Thursday, 14 May 2009

The Burning

Director: Tony Maylam
Writers: Harvey Weinstein and Tony Maylam
USA 1981

"The Burning" is so straightforward it could be a government advisory panel example of the teenagers-in-peril slasher, with a summer camp of high school students being pursued by a maniac with a pair of garden sheers taking up the entire film with little deviation. This simplicity gives the film's other aspects plenty of room to breathe, with a great cast of believable youngsters and an atmospheric lakeside location setting the scene for some old school, bright-red gore (though surprisingly little actual burning).

It takes a while to get going but there are plenty of killings once it does, the garden sheers piercing throats and slicing off fingers, with one astonishing rampage of utter carnage aboard a canoe setting up a devastating scene when it drifts downstream towards the unsuspecting camp. It's filmed beautifully and leaves little room for complaint, but despite being one of the gorier nasties feels a little run-of-the-mill and predictable. Great by teen slasher standards, but falling short of the more intelligent films on the list.

Two things lift "The Burning" considerably: Rick Wakeman's electronic score is fantastic and does a lot for the atmospheric tone of the film, and while it's certainly Goblin-influenced it's a pleasant change to hear a good horror movie score that isn't by the Italian disco-prog-rockers. Secondly and perhaps most importantly "The Burning" stars a young Jason Alexander, aka George Costanza from "Seinfeld", who furthermore has a pretty big part. It's just a shame he isn't one of the ones chopped up with garden sheers. That would have been brilliant.