Review Date: October 26, 2007
Released by: Fox/MGM
Release date: 09/11/2007
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
is here. It has arrived. The last “big” slasher title yet to be released on DVD has finally made it to the format. Though, there are still plenty of fan favorites missing in action (Curtains, Bloody Moon, Sweet Sixteen), Tony Maylam’s The Burning
has long been somewhat of a legend among horror and slasher fans. Most of the reason, deservedly, goes toward Tom Savini’s amazing FX work on the film. I remember growing up reading Fangoria and seeing interviews with Tom where he mentioned the film in passing. Later on, when the internet came to be, I read reviews of it at sites like Hysteria! and Terror Trap and knew that it was a film that I needed to see ASAP. Many fans have stories similar to mine regarding The Burning
and similar films of its stature. We all see Friday the 13th
on store shelves, having three and four re-releases on DVD. Films like The Burning
, however, we have to actually make an effort to seek out and obtain. I found my Thorn-EMI VHS copy of The Burning
on eBay around five years ago, and have been crazy about it ever since…even though what I had was the R-Rated cut. Search no more, fans, owning The Burning
is only a few clicks away with an online order, and the long-awaited disc from MGM is definitely an easy must-purchase.
The movie opens on a peaceful, if mischievous night at Camp Blackfoot. A group of campers upset with the crude, overbearing, camp maintenance man, Cropsy, decide to play a harmless prank to shut him up once and for all. As the “prank gone wrong” motif has been utilized in other slashers, you probably know how this one is going to turn out. Cropsy ends up with severe burns all over his body. After some time of recovery, numerous skin grafts end up not working, leaving him (although unseen by the audience until the end) a melted, deformed monster of a man.
Time passes and Cropsy is released from the hospital. Camp Blackfoot is still open and camping season just started. One by one, someone begins murdering campers in gruesome ways. Is it Cropsy, wanting revenge? This slasher, unlike others of the time, is not a clue-laiden murder mystery. It is indeed the monstrous Cropsy maniac who is terrorizing and butchering the new batch of campers.
What is interesting about The Burning
is that it features a supporting cast of three future stars: Seinfeld
’s Jason Alexander, Early Edition
’s Fisher Stevens, and Raising Arizona
’s Holly Hunter. Despite the performances of any of the cast, however, Tom Savini’s gruesome, realistic FX are the star here. Previously only exposed to the R rated VHS cut from Thorn-EMI home video, I was shocked at the ferocity and realism of the kills (especially during the notorious raft sequence). Cropsy, for the most part, is a very human killer. During the raft sequence, however, he does venture into more supernatural territory (offing five campers within mere seconds of each other). This sequence alone raises Cropsy to the level of Jason Voorhees, Madman Marz, or Michael Myers. I don’t imagine the killer from Prom Night
being able to dispatch of five people at once, can you?
Also on display to effective use in the film is a spooky, stirring synthesizer score by Yes keyboardist, Rick Wakeman. I would go so far as to say that the score for The Burning
is among the very best of early 80’s slashers. It lends the film an eerie edge over other slashers without a creepy synth score (why, oh why, did House on Sorority Row
have a score that sounded like a Lifetime Original Movie?)
Though the story is clichéd in hindsight, this film was made during the pinnacle year of 1981. From the box office numbers of the slashers from this period, people didn’t mind the fact that they’d seen this film’s story played out a time or two before, they just knew they liked the formula. The Burning
is no different. Everything from the story, to the killer, to the weapon screams ‘slasher film’. While a lot of slasher film detractors criticize the films as just Halloween
or Friday the 13th
rip-offs, at heart, I don’t think the general public mind repetition in films, if the “rip-off” is a good one. The term rip-off upsets me, though. Yes, there is a formula to slashers, but I think there are formulas to every sub-genre. Westerns primarially follow a paradigm of action as the story unfolds. Monster movies are the same way. Is there only supposed to be one western or monster movie ever made? No. The genre would be dead if it weren’t for the so-called rip-offs of the world. I guess my point in all this is that, rip-off or not, the horror genre is definitely better for having The Burning
be a part of it.
For the most part, the picture quality is great. This is leaps and bounds better than my original VHS copy. There were a few select moments where film grain seemed heavier than others, but it didn’t detract from the film at all. I think sometimes, films like this are in danger of looking too good on DVD, which can hurt their gritty nature. The Burning
is definitely a gritty, not pretty film. The picture quality of the DVD doesn’t hinder this tone one bit. If you want a beautiful slasher, watch Columbia’s transfer of Happy Birthday to Me. While much improved over previous releases, clear, and vivid, MGM’s transfer of The Burning
still wears that vintage ’81 proudly on its sleeve.
The jump scares in this film have never sounded better! Crisp and clear, the audio had none of the interference, popping or hissing that you’ll find in budget or bootleg releases of films. MGM did a terrific job cleaning up the film’s original mono track. For those who are hearing impaired, the disc has a close captioned feature, with additional subtitles in English, Spanish, or French.
Provided on the disc are a few added extras. A 17-minute featurette on the making of the movie, titled “Blood n’ Fire”. The featurette is mostly one-sided, as the only person interviewed is Tom Savini. We get no recollections of any of the cast, the man who played Cropsy, the Weinsteins (did I neglect to mention that the film was produced by Harvey and Bob?), Wakeman, or even Jack Sholder (the film’s editor, who went on to direct the 1982 slasher, Alone in the Dark
and A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge
). Instead, all we get is a filmed interview and some home movie footage behind the scenes by Savini and his thoughts on several different aspects of the film. It’s interesting, but I wish a more complete behind the scenes look had been produced. I’ve heard Jason Alexander has fond memories of the film (something rare for slasher alumni) and I’m sure, if asked, he would’ve agreed to an interview. All said, the featurette is still worth watching.
The disc also contains an audio commentary by director Tony Maylam and film journalist Alan Jones. The commentary is informative, never too entertaining or engaging, but not truly dull either. Fairly middle of the road fare here.
Not listed on the back of the box, but present on the disc are a photo gallery and a truly great original theatrical trailer for the film. Trailers for Jeepers Creepers
, Jeepers Creepers 2
, and MGM’s current catalog horror promotion are also included. For as highly anticipated as this film’s arrival on DVD was, I was shocked that MGM didn’t give it the full Last House on the Left
, Return of the Living Dead
, or even From Beyond
treatment. Still, the extras are enough to satisfy most fans, and at the very least, it’s definitely not a barebones package.
The cover art, for a re-design, is pretty cool. I always thought the poster and box art for this film was fairly weak, so seeing Cropsy in silhouette was perfectly fine with me. And, they did use the original font from one of the soundtrack album releases, after-all.
is one of the best slasher movies, period. If you dig films like [b]My Bloody Valentine, Happy Birthday to Me
, etc (that is to say, if you have been exposed to and enjoy slashers other than Halloween
and Friday the 13th
) you will find much to love in The Burning
. MGM has given us the full, uncut version with every second of Savini’s sanguinary FX work intact.
While the disc pales in comparison to what a company like Blue Underground, Dark Sky, or Anchor Bay would’ve given the title, considering the fact that right up until just days before its release, many fans still didn’t believe that it was actually coming out, we should be thankful that it’s been released at all. If ever there were a true undiscovered gem of the slasher sub-genre, it would have to be The Burning
Movie - A-
Image Quality - B+
Sound - B+
Supplements - B
- Running time - 1 hour 35 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English mono
- English subtitles
- Spanish subtitles
- French subtitles
- English closed captions
- Audio commentary with director Tony Maylam and film journalist Alan Jones
- Tom Savini interview
- Theatrical trailer
- Still gallery
- MGM previews