The Burning (1981)

Ever been camping? Going out into the wilderness, sleeping in a tent, foraging, sitting around a campfire while bugs eat you alive. I'm not a fan of camping. I'm a fan of having a bed, four walls, and roof over my head. But some people do really dig the idea of getting back to nature. And some of those people end up going missing only to be found later after being mauled by a large animal. I'm not that's guaranteed to happen, but I am saying that the likelihood of me getting mauled by a bear is a lot smaller.

I don't think they're here for the pic-a-nic basket.

Even when I was young and actually played outside, I really wasn't into the idea of sleeping out there. I preferred pillow and blanket based forts. Knowing that, it should come as no big surprise that I never went to a summer camp. I don't even recall my parents ever trying to pitch me the idea, come to think of it. I don't think there was any fear of me being singled out too badly. I was a fairly charismatic kid, despite my anxiety, and I had plenty of friends. Perhaps they were worried about the other things, like my inability to swim? Or, to be more exact, my not wanting to learn how to swim. Yeah, me and open water are not really good friends, so living in Florida is a great idea, yes? I also didn't really give a shit about sports and I still don't. I was more into action figures and horror movies.

Look at how much has changed!
Part of me thinks that the real reason might be because so many horror movies are about killers terrorizing summer camps for one reason or another. Just look at my boy, Jason. He's the king of doing that sort of thing and not even all of his movies are about that. One was basically just him taking a boat ride. I'm not really disappointed though, as I doubt camp would've been able to live up to the standards set by Meatballs and Heavyweights when it came to actual entertaining events occurring. After all, not every camp has Bill Murray. While the horror genre is positively littered with films about killers at camps, we're going to talk about one I've been told was a classic. Not only that though, it's one I've never seen before. So, sharpen those hedge clippers and come trim away at this movie with me.

You see, it's funny because the killer uses hedge clippers. Comedy.
The story begins at Camp Blackfoot as some campers concoct a way to get revenge on the asshole caretaker who makes being at camp a rather miserable experience. it's important to note that of this group of boys, only one of them will actually be in the rest of the film and that no girls are involved. The ring leader sneaks into the caretaker's house with a box, lights something up inside the box, then leaves. Outside they boys all beat on the window to wake up the mean bastard and we get to see that apparently the boys left what seems to be a decomposing skull with worms and specs of flesh on it with lit candles in its eyes.

Alright, he might be a bastard, but that's still pretty fucked up. Did they just dig up a body for this?
While I'm still left pondering the origin of the meaty worm-riddled skull, Cropsy (the caretaker) awakes and it startled by the thing sitting there. I mean, sure, it's not something you want to wake up to. But he's so startled that he literally kicks it off onto his blanket, lighting it on fire. And then he somehow knocks gasoline on himself too, causing him to burst into a large walking campfire. Alright, two questions. One, why is his reaction to seeing a skull to fucking wildly kick it? Two, why the hell does he have highly flammable liquid next to his bed? It's starting to feel like Cropsy was just asking to burn to death. But nope, he manages to roll down the hill outside and into the lake before being taken off to the hospital to be treated for the extensive burns he sustained due to him being an idiot.

Besides, I don't know how he got burned so badly in that clearly visible fire-proof suit he's got on.
Following this, Cropsy spends the next five years in the hospital where he gets such great care that one of the orderlies treats him like he's a sideshow attraction. But he does finally get out, which I guess is good news. Except that he's now horribly disfigured because the burns were too severe, because he's a fucking idiot who sleeps next to a full can of gasoline. He goes out on the town in his super fashionable trenchcoat and fedora ensemble, which leads to him picking up a hooker and murdering her in her apartment. Yeah, I can really see how she was related to him being burned and all, clearly motivating him to stab her to death with a large pair of scissors.

Seriously, that's an excessively large pair of scissors.
It's at this point I realize that Cropsy isn't going to make any sense as a killer, because clearly he's not killing as a means of revenge on those who actually wronged him. No, he's just killing because he's a psychotic asshole. Something tells me that he probably would've gone on a killing spree even without the whole being burned thing. Which is why I pointed out before that only one of the boys involved with the reasonably harmless prank is even present in the rest of this film. Hell, the camp it happened at isn't even there anymore. So, we have us a guy who gets out of the hospital and decides to just go find a nearby camp to stalk and kill kids at. That's literally the only logical motivation I can see here.

"I was horribly burned when I knocked over some candles & gasoline onto myself! Now I must go kill random kids who had nothing at all to do with it!! Hahahahahahah!"
At the camp, as the kids happily play and flirt, he targets one who appears to be pushing 13 years old. Yes, clearly that young girl had something to do with boys playing a prank on you five years ago at an entirely different camp, you miserable shitface. She doesn't notice the guy approaching her with hedge clippers though and runs off with her ball to join the others. Also, she's called Tiger. I can't decide if it's a nickname or her parents just wanted her to get literal catcalls from asshole classmates. Either way, the story trudges along and the next morning a camper...or's hard to tell...named Alfred freaks out another girl named Sally as he lurks outside her shower. It turns out that he was seeking a way to get back at the camp bully, Glazer, who is infatuated with her. Now, while I am all for getting even with bullies, targeting an innocent girl is kinda shitty, Alfie. You better straighten up or Stacy is never going to talk to you when you go back to Ridgemont High.

Then how are you going to get at her before your asshole friend does? Oh wait...
Todd, the general voice of reason and maturity at camp, talks to everyone and things work out. Sally seems to get over it fairly quickly and Alfie gets to make some friends with the most likable characters in the film, Dave, Fish, and Woodstock. They encourage him to go swimming with them, but he tells them he doesn't know how to. Cue Glazer shoving him into the water and laughing off the fact that he could've easily just drowned as he swims over to go flirt with the girls who clearly aren't into him. After saving Alfie, the boys get Woodstock's pellet gun and shoot the asshole in...the asshole.

Now Glazer knows how it feels to be unwillingly penetrated, something he tries to do to Sally throughout the film.
Things proceed along fairly normally, not unlike this actually was a film in the Meatballs series. We get some build-up to Woodstock possibly being killed when he wanders off to the boys' bunk by himself after Alfie saw Cropsy in the window, but it goes nowhere. Cropsy pretty much just stalks their camp like a big crispy creeper, complete with heavy breathing. No, the action doesn't really begin until the older kids all go out on canoes to go camp down the river where there is sure to be sex, drugs, and spooky ghost stories. As they sit around the campfire, Todd tells one such story and it is actually the real story of Cropsy burning alive. Well, except for the part about him eating people. I'm not entirely sure Cropsy can eat anything without a straw. The resident horny guy of the camp, Eddy, leaves to go walking with the girl he likes, Karen, and talks her into skinny dipping. He tries to then force himself on her, resulting in her leaving where she then gets her throat slit in the woods. Wait...they took canoes there and later the cops take a helicopter there, so I'm assuming this is not an easily accessible area. How the hell did Crispy Crop get there without a boat? Did he swim all the way there just to kill these kids who had nothing at all to do with his accidental burning?

"It's all their fault for not being there to put me out after I set myself on fire!"
 The next morning, Todd and Michelle are both worried about Karen because she didn't come back, so they grill Eddy about it. He says she left him and he doesn't know what happened. Then they also learn that someone took their canoes away, so Michelle assumes it was Karen, as she told her she could go back if Eddy was a dick. But see, that doesn't make sense, because how did she take all of the canoes? Even if they were set adrift by her, a couple of them probably wouldn't have floating too far and could be seen. But what am I saying? This is the movie where a guy is trying to kill people for no good reason, so I can't expect sense. They decide to build a raft and send the younger members of the group back to camp on it to get help. This includes those lovable scamps, Fish and Woodstock, so I light up at the idea of them getting out so they won't be murdered.

Poor Dave gets left behind though, which has to be stressful. I guess that's why he went bald & changed his name to George.
Because we don't dislike him enough, prior to sending the kids off on the raft, Glazer decides to blame Alfie for the canoes and even tries once again to force himself on Sally. She relents, telling him she'll fuck him later, which basically feels like she just got tired of saying "no" so she caved. We see the kids heading down the river and they see a canoe, which I am positive will have Karen's dead body in it. I am so positive about this, I actually say it aloud as the camera keeps focusing on how close they're getting to it and...boom! Out pops Cropsy as he brutally murders the young campers who weren't hurting anyone.

Well, okay, he kills Eddy too. I'm not going to shed tears over the attempted rapist.
Now that Cropsy has successfully murdered two of the three best characters in the film, he's officially on my shit list. I hope Sharktopus, the Screaming Faceless Guy, and Nick Castle all show up and fuck his steez up, right good! Back with the other group, that Tiger stayed with despite appearing to be barely 13, Glazer finally gets to have sex with Sally and it is glouriously underwhelming. She looks so uncomfortable and unsatisfied, I have to stifle my laughter so I can actually hear him try to make excuses for being a dead fuck. She takes pity on him though and boosts his ego enough to where he decides to build a fire before attempting to fuck properly again. While he's off at the campsite getting matches, Cropsy shows up to be a cock-block as he kills Sally. Glazer comes back to her, while Alfie follows. I guess Alfie really is a pervert. Glazer lifts the sleeping bag off of her and up pops Cropsy...from the completely not large enough bulge under the sleeping bag. Is he a magician? Because first he seems to have teleported to this place, then to the canoe out in the middle of the water, then he's seemingly materializing from the ground to ram his clippers through jackass here.

"For my next trick, I'll pull a flamethrower out of my ass!"
Alfie runs to get Todd, they return to see the dead bodies, Todd gets grazed by the clippers and left for dead while Cropsy chases Alfie, and the raft full of dead kids floats back to the others right in time for Todd to wake up and see Michelle freak out when Woodstock's dead body falls on her. Todd has Michelle and the others board the raft to go get help, because that worked out great last time, and then takes his axe to go save Alfie. They make it back to camp where Michelle calls the police and gets the head of the camp to go with her back to find Todd and Alfie. Alfie gets caught by Cropsy, who doesn't kill him, instead choosing to gag and pin him to the wall of the mine shaft they're in with his clippers. Wait, did they just wander into another horror movie?

"Not cool, bro. Not cool. You're pinching my style."
Todd manages to hear Alfie and ends up there as he comes face to burned face with Cropsy, realizing that this is the guy who he and his friends watched burn up as kids. That's right, heroic studly goody-good Todd is one of the kids from the other camp. And he's not even the main kid! He was just a kid knocked on a window while an idiot set himself on fire due to poor decisions regarding his storage of flammable liquids. And Cropsy has a flame thrower now, because apparently he just found it out here or something. I don't know, maybe he really is a magician? It doesn't matter, Alfie gets free and stabs him with the clippers, they go to leave, Cropsy pops back for a final scare, Todd splits his skull with the axe, and Alfie light him on fire. They all leave and we get a peek into the future at what I guess is Alfie with Todd's job as he tells some other kids the same spooky story of Cropsy. The end.

"I'm smiling because the traumatic events of my youth are really fun to talk about."
I want to go on record as saying that I think Cropsy may very well be one of the stupidest slashers ever in the history of the slasher sub-genre. He acts like an idiot upon waking up, sets himself on fire, kills a hooker for no reason, kills a bunch of kids for no reason, and then goes after one guy who was there when he set himself on fire...and he wasn't even the guy who put the damn candles near him. I've never seen a killer with less clear motivations, especially when the opening sets up a perfect motive for a revenge plot that never leads anywhere. Not only that, we barely get to see him, which is a shame as his make-up is one of the best thing about him. I do have to admit though, he bears a striking resemblance to another horror character I covered in the past.

The Incredible Melting Man meets the incredible melting motives.
Overall, I did actually enjoy this movie though. It has some great effects work from Tom Savini and featured characters I actually cared enough about that it was a bummer to see them die. I was honestly shocked that such seemingly young teens got killed off too, as usually the teens that tend to get killed off are quite obviously in the 20s in these sorts of films.Jason Alexander was a true delight too, often stealing scenes when he's not even meant to be a central character in the story. While I do still find the killer to be an idiot, I say this one is worth checking out. The effects and likable side characters help it stand out. I don't know if I'd call it a classic, but it's not a bad way to get your slasher movie fix. So, until Rat hooks up with the cute pizza girl at the mall, I'll be here wishing Jason Alexander had gotten a lot more screen time. Later days, bleeders.

"You're gonna die horribly Eddy and I find that to be hilarious."