31 October 2012

The Burning

It's always been my policy to avoid posting horror movies during October since everyone else already has that genre pretty well beaten to death. But since I had to do this one more or less on assignment, I'll throw it out there, on Halloween day no less, just to contradict myself.

United States - 1981
Director - Tony Maylam

Mostly forgotten until it’s re-release on DVD in 2007, The Burning has earned a minor reputation among horror enthusiasts. It is true that the slasher genre, begun definitively with 1978’s Halloween but presaged in the stalker thriller movies of the foregoing decade, has a limited appeal. But after thirty years and numerous remakes, it’s much easier to look at the originals as ‘classics.’

So why is it that despite being one of the earliest entries in the genre, The Burning was until recently a relic? Despite a relatively large budget, it suffered from the typical maladies; bad acting and a predictable story. In fact, The Burning is a near copy of its predecessor, 1980’s Friday the 13th. Instead of being murdered by a protective mother, this passel of summer campers are killed by a vengeful groundskeeper hideously burned in a pre-credit prank. 1981 was probably too early for there to be a slasher formula per se, but not for lack of The Burning trying.

That’s what is appealing about this film however. It doesn’t try to out-think itself, it puts on no pretensions or fancy twists to keep things surprising because there was not yet a need to do so. It’s important to remember that just a week before this film, Friday the 13th Part 2 was released followed by Holloween 2 in October of that year. By the end of the decade the three major slasher franchises would have spawned a total of fifteen sequels and countless knockoffs. In retrospect I see The Burning as one of the most honest of its cohort for it has nothing to hide and goes straight for the guts.

This rad poster comes from Phantom City Creative


Ryan W. Featherston said...

I thought the DVD was released in 2007.

The Goodkind said...

That is true, It screened at several foreign festivals in 2003 but the MGM DVD, the one I have came out in '07. Ooops, thanks for pointing that out.