Can you say FRIDAY THE 13TH rip-off? Good, your understanding of the English language is at least sufficient (that‘s my pretend pretentiousness emerging). Now, completely move on from that notion, because while THE BURNING was clearly inspired by FRIDAY (though rumors still circulate that THE BURNING’s shoot schedule technically predates FRIDAY’s), it’s got some fantastic elements that enable the picture to stand firm on its own accord. First off, the “rules” of a slasher are treated with great liberty here. Neither writer Harvey Weinstein nor writer/director Tony Maylam restrict their script maneuvers by insting upon following the beaten path. Second, the cast is absolutely terrific, showcang an array of actors and actresses who would go on to build highly successful careers. Third, Tom Savini is on board for the special effects… need I say more on that topic? Add it all up and the result is a kick ass slasher film that could very ealy be condered superior to FRIDAY THE 13TH, though it’s failed to draw a following of milar ze - likely due to a lack of sequels (thank the Hollywood Gods).
The concept is virtually identical: Wronged victim (years prior a group of campers left their drunken camp caretaker Cropsy severely burned when a cruel prank went terribly wrong) returns years later to extract revenge, redeem himself, and shake the ghosts of the past - in extremely violent fashion. The locale is virtually identical, as FRIDAY takes place at Camp Crystal Lake, while THE BURNING is centered around another campground, Camp Blackfoot. And while the Voorhees family harbored an affinity for machetes, Cropsy (who‘s played by Lou David), our killer here - prefers good old fashion pruning shears. Given the amount of flesh these bad boys are ripping through, I’m hoping Cropsy thought to fork out the few extra bucks for a good Craftsmen pair; no doubt he’ll need to utilize that lifetime guarantee. Now as I’ve stated, the milarities between FRIDAY and THE BURNING run (for the most part) parallel, but THE BURNING’s editing, cinematography and acting are all (in my personal opinion) extremely refined, resulting in some of the best early work you’ll find in the slasher sub-genre.
The talent involved in this project is nothing to scoff at, and it’s a wonder the film has flown under the radar for so long. Harvey Weinstein, who’s had a hand in producing some of the better pictures the last three decades have to offer (PULP FICTION, SCREAM, RAMBO, GOOD WILL HUNTING, just to name a select few) made his writing and producing debut with this forgotten treasure, which is currently available on DVD and often surfaces on FEARnet VOD. Director Tony Maylam, while not exactly prolific in his cinematic work ethic - has also gone on to direct a few gems, including the 1992 Sci-Fi shocker SPLIT SECOND (starring Rutger Hauer). Cinematographer Harvey Harrison has lent his skills to many great projects nce THE BURNING, including multiple CHEECH & CHONG flicks (yes, I admit, I’m a fan) as well as REIGN OF FIRE, V FOR VENDETTA and the first two MUMMY remakes (starring Brendan Fraser). Editor Jack Sholder has also earned his stripes over the years. While he has yet to edit another film nce THE BURNING, he’s directed quite a few quality features including ALONE IN THE DARK, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2, and THE HIDDEN. It’s no wonder THE BURNING is such a technically sound picture, that’s one hell of a lineup behind the cameras.
The bottom line is, though THE BURNING is really based upon a paper thin script (although the urban legend has been whispered of for decades), it’s executed with technical brilliance. It’s not flawless by any means, but it’s one of the rare slashers that warrants multiple viewings, and seems to actually get better with time. The gore is good (there‘s an extended veron of the film floating about, featuring some graphic shots by Savini that were cut from the theatrical release, though it’s not exactly easy to find), the acting is impresve, the setting is familiar, but definitely pleasant, and the crew as a whole is top-notch. That’s four legitimate reasons to seek out this campy clasc. Trust me, you won’t regret it.