The Burning Is The ‘Other’ 80s Camping Slasher Horror Fans Should See

Happy first day of summer! And what better way to kick off a a summer of horror then with a classic 80s camping slasher. On this site, we’ve shown plenty of love to Friday the 13th and even done a review of Madman. Like Madman, The Burning was both a Friday the 13th ripoff and a take on the Cropsey urban legend. While it’s not a tier-one 80s slasher like its source material or A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Burning also never etched its way into horror fans’ consciousness like other B-level subgenre candidates. Much of its infamy came from its placement on the UK’s ‘video nasties‘ list and Tom Savini’s effects work. Nevertheless, The Burning remains one of the better ‘Golden Era’ slashers you may not have seen.


Several years ago, at Camp Blackfoot, a harmless prank on the camp’s caretaker Cropsy goes horribly wrong. Five years later, Camp Blackfoot has been closed and replaced by Camp Stonewater. New camp, new counselors, and new campers. But Cropsy hasn’t forgotten and he hasn’t forgiven. After years of failed skin grafts and treatment, the now deformed former caretaker has returned. And he has vengeance on his mind.

The Burning Coasts on Some of Tom Savini’s Best Work

Following the unexpected box office success of Friday the 13th, studios rushed out several derivative slashers that doubled down on the formula tentatively laid out by Sean S. Cunningham. Over the next few years, the slasher formula would be hammered out by these knock-off’s. And amidst the imitators, a handful of 80s slashers found their own success and stood out from the pack. Where The Burning stands among the B-level entries of the subgenre is somewhat hard to figure out. Even more casual horror fans likely know movies like Terror Train and Prom Night. But The Burning, while not obscure, is a rougher-around-the-edges, low budget 80s slasher along the same lines as Madman. Diehard horror fans know and likely love it; casual horror fans probably missed out.

The kills in The Burning are ugly, brutal, and often disturbing. Most importantly, Savini’s work is convincing even with a lower budget.

In spite of its lower budget and deliberate re-hashing of Friday the 13th, The Burning stands out as one of the better B-level 80s slashers. First and foremost, make-up effects guru Tom Savini puts some of his best work up on the screen. The kills in The Burning are ugly, brutal, and often disturbing. Most importantly, Savini’s work is convincing even with a lower budget. Whether it’s the opening kill or the infamous raft scene, Savini operates on a different level. Gorehounds should have nothing but the utmost appreciation for The Burning. Though director Tony Maylam never did much else of note after this slasher, he paces the story really well and manages a handful of effective jumps. He also throws in some typical 80s teen sex movie moments that add a bit of fun in between the kills.

The Burning Has One of the More Surprising ‘Before They Were Famous’ Casts in Slasher History

Without a doubt, The Burning gained most, if not all, of its infamy from ‘the raft scene’. After all, it’s this scene that put The Burning on the UK ‘video nasties’ list during the brief moral panic over horror movie violence. Part of what makes the scene work so well is the disbelief that anything can really happen. Technically, there’s not much that makes sense about what happens from a logic or story-telling perspective. Truth be told, the entire scene is just a showcase for Tom Savini to unleash some of his best work. Despite some obvious budgetary limitations, there’s a reason ‘the raft scene’ generated buzz. The only other scene that comes close to this one is Cropsey’s murder of camp bully, Glazer, which is another subgenre standout.

The Burning gained most, if not all, of its infamy from ‘the raft scene’.

Another interesting aspect of The Burning is its casting. And no, the main cast – which included Brian Matthews, Leah Ayres, and Brian Backer – went on to do very little of notice. Arguably, Leah Ayres’ supporting role in the Jean-Claude Van Damme action hit, Bloodsport, is the most significant accomplishment among the top-billed cast. But take a look at the supporting cast. For starters, Holly Hunter turns up in a very small role. And yes, it’s a small role. But it is Holly Hunter in a low-budget horror movie knock-off. And then Fisher Stevens (Short Circuit, Hackers, Succession) turns up in a fairly significant supporting role. But it’s Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame that instantly jumps out. Though he’s also occupying a supporting role, Alexander clearly has the ‘it’ factor – there is just something about him that stands head and shoulders above the rest of the cast.

The Burning is a C-Level, B-Movie Slasher You Need to Add to Your ‘Must See’ List

For the sake of transparency, The Burning isn’t just a guilty pleasure – it’s something of an underrated classic 80s horror. Yes, it’s clearly riffing on Friday the 13th and it’s a much less polished version of the same formula. And there’s very little to the story. Yet it’s some of Tom Savini’s best work and that’s saying something. There’s also something very honest – and rough – to the movie itself. While it’s derivative on one level, it’s also a straightforward, rough-around-the-edges effort that benefits from a surprisingly good cast. No one’s going to accuse it of being a classic, but it’s an 80s slasher you should add to your ‘must see’ list.


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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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