The Burning (1981) – VIDEO NASTIES REVIEW



It’s been awhile (like that song!) since I’ve done one of these “video nasties” posts. Now’s as good a time as any, I suppose. And what better film to cover than The Burning? I’ve seen The Burning several times both on the small screen and the big. That’s not gauche braggery, I’m just establishing that I’m familiar with the film. I did not, however, know that it was a video nasty until I was looking over the Wikipedia list (that I linked to up there where i first mentioned ‘video nasties’) deciding which video nasty I’d like to cover next for NoRealDanger. It’s probably obvious which film I chose. So, whether you’ve seen it or not, sit back and hear/read the tale of this “appalling and utter filth” film that was too rad for British citizens to see in its entirety for over 20 years. (quote is from Mary Whitehouse, the champion of the video nasties bullshit)


The film starts with a flashback to when some summer camp rapscallions burned the camp groundskeeper, Cropsy, into a coma. (those scamps!) The prank-gone-wrong ends up being the catalyst for Cropsy’s murderous yen for revenge. He acts on his rage as soon as he’s finally released (present day 1981) from the hospital in Darkman-style incognito hat and sunglasses. His weapon of convenience happens to be scissors. Their effectiveness is appreciated so much, he decides to work almost exclusively in that medium when he heads to a summer camp to kill some of the people he holds responsible for his ordeal. (well, i assume he does. he doesn’t really explain much) The camp councelors  and campers that serve as scissor fodder are the now-familiar stereotypical camp teens that we’ve come to know and love. They have their own relationship and job dramas to deal with on top of getting stabbed to death by a faceless killer.


I won’t say that The Burning is a perfect movie by any means, but it has a nostalgic charm that is undeniable. This early slasher has some super-hammy acting, some super-flawed character logic, and some super-fun kills. The first two sound like digs, but I say them with love in my heart. (like how you can make fun of your little brother but if anybody else does you’d get pissed) Virginity loss and partying are paramount to these characters and the actors put their all into it. And some of the then-little-known actors (i won’t say which), like Holly Hunter, Jason Alexander, and Fisher Stevens, get to be on the wrong end of some garden shears. (doesn’t it seem like a lot of ‘respectable’ actors come from horror?) Sure, the disgruntled groundskeeper/janitor/mother trope has been done to death by now, but this was during the halcyon days of 80s horror when tropes were being born! (or at least creatively recycled) But it’s not all 80s standbys and tube socks. This film’s delightfully gooey killer POV shots are uniquely (as far as I know) creepy, making the viewer feel downright icky to be put in Cropsy’s shoes.


The Final Cut: The Burning is a quintessential 80s summer camp slasher. It is a unique and terrifying bit of horror nostalgia, providing all of the teen stereotypes and stabby killer tropes horror fans have come to love.

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