Friday, February 6, 2009
The Burning Review
Yesterday I had a huge blow out at work. Well, it wasn't bad, it was just very hard to understand. I work with two former movie store clerks, so my level of movie critique and viewing should fit in well with them. We can go back and forth through the 80's a lot and then it hit me. They haven't seen anything pre-1980! I asked outright and they were quick to divulge the details, one stating that no film before 1980 is worth looking at and that most movies before that era are boring! What an outright lie! I gathered my wits and just closed off, I can't argue film with these guys. So I went home and watched a 1981 slasher film that was written and produced by the two biggest guys in Hollywood...the Weinsteins, The Burning. So today, we have an interesting review for you to read and try to follow along with. I present for your reading displeasure, my review of the 1981 film, The Burning.
Ah yes, that great slasher cinema feeling. Tom Savini was given a mere 3 dayst o come up with effects for our killer, and it shows. The setting is an old camp site, and teenagers are getting killed off in brutal murders. Sounds like a Friday the 13th rip off, and you know what? It sort of is in a way. A good idea, and a lot better looking than "Sleepaway Camp" but who cares right? This stands on its own as a cool looking, great slasher film, or does it?
Here is a trailer for the 1981 slasher film The Burning:
The story starts off like a lot of other slasher films from this era. A group of kids play a prank on someone and it goes terribly wrong. That person returns to get revenge and kills off the new generation of kids at the camp, while trying to get revenge on the original campers, one of which is now a counselor. Simple plot, and overall a little standard, but it wasn't scene that often in 1981. At least not yet anyway.
There are notable actors in this film, including Jason Alexander and Holly Hunter, but aren't main characters. The acting isn't too bad, but it definitely doesn't feel like the people in the movie are teenagers. They look much older and therefore kind of ruin the perception of youth.
There are a lot of gore effects, but they do seem a little rushed. The blood in this film is really thin and flows like water, rather than blood. There are moments where the kills are just sophomoric to say the least. The camera also cuts away a lot for a rated R slasher film, and I don't know why. The movie really feels bigger than the sum of its parts, but the edits are just done with haste and really make you dislike the overall tone, which is supposed to be serious.
There are plot holes. There are big plot holes. My main argument initially, was why didn't anyone call the police? Seriously, why didn't anyone call law enforcement? It seems that finding a raft of dead bodies isn't alarming enough. Plus a camper goes missing, after being killed, and no one does anything but blame her boyfriend. I guess this is all explained away with the time and place of the film. Apparently, if you went to a sleepaway camp, you automatically have no communication with the outside world. I know cell phones don't exist, and there is no internet, but come on! There's no phones at all? Even the ill fated Nickelodeon show "Salute Your Shorts" had pay phones! Ok, I admit that was a cheap way to get "Salute Your Shorts" a little attention, but come on, I like that show.
Is The Burning Scary?: Yes. This movie is scary on several notes. Sure the movie plays like a terrible drama with cookie cutter plot sequences and stupid murders. However, there is a serious tone to the film that can not be ignored and definitely offers a good scare.
First and foremost, we see the notion that sex will kill you. At least if you have sex at camp. The campers that have sex in these slasher films from the 80's get killed. It's a rule, and it's sad to think that teen sex, usually means death for you and your loved one in these horror movies. It's scary to think that someone thought this was a way to make sex scary, or even doing the wrong thing scary. Death is no punishment for this "crime" and it's scary to think that if you're alone in the woods, you're done for. On second though, it was the 80's and AIDS was starting to becoming a national epidemic, so maybe there was a good point to all that.
Secondly, the idea of revenge is explored here. The campers get revenge on what I assume is a janitor or groundskeeper. Later in the film is is explained that the kids didn't like the groundskeeper because he was a tyrant of sorts. Their prank goes wrong and the guy gets burned into an unrecognizable monster. He then comes back to kill! The disfigurement of the victim is sad, but is losing your identity (your face) worth killing for? That idea of psychological trauma due to facial disfigurement is a scary thing. What would you do if you lost your face? Think about how much money is spent on advertisements for acne medicine. Think about how much pressure there is to have clear skin, or to lose wrinkles, now consider this man's plight. He's sleeping and kids play a prank, next thing you know he's terribly disfigured and is now going to have the "mark of Cain" for the rest of his life! Is it something to kill over? Maybe not, but it seems like a nice metaphor here to the lifestyle obsession that we all have with clear skin, nice skin, and/or anti-aging. Disfigurement comes unnaturally painful in this film, and the disfigurement ruins this mans life. That is a scary notion. The notion that you could go insane if you lose your looks, and furthermore are burned into a monster. This is 1981 afterall, the only major plastic surgery that I'm aware of being popular in those days was breast augmentation and it hadn't hit like it is today. The Burning may not have set out to be a film that had serious implications on the psyche, or to make you think, but I sure thought about that idea when presented this film. I like to think that movies, even scary movies, have unintentional morality tales and showcase a mirror for us to view life in general.
Lastly, the scariest thing is probably the most simple. As parents, a lot of times we (I'm not a parent, but I use the "we" in the sentence for dramatic tone), are over protective. I know parents that only feed their kids organic foods, or don't even vaccinate their kids. We try to put them in a bubble so that the outside world doesn't get in. Then they grow up and they go to camp. Today we don't fear such things because of modern communication technology and how far it reaches. However, in 1981, going to camp might induce anxiety for many people. I know I would be scared if I were a parent and saw The Burning or other great Camp Slasher films. The Burning presents camp as a carefree, sex filled, murderous place. Sure it probably isn't like that in real life, and I began to think about that too. These films were made by people that most likely went to camp and thought it would be scary if this happened. Ruining camp forever! It's really the same kind of effect that we are seeing from the information age. We have so many people freaked out about some frivolous things like Bird Flu, Peanut Allergies, and global pandemics that really don't reach as far as the children we are trying to protect. Camp nightmare movies can and probably do induce fear into parents and teens that only propel the idea of "Camp Camp" or novelty. One such case is the interesting social comedic book by the title "Camp Camp" by Roger Bennett and Jules Shell. The scariest notion about this film is that you are in a place of assumed safety, Camp. Even with the illusion of safety present, you are still in a place that can go terribly wrong! Seriously, terribly wrong! Making The Burning a scary film.
I admit, I'm really trying hard here. I try hard to come up with something interesting to talk about in these reviews, and yes, they are a bit absurd at times. However, if you sit down and think about why these films can be scary, you might find a new appreciation for horror films. I know I do, and that's why I started this blog. The Burning is a good overall film. Sure it has its flaws, but hey, I can forgive the flaws because there are some good moments in this film. Savini might of had his hands tied in regards to the special effects, but he did the best he could given the circumstances. I would have to say this goes right up there with my picks for best camp slaughter films, and you know what? The genre needs a good kick in the nuts. Then again, when's the last time you went to summer camp? Thought so.
As a Bonus, check out my top 5 comedic camp movies. These 5 films will make you laugh or cry, and you know what? Sometimes a little comedy goes a long way to balance out the top camp horror movies list that I posted earlier in the life of scary film blog. Anyways...here you go, my top 5 all time comedic camp movies (which aren't horror films, so don't kill me, it's a bonus)
5. Salute Your Shorts - Technically not a movie, but the show was hilarious. I wish they had a dvd set for this show as it is one of my favorite childhood nickelodeon television shows. I recently read an article with Donkey Lips, good guy, hilarious still. Remember that one dude from Salute Your Shorts that was in T2? Wonder what happened with all that. Oh well.
4. Camp Nowhere - Lord of the Flies comes to life in this hilarious romp. The movie had a terrible first and third act, but the middle was fun. The premise basically answers the question: What if we (teenagers) started our own camp?...hilarity ensues. Oh and thrown in Christopher Loyd.
3. Wet Hot American Summer - A parody of camp comedies, that you either loved or hated. I personally thought it was funny, but it's been a while.
2. Heavyweights - Heavyweights is a Judd Apatow written romp through hell and back. Well, first you go to heaven with the premise of a fun fat camp, then you go to hell when Ben Stiller shows up as a weightloss guru! Hilarity once again ensues. You learn to be yourself in this Disney film, but it's a funny one.
1. Meatballs 2 - Meatballs 2 gets my pic as the kids at the crappy camp have to battle Camp Patton. Hilarious movie with a cool Space Alien that smokes weed and can go through walls. Hilarious! My favorite Camp Comedy of all time, it's hilarious.
That concludes the little bonus here, sorry it's not much, but hey, it's a bonus.
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