Y'know, a ton of actors got their big break by starring in slasher films. Right off the top of my head: Darryl Hannah was in The Final Terror; Kevin Bacon costarred in the original Friday the 13th; Tom Hanks even had an appearance in a slasher flick early in his career. So when I started hearing about this slasher film that co-starred Fisher Stevens and Jason Alexander, I was pretty psyched. That movie is The Burning, and get ready for SPOILERS a-plenty.
The film opens with a scene at Camp Blackfoot. I guess Camp Greenfinger was off-limits that year. A group of kids are about to play a late-night prank on Cropsy, their mean-spirited camp janitor/handyman/whatever. There's Jamie, a nerd who apparently stole Sally Jesse Raphael's glasses before filming started; Billy, a guy who looks like a younger, goofier Bradley Cooper; and 2 other guys whose names I missed because the ringleader apparently couldn't master the art of a "stage whisper". Anyway, the guys devise a prank that involves lighting a candle and placing it near his face. Oh, and did I mention that the candle is in a human skull?
When he sees the thing, Cropsy freaks out and knocks it onto his bed with a clumsy hand. This sets off a chain of events where Cropsy sets the bed on fire, spills gasoline all over himself, and sets the cabin on fire before stumbling outside and throwing himself into a nearby body of water. Amazing that he didn't burn the entire camp to the ground.
The very next scene shows a new doctor speaking with a younger aide. The young guy is trying to intimidate him with hospital horror stories, and leads him to Cropsy's room on the Burn Ward. As the new doctor waits at the door, the other guy looks past the curtain around Cropsy's bed and grimaces. As the new guy nervously steps closer to the bed, Cropsy's arm shoots out, and he grabs the aide by the wrist. Cropsy's arm is missing patches of skin and is blackened all around, so the 2 men are understandably surprised. As the aide freaks out, the new doctor runs out the door.
Anyway, the opening credits roll. They must've been pretty damn long, because when the movie resumes, 5 years have passed since the previous scene. Cropsy has had many not-very-successful skin treatments, a lot of counseling, and is now ready to re-enter society. He wraps himself up in a dark jacket, pulls a wide-brimmed hat down to conceal his face, and goes home with a hooker. That makes perfect sense.
She invites him in, then starts making fun of him. Pretty ballsy for a lady whose face looks like a Yeti's afterbirth. She asks him to close the door and take off his clothes, and ol' Cropsy moves across the apartment until she can get a good look at his face. Needless to say, her poker face needs some work. As she keeps giving him the stink-eye, Cropsy approaches the hooker, and starts choking her. That doesn't keep her from flopping around like a goldfish, so he finishes her off by stabbing her in the midsection with a pair of scissors. Then he puts her head through a window. I remember this being a whole lot funnier in Pretty Woman.
The next scene shows a serene lake. It's Camp Stonewater, according to the subtitle that pops up. What happened to Camp Blackfoot??? Is the movie going to keep switching camps on me every 15 minutes or so? Well, whatever the name of the camp, let's meet our new victims: there's Eddie, a vulgar guy who thinks he's God's gift to women; Tiger, a girl who looks like she auditioned for the Molly Ringwald role in "The Facts of Life", but lost out on fame and fortune; Karen, Eddie's nervous, innocent girlfriend; Sally, a cute blond who has a shower scene seconds after we meet her; Alfred, a young pervert; Dave, played by Jason Alexander; Todd, one of the head counselors on the boys' side of the camp; and Glazer, a bully who thinks he runs the place. There are many, many others as well, but fuck if I can tell you any of their names. This has to be the first slasher film in history with a cast of a billion or so. It's like an Altman film, except I'm interested in it.
Anyway, there are a few fake scares right off the bat: Tiger runs into the woods during a friendly game of softball, and Cropsy lurks nearby. He even raises a very dangerous-looking pair of shears over his head, but does nothing to the girl. Then, we get Alfred's aforementioned peepshow in the shower, followed by Glazer threatening his life, both of which also go nowhere. So far this movie's about as thrilling as an Amish porno.
The next day, Alfred is hanging out with his buddies, who include Jason Alexander(with HAIR!!) and a very young-looking Fisher Stevens in an early film role, playing a guy named Woodstock. As his buddies all go swimming, Alfred lingers behind and watches jealously as they flirt with the girls. Glazer rushes up behind him and shoves Alfred off the dock, not realizing that Alfred can't swim. His buddies rescue him while Glazer meets up with the girls.
Shaken by nearly drowning, Alfred perks up at the mention of revenge. He and his buddies get their hands on a pellet gun, and fire it at Glazer's ass. He gets all bent out of shape as both guys and girls laugh at him. When the guys moon him, Glazer then gets shoved into the water by the girls. Wait, is this The Burning or Meatballs???
That night, Dave delivers porn mags to all the guys. He also bought condoms for Glazer, but Glazer refuses to reimburse him. While all of this is going on, Cropsy lingers outside the cabin, and Alfred catches a glimpse of his burnt face. Alfie freaks out, but no one else sees the face. As Glazer accuses him of lying, Todd arrives to get them all together for dinner in the mess hall. Woodstock leaves to get a vitamin. Exciting stuff.
The head of the camp stands up to make some announcements. The biggie is basically that most of the folks we've met so far are going to be canoeing down a body of water called Devil's Creek, and will be gone for 3 days. Gosh, nothing ominous about that.
Woodstock gets back to the cabin and starts looking for his pills. As he finds them, a noise startles him. He sees a figure enter the cabin, and when the person gets next to him, Woodstock turns his flashlight back on. It's only Todd, who escorts Woodstock back to dinner. Nobody dies.
All right, I'm starting to get a little pissed here....Is this thing even a slasher flick? I mean, yeah, there was the hooker...but she was making fun of a burn victim. Why hasn't Cropsy killed anyone else yet? Why didn't he go after the group who hurt him in the first place? If these idiots don't start dying in the next 10 minutes or so, I'm declaring this a non-slasher and watching Friday the 13th Part 6 instead.
So where were we? Oh right, the big friggin' canoe trip. 5-6 canoes of campers and counselors take off, to the tune of banjo music. Fantastic. They all start splashing each other with the oars. Anyway, that night, Todd tells them all the story of Cropsy and Camp Blackfoot. He claims that Cropsy's downfall was his temper, and that his mean nature was what led to the prank that disfigured him. He also says that Cropsy vowed revenge for the prank, right before vanishing. As he's telling the tale, Todd distracts them enough for one of the counselors to spring up from behind. dressed in a black robe, waving a knife around, and wearing a mask. Yet again, no one dies.
In the next scene, Karen and Eddie wander off together for some time alone. When Eddie makes a move on her, she backs off. Despite this, the couple wind up skinny-dipping. They kiss, but start fighting. Karen goes back to get dressed, only to find that her clothes have been taken. She realizes that the thief left them on tree branches, and starts to follow the trail, plucking one item at a time. After Karen gets her shirt back, Cropsy cuts her throat, and leaves her to die. FINALLY!! After about an hour, we have a dead hooker and a dead skinny-dipper. At a rate of 2 kills an hour, this thing should satisfy me at around the 7-hour mark.
The next morning, Eddie is accused of harming Karen. After she failed to return to camp, bystanders reported that she had been last seen going towards the lake with Eddie. Todd and his girlfriend, Michelle imply that they think Eddie raped Karen, but before he can defend himself, a group of girls run up and yell that the canoes have vanished. Todd and Michele assume that Karen took one to go back to the main campground, but disagree over whether or not she had anything to do with the other boats disappearing.
In the very next scene, the group discusses their dire situation. Glazer implies that he believes Alfred to be the prankster, but no one sides with him on that one. Oh, and there's a close-up of a girl who looks like Holly Hunter. Weird. One scene. Anyway, Michelle suggests walking back, but Todd quickly shoots down that plan, claiming that the forest is too dense to hike through for such a long distance. Instead, they all agree to break off into groups and search for the missing canoes.
Alone after the pow-wow, Todd and Michelle discuss their unease over both Karen's disappearance and the missing canoes, and agree that they seem related somehow. Incredibly, they somehow avoid fighting over it. Man, the only thing more tedious than this would be a scene involving Fisher Stevens, Jason Alexander, and some other kid looking for the canoes while engaged in pointless, unfunny banter.
Aw damn. Well, while they're wasting precious killing time, let's see what's on TV....Oh, hey, it's the episode of "Family Guy" where Brian becomes a drug-sniffing dog, and eventually gets addicted to cocaine. Is the stupid scene over yet? It is? A girl suggested making a milk carton into a raft? SHEESH.
Okay, so Glazer tries making a move on another girl, but it goes nowhere. I know the feeling. The campers finally gather enough wood to start building a raft, and decide that a small group should use it, and send help for the rest when they return to Camp Stonewater or Firecrotch or whatever the hell it's called. Dude, I stopped caring about 15 minutes into this turkey.
Oh good, Cropsy's back. He's apparently sneaking up on Glazer and Sally, the girl who showed off her acting talents in the shower scene earlier in the film. Also watching them is Alfred. Man, wouldn't it be a riot if HE killed everyone before Cropsy got the chance?
Ah well, no one died in that scene either. I swear, this movie is like a slasher flick conceived by Gandhi. Luckily, I think it's nearly over. Sweet relief, I can almost see the light! The raft launches, and the group includes Woodstock and Eddie. There's also a girl who looks like Shrek, the other generic male kid I keep forgetting the name of, and some pouty brunette chick. In other words, nobody we could give 2 shits about. Yay.
They spot one of the canoes in the water, and start paddling toward it. Awesome scene coming up, so get ready. As they row closer to the drifting canoe, they all get pretty jazzed up. They get close enough to touch it, and that's when Cropsy leaps up, shears raised over his head.(Incidentally, the scenes of him killing people always seem to show this same shot, regardless of time of day, the position of the victim, or even the placement of Cropsy himself. Nice continuity, movie.)
Anyway, Cropsy gets them all. He starts with the generic boy, stabbing him first in the shoulder, then in the stomach. He slices through pouty brunette's shirt, presumably stabbing her in either the chest or stomach, before slicing off Woodstock's fingers. Eddie gets it pretty fast, with the shears going into his neck just under the chin, and Shrekella gets a lobotomy as the shears slice through her forehead in one rapid motion. As blood drips into the water, the screen fades to red. Nice touch.
They follow up the raft massacre with another scene featuring Todd and Michelle. They're holding hands, kissing, discussing their future together...geez, throw in a long walk on a beach and it's an ad for feminine hygiene products! Hey movie, can you show us a less-boring couple?
Glazer and Sally? Really? Oh, fine. They just finished screwing like bunnies, and Sally seems kind of bored. When Glazer seems hurt by her non-gasm, she offers to let him try again. Before they do it again, Glazer decides to go find some matches, so he can build a fire. He gets up, and Cropsy gets an eyeful of his ass. The nanosecond that he leaves, Cropsy attacks Sally. The scene ends before we see what happens.
Glazer steals the matches right in front of Alfred, who pretends to be asleep, then follows Glazer. At one point, Glazer even looks back at him, which HAS to be a blooper. Anyway, Glazer kneels beside Sally's sleeping bag, assuming that she's asleep. She's not...and Cropsy leaps out of the sleeping bag to embed his weapon into Glazer's neck. He then lifts Glazer off his feet and sticks him to a tree.
Alfred runs back to camp, and wakes up Todd. Todd doesn't buy his story entirely, but agrees to go with him to check it out. They find Glazer, and Todd gets hit in the side of the head by Cropsy, which sends Alfred running again. While Alfred tries hiding, Todd wakes up. He looks around.
The raft drifts back to the remaining stranded campers, and they start to get excited. Todd returns to the camp just in time to see Michelle swimming out to retrieve the raft. As he watches in horror, she reaches the raft and a bloody arm falls toward her face. She dodges it, and Woodstock's corpse smacks into her. Pretty much everyone starts screaming like banshees.
Amid all the sobbing and shocked expressions, nobody seems to notice that Sally, Alfred and Glazer are all absent. Albert's still running and hiding fromn Cropsy, and he chooses a large formation of rocks to hide beneath so that he can catch his breath. Sadly, he fails to realize that Cropsy is standing on top of the rock, right over his head. Oops. Alfred starts to stagger away, and Cropsy lets him go. Weird.
The rest of the campers embark on the raft, on a magical journey of wonder, and learn a ton of valuable life-lessons along the way. Nahhhhh, I'm just messing with ya, but they do all travel on the blood-soaked Death Raft. When Tiger complains that the paddling is hurting her arms, Michelle tells them that stopping will basically sign their death warrants. Nice.
Todd stays behind to try and save Alfred, who is now lost in the woods. Both are running at a pretty good clip, so I'm sure that Cropsy will hear all the noise and kill at least one of them. IHOPEIHOPEIHOPE.....
Back at Camp Bongwater, the raft finally comes ashore. As all of the traumatized kids get back on dry land, the camp director demands to know why they didn't come back in the canoes. When Michelle tells him about the massacre, he accuses them of pulling some kind of prank, until she lashes out at him.
Alfred finds an abandoned campground, and pauses there to rest again. He still doesn't realize that the killer is watching his every move. I detected something behind him moving, but it must have been just some wind, because the scene ends without anything else happening to poor Albert. Briefly, we see Michelle worrying that the authorities won't make it in time to find Alfred and Todd before the killer does.
Curious, Alfred decides to start exploring the abandoned site he found. He ducks around walls, creeps and peers through cracks...he thinks he's a Nerd Ninja, I swear. The exact moment he decides it's safe, Cropsy reaches around a wall and grabs him up by the neck. Todd hears them, but can't pinpoint their location.
Cropsy gags Albert's mouth, then begins torturing him. He starts by opening a pair of shears and uses them to pin the boy's arm to the wall. The teenager's screams of pain draw Todd to the abandoned campsite, and he quickly starts exploring the buildings. When he finds the rusty door where Albert was dragged, he enters.
Inside, it's very dark and dusty. Todd holds his axe close and searches the building slowly, trying not to alert Cropsy. He finds some mining equipment and carts, and when he turns his back, one of the carts rolls downhill, right at him. Todd gets thrown off his feet and crashes through a wall into another room, where he comes face to face with a bloody female corpse.
Cropsy lights a flamethrower, and starts hunting for Todd. Then, as the two start to come face to face, there's a flashback to the night Cropsy was set on fire. It turns out that Todd the Counselor was once Todd the Camper, and was one of the boys responsible for what happened to Cropsy.
Before they meet again, Cropsy turns off the flamethrower. Todd emerges from his hiding spot and searches for the disfigured maniac, while Albert tries in vain to get loose and tell Todd where he is being kept. Todd explores some more, and literally bumps into Cropsy, whose face makes Sloth from The Goonies look like a major stud.
Sloth--Uh, I mean "Cropsy", re-lights his weapon. He and Todd have a duel right in front of Alfred, complete with lightsaber sound effects. I shit you not, their weapons whoosh and hum while they fight. Cropsy makes Todd drop the axe, and waves the flamethrower in a menacing sweep as the idiot realizes how far up Shit Creek he really is. Albert finally gets the shears off of his arm and stabs Cropsy with them, making the killer drop the flamethrower.
The rescue helicopter arrives, and Todd and Albert start to leave the deserted campground. Cropsy leaps at them out of nowhere, and throws himself at Albert, so Todd buries the hatchet squarely in Cropsy's deformed forehead. Albert then seals the deal by burning Cropsy's body. They watch Cropsy get engulfed in the flames. then leave to try and get rescued.
The final scene shows that the whole thing was being told around a campfire. The storyteller claims that Cropsy's charred remains were never found. Every summer, he supposedly finds a different summer camp to lurk at, and picks new victims. As the counselor wraps up his tale, there's an implication that Cropsy is in the woods, watching the campers. THE END
Not great, but better than I expected it to be. If The Burning ever gets remade, hopefully they can work on the pacing of the kills a bit better. On the plus side, it was cool to see so many familiar actors in a film looong before there careers went anywhere. It was similar to Madman and Friday the 13th, but I still enjoyed the cheesiness of everything in it. 3 and a half killer trees out of 5 for The Burning.
Oh, and what have I learned from this week's slasherfest?
-Burn victims get stronger the more they get burnt.
-All you need to do to name a campground is choose a color and a body part, and VOILA!, you have a camp! I'm starting Camp PurpleAss right after I post this.
-Hookers have standards. I'm screwed, if that's the case.
Next up: Friday the 13th 6: Jason Lives, which was the first one I ever saw in a theatre. Ah, sweet memories of my youth...See ya next week!