APRIL 4, 2007
Slashers are my favorite subgenre of horror movie, particularly the ones that followed my beloved Halloween in the late 70s/early 80s. And while I saw most of them by the time I was 15 or so, for some reason The Burning always eluded me. And I have no idea why, as slasher enthusiasts almost always point it out as one of the better examples of the subgenre. Well, I finally saw it today and all I can say (in addition to the following paragraphs I guess) is: I wish I saw it back then.
Because it rips off (or is just plain weaker than) so many other films that I have known and grown up on, this one borderline bored me. Watching it now is sort of like when you’re the poor kid who gets a PS1 around the time the PS2 comes along and no one cares.
That’s a terrible analogy.
Anyway, it’s not a total loss. Savini’s makeup effects (make sure if you watch the film that you are watching the unedited version, damn your eyes) are among his best, and it’s nice to see a killer in the woods who hasn’t apparently brought along half of a hardware store with him, as he uses only one weapon throughout the entire film.
But there are a lot of problems with it. For starters, the Weinsteins (I love how Harvey gives himself the otherwise unheard of and hilarious credit of “Created and Produced by”) are so intent on ripping off Friday the 13th that despite the fact that the killer’s identity is not a mystery (and judging from the 2 seconds we can see it, has a pretty sweet makeup on his head), he is only shown from the waist down until the last scene of the film. Whatever, Harvey. Go ruin Halloween or the Black Christmas remake or something.
Speaking of the killer: what the fuck is up with the pace of this movie? Every slasher that followed Halloween had one agenda: lots of kills. This one has an average body count, but more than half of them occur all at once… at the 60 minute mark! Prior to that, only 2 kills occur, one in the first 5 minutes. A CORPSE EVERY SEVEN MINUTES, PEOPLE! Halloween only had a kill or two in the first hour too, but there the characters were far more interesting and likeable (and Michael was at least fucking with them. The only reason we know Cropsy is around is because every now and then we get a POV shot while he watches someone and then does nothing).
While Cropsy takes his time…. doing anything at all, we are treated to a myriad of sequences of our main group (half of whom don’t even die; another early slasher oddity) playing pranks on one another. Three of our guys are sexual deviants (1 perv and 2 would-be rapists), which has to be a record. Delightful! Actually I must give kudos for the one true kill in the first hour – Cropsy doesn’t kill the asshole who throws his would-be conquest out of the lake for refusing his advances, he kills the girl instead. Nice work. And the raft sequence is pretty great, but it almost seems like it was done in order to ‘catch up’ on kills.
Another oddity – the lead girl is left totally out of the climax, while a guy who is revealed to have been part of the group that fucked Cropsy up in the first place, and also apparently looked totally different five years earlier (it’s only five years guys, just use the same actor and give him a wig) takes him on in a mineshaft that comes out of nowhere. Who wants to watch a dude take on the killer (unless they are going through TV stations in the process)?
It’s admirable that they tried to think outside the box, but their ideas mostly sucked, or were handled poorly (the director also managed to make a bore out of Split Second, a film that features Rutger Hauer as a cop who drinks so much coffee that he becomes attuned the alien monster killer in the sewers. I mean COME ON! How do you fuck THAT up???). And it’s especially aggravating when they squandered having a memorable and iconic killer by almost never showing him (the one thing they rip off directly is the one thing they should have applied their creativity to).
It’s fun at times, and certainly earns some of its praise, but I’d have to say that of all the slashers of the period, this is one of the weakest. Up against something like My Bloody Valentine, it’s not even a blip on the radar.
P.S. Holly Hunter looks incredibly cute in her one scene, er… shot. Literally a blink and you’ll miss it role.
What say you?