The Burning (1981)
Review by Jude Felton
Scream Factory have continued to impress in the short time they have been in existence. They seem to have tapped into that niche in the market of releasing great new editions of the films that I grew up with, and have done a cracking job. I’ve only bought three, so far, but they are three of my all-time favorites; Phantasm 2, Prison and now The Burning. Due to this I was a little hesitant to review The Burning. It’s been a dear favorite of mine for over 20 years, so I expected an absolutely perfect release. I was either going to be very impressed, or bloody angry.
The story itself is nothing new, even back in 1981 when it was made; kids play a prank on caretaker Cropsey, which leaves him badly burned. Once he’s fit enough, Cropsey heads back to the summer Camp to reap his sweet revenge. It’s classic slasher faire, and The Burning is a classic slasher.
For me, what sets The Burning apart from other slashers is that just about the entire cast is fairly likeable. I mean, you can totally see things from Cropsey’s point of view; I’d be pissed too, but the filmmakers, especially director Tony Maylam, mess with us by making the kids so damned nice. This in turn makes the carnage that is to befall them all the more horrific.
Another thing about The Burning is that it was made by the Weinstein’s’ very early in their career. Even back then they saw the chance to make some money, on the back of the then craze for slashers. I suspect though that not even they knew it would actually be so damned good. Also on board was effects maestro Tom Savini, who once again excels, and a cast that includes early roles for Holly Hunter, Jason Alexander (who is an absolute joy here) and Fisher ‘number five is alive’ Stevens. It’s one of those films where everything came together just right.
Now, with Scream Factory’s new release, I have to say that they have truly outdone themselves. The new artwork, from Nathan Thomas Milliner, is without a doubt their best yet, although you can reverse it is you so desire. It’s a combo pack, so you get the DVD as well as the shiny new Blu-ray, and it’s got a good load of extras on it. Interviews, an audio commentary, the theatrical trailer and more are sure to keep you busy, and very happy.
Where this release truly excels though is in the HD version of the film; it’s absolutely gorgeous. I first saw this film on a crappy VHS back in the day, and I had no idea that it could ever look this good. It’s no exaggeration to say that it is like watching a brand new film; it’s bloody gorgeous. Yeah, I repeated myself, but it’s a point worth reiterating. The colors are crisp and beautiful, and as good as it does look, which is very, it doesn’t lose that sense of nostalgia or the old school look.
On top of being a bloody beaut to look at, the sound is also quite incredible. Whenever you talk about horror scores the same old titles and composers crop(sey) up time and time again, and usually for good reason. Now, you need to add Rick Wakeman’s score for The Burning into future conversations; this is an order. The score here is vastly underrated and bloody good, and on this disc sounds the best is has probably ever sounded. It is quite wonderful and is one of the most memorable, especially from slasher flicks.
I could go on about how damned good this release is, but I think you get the general picture. In case you have missed my less than subtle attempts at putting across how impressed I am with this release I will say this, it is one of the most essential releases of recent years. So often other more established companies get all the kudos and creepy geek factor about their releases, but Scream Factory have, in a short time, proven themselves to be one of, if not THE, company to collect right now, and The Burning is definitely right up there with the best.
The Burning is a damned fun movie, which mixes up good old fashioned blood and guts (yeah, we all love that raft scene), a great cast and a memorable killer, and now you can buy it on the release that it has so long deserved. Buy it.
The Burning is available now on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack from Scream Factory.
(The stills used in this review are not necessarily from the Blu-ray release and are used only to illustrate the review)