Now Playing: THE BURNING
1981's THE BURNING is one of the more interesting FRIDAY THE 13TH ripoffs. It went into production while FRIDAY was still in theaters, and was released in May '81. Set at an upstate New York summer camp, the story is nearly identical to FRIDAY: caretaker Cropsy is hideously burned during a prank pulled by some boys at summer camp, and returns five years later to slaughter the new crop of teens with a pair of mega-sharp garden shears. After a good opening scene (featuring a marvelous full body burn in which the flaming stuntman rolls down a hill into a lake), THE BURNING lies low while it introduces us to its typically fun-loving cast of horny teenage pranksters, who spend all of their time playing gags on each other and trying to get into the opposite sex's pants. It isn't until the halfway mark that the carnage really begins. And, oh what carnage it is.
Tom Savini, the goremeister who created the startlingly realistic makeup effects for FRIDAY THE 13TH, performed the same chores here, and they are astonishing, at least in the uncut version. The theatrical release and early home video versions were missing 45 seconds of gore that had to be trimmed to get an R rating from the MPAA. A few years ago, MGM accidentally put out the original X-rated version on videocassette, and that's the print I was able to watch tonight. It's hard to imagine watching THE BURNING without those seconds, as Savini's handiwork is about the only reason to watch what is basically just another teen slasher flick.
There is another reason to watch, and that is THE BURNING's cast of soon-to-be-famous actors. I can't think of any other horror movie of the era where so many actors went on to have solid careers. First and foremost is Jason Alexander, seen here as fast-talking Dave (with hair), who went on to become a very rich man as George Costanza on SEINFELD. Alexander has one of the bigger roles in THE BURNING...as well as an ass shot! This was his first motion picture.
Also in THE BURNING:
* Holly Hunter, whose role is much smaller than Alexander's. She's harder to find--I don't think she even has a closeup--but her Georgia drawl stands out.
* Brian Backer, who played Rat in FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH
* Leah Ayres, a pretty woman who went on to lots of TV and movie work, including BLOODSPORT and Marcia Brady in the 1990 TV series THE BRADYS
* Ned Eisenberg, one of those That Guys who seems to play a lawyer in every other episode of the LAW & ORDER franchise. You've seen him a million times
* Larry Joshua, who has guest-starred in tons of shows, including a semi-regular gig on NYPD BLUE. You'll likely recognize his raspy voice too.
* Fisher Stevens, just before SHORT CIRCUIT and one of the few BURNING cast members who actually was a teenager
Just as surprising are the film's producer and its co-writer: Harvey and Bob Weinstein. THE BURNING was their very first film. Brad Grey, who is now the president of Paramount Pictures, was a co-writer and "production consultant." Rick Wakeman of Yes (!) composed the score. The editor was Jack Sholder, who made his directing debut a year later with a good horror film, ALONE IN THE DARK.
Although the quality of THE BURNING doesn't set the film apart from most other slasher flicks that appeared in FRIDAY THE 13TH enormous wake, its cast and crew certainly does.