Sunday, July 27, 2008

Review: The Burning


Buy The Burning DVD
Finally, after years of crappy VHS "quality", The Burning made it's debut last year on DVD. A Slasher treasure to many, HorrorHound magazine named it "the third most underrated Slasher..." in their latest issue (Aug./Sept. '08) in the article, appropriately titled, "The 20 most underrated Slashers of the 1980's". Wow, it's hard for me to imagine this film being underrated within the Slasher canon,....under-watched, most probably. This film was a legend when I was a kid, equally due to word of mouth and the mad search for a video store that retained a copy.

For kids not in the know, The Burning is a basic revenge story: A prank goes horribly wrong leaving a vindictive, shear wielding, scab of a man to seek out one of the perpetrators years later at a summer camp for horny, peeping teens. The gang is all here! A comedian, a "weirdo", a bully, and, hey, even a pre-misogynist potential rapist has second billing! Typical females of the genre era fill out the cast...All perform exceedingly well. This film is partly famous due to it's cast of future Hollywood players; Jason Alexander, Fisher Stevens, Holly Hunter, Ned Eisenberg, and my personal favorite, Brain Backer of Fast Times at Ridgemont High fame. The other part it's famous for is the grisly special effects courtesy of maestro Tom Savini, whom turned down Friday the 13th Part 2 for this film.

Yes, the effects developed by Savini and shot by director Tony Maylam were so visceral, so shocking that England, among other countries, essentially banned the film. A "video nasty" the likes of which hadn't been censored since The Texas Chainsaw Massacre invaded the island! Really and truly some of the best stalk-and-kill bits in the genre. All one has to do is type "infamous raft scene" in the Google query to understand the depth of The Burning's "legend" status.

As for the DVD and it's content, I am pleased. The transfer is tidy and clean. Not HDTV quality but above adequate. Extras come in the form of an informative directors commentary moderated by critic/author Alan Jones, theatrical trailer, and a Tom Savini interview where he talks about the effects, his feelings on the how they hold up today, and a little bit of behind the scenes gossip. All in all, I would label this release a "You can't call yourself a 'Slasher' fan if The Burning isn't on your DVD shelf" must buy. In particular, the commentary is of worth. Alan Jones moderates like a fan with the gift of a historians probe. The discussion is focused yet fun, you can tell both participants enjoyed themselves. I must also mention that the commentary does not suffer from "dead space", lack of conversation for lengths at a time, that you find so common on these tracks, it seems.

Overall DVD grade is strong; good picture quality, decent extras, and nice package art. That last criteria has the tendency to be lacking when it comes to early eighties Slasher releases donning new, marketing-inspired packaging,...just look at Happy Birthday to Me! Here is a tip to all the studios: Leave the original art work alone!!!! Oh, and don't bet on slow horses....

THE BURNING: All any fan of the Slasher could ask for!

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