree…


“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.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting

“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 counsellor hijinks before a huge slaughter on a raft.” Basement Rejects

“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.” Cinema Suicide

“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).” DVD Drive-In


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“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…” Plutonium Shores


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.


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Cast and characters:

Brian Matthews … Todd
Leah Ayres … Michelle
Brian Backer … Alfred
Larry Joshua … Glazer
Jason Alexander … Dave
Ned Eisenberg … Eddy
Carrick Glenn … Sally
Carolyn Houlihan … Karen
Fisher Stevens … Woodstock
Lou David … Cropsy
Shelley Bruce … Tiger
Sarah Chodoff … Barbara
Bonnie Deroski … Marnie
Holly Hunter … Sophie
Kevi Kendall … Diane
J.R. McKechnie … Fish
George Parry … Alan
Ame Segull … Rhoda
Jeff DeHart … Supervisor (as Jeff De Hart)
Bruce Kluger … Rod
Keith Mandell … Young Todd
Jerry McGee … Intern
Mansoor Najee-ullah … Orderly
Willie Reale … Paul
John Roach … Snoop
K.C. Townsend … Hooker
John Tripp … Camp Counselor
James Van Verth … Jamie
Greg Hinaman … Camper (uncredited)
Timothy Klein … Camp Counselor (uncredited)
Robert O’Neill … Camper (uncredited)

Filming locations:

Buffalo, Letchworth State Park and North Tonawanda, New York

Film Facts:

Edited by Jack Sholder who went on to direct New Line Cinema’s first movie, Alone in the Dark (1982), A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985), The Hidden (1987), Arachnid (2001), plus other genre titles.


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