The Burning (1981)

One from the regularly re-watched pile…

The Burning (1981)

Film: Those who have read reviews here at the ol’ To Watch Pile will know I have a special fondness of the films of the eighties. Hot off the exploitation scene and riding on in the wake of late seventies classic fright flicks like Dawn of the Dead and Halloween, the eighties started with a bang. Some of these films were branded ‘Video Nastys’ in the UK due to the ‘extreme’ lengths they went to, and some of them were either heavily cut or banned outright. These films became sought after collectors items on VHS, and when released on DVD, usually have a platoon of fans anxious to add them to their DVD library, and now, we have to collect them all over again on Bluray, or 4K.

The Burning is an 80s gem and is chockablock full of blood, gore and tits and (there’s also some men’s busts, if that’s your preference) and is a wonderful example of a mean-spirited slasher that easily holds up against most of today’s horror movies, and honestly, mostly exceeds them.

The Burning tells of the alcoholic and violent caretaker of summer camp ‘Camp Blackfoot’, Cropsy, who one night has a practical joke played upon him by a group of kids who are staying at the facility. As with all horror movies, the practical joke goes horribly wrong, and Cropsy is severely burnt. Flash forward 5 years later as Cropsy is finally released from hospital, horribly disfigured and filled to the teeth with rage. He makes his way back to Camp Blackfoot, where he has now become the stuff of legend, to exact his vengeance on a new batch of campers, one of whom is one of the original teenagers, now older and wiser, working as a camp councilor. The kids are dispatched in traditional slasher style, thanks to the brilliance of Tom Savini’s special make-up and gore effects, but who will survive?

This film could be technically described as the first film by Miramax. Harvey Weinstein has a ‘Story by’, ‘Created by’ and ‘Produced By’ credit, Bob Weinstein has a ‘Screenplay by’ credit (along with Peter Lawrence) and mother Miriam (the MIR in MIRamax) worked as a pre-production assistant. While this film has a lot of never-see-again actors, it did have several people that went on to become name actors in it: Tony award winner Brian Backer, Short Circuit’s Fisher Stevens, TV regulars Larry Joshua and Ned Eisenberg, not to mention Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander and Academy Award winner Holly Hunter!

The Burning stands up with the big boys of the slasher genre for several reasons: Tom Savini is at his best with the effects, the soundtrack is incredibly impressive, and most slashers have the teens dispatched one by one, this one has one amazing scene where the killer performs an act of mass murder than has to be seen to be believed!! My favourite thing about this movie, other than the female nudity and gore, is the fact that it was never belittled by a series of sequels that either don’t make sense, or just plain out suck!

Score: *****

Format: This film was reviewed on the Arrow Video Bluray Set, which runs for approximately 91 minutes and is presented in a clear and bright, 1.85:1 image with a fairly standard but nevertheless clean mono audio track.

Score: ***

Extras: A super bunch of extras on this Bluray, which is to be expected from Arrow:

Blood and Fire Memories is a great mini doco starring make up legend Tom Savini. This doco has some great ‘tricks of the trade’ bits and some excellent behind the scenes footage, and has comments from Savini about the filming of the Burning, and some wonderfully scathing ones about the Friday the 13th series, and how Jason shouldn’t even exist in the 9 of the 10 sequels the original spawned. This is an older extra that featured on previous releases of the film.

Slash and Cut is an interview with The Hidden director, Jack Sholder, who acted as editor on this film.

Cropsy Speaks is an interview with the actor Lou David who played Cropsy, who I reckon would leap on an opportunity to make a sequel.

Summer Camp Nightmare is an interview with female lead Leah Ayres.

Synthy the Best talks to composer Rick Wakeman, keyboardist from 70s band Yes, who wrote the score for the film.

There some behind the scenes footage which is some cool looks at SFX and stuntwork.

There’s a trailer for the film and a series of image galleries featuring the Make-up effects and posters of the film.

There is three (!) commentaries on this disc, one with Maylam and film expert Alan Jones, one with Shelley Bruce (Tiger) and Bonnie Deroski (Marney) and finally one with the guys from the podcast The Hysteria Continues.

There is also a booklet with an essay on the film by Justin Kerswell, and a DVD version of the film.

Score: *****

WISIA: The Burning is one of the all time great slasher movies and it’s on almost constant rotation at my house.

The Theatre Bizarre (2011)

One from the to watch pile…
The Theatre Bizarre (2011)

The cover for Severin films The Theatre Bizarre


Film: I am sure in previous movie review I have mentioned my love of anthology films. From Creepshow, to The Twilight Zone Movie, to Holidays to Tales of Halloween I have always dug them, and I especially like, which is prevalent in the last two of the four mentioned, that have a similar theme.

The Theatre Bizarre is the brainchild of David Gregory, and the idea is to do an anthology film which recreated the ideal of Grand Guignol but for cinema audiences rather than ‘live’ theatre audiences.

The Theatre Bizarre: Virginia Newcombe


Our framing sequence is that of a girl (Virginia Newcombe) obsessed with a local dilapidated theatre, which she finds, upon entering, is populated by an automaton (Udo Kier) who proceeds to show her a series of stories, introducing each one with a new automaton…

First is The Mother of Toads, by director Richard Stanley and starring Catriona MacColl (The Beyond, City of the Living Dead) tells of the strange things that happen to a young couple when they become involved with a strange woman in France. It’s very H. P. Lovecraft.

The second is I Love You by Buddy Giovinazzo sees a man, Axel (André Hannicke) wake up in the bathroom of his apartment with a nasty cut on his hand. He is in the middle of a nasty break up with his wife, Mo (Suzan Anbeh) and when she returns he insists on knowing why she is leaving… and he may not be happy with the answers.

The next, Wet Dreams, is directed by Tom Savini tells of Donnie (James Gill) who is having repeated dreams about his penis being cut off by a monstrous vagina, and then fed to him by his wife (Debbie Rochon). His psychiatrist (Tom Savini) gives him a way of getting out of the dream, but which is the dream and which is reality?

The Accident by director Douglas Buck sees a mother (Lena Klein) discussing death with her daughter (Mélodie Simard) in respect to an accident they witnessed. It’s a delicate, beautiful piece about death in the middle of all this gore!

Vision Stains by Karim Hussein tells of a woman (Kaniehttio Horn) who has discovered that she can see a persons life by extracting the viscous fluid from their eyes and injecting in into hers so she can document them. She, of course, has to kill them to do so, but she picks women she believes want to die to perform her bizarre experiments on, but why does she feel a responsibility to do such a thing? 

The Theatre Bizarre: you might not want to eat during this film.


The surrealistic Sweets by David Gregory is another break-up story like I Love You, but this time snivelling Greg (Guildford Adams) is being dumped by Estelle (Lindsay Goranson) who has a food fetish, but maybe it’s worse than what you think.

With all the short films having women as the antagonist, I am sure there is some deep and meaningful anti, or pro feminism thing going in, but I’m a horror movie fan, not a psychologist, so I’m not going to get into that.

What I can definitely say though is that this film is a cracker of an anthology film. It’s all told dead straight and made me squirm on more than one occasion. The influences of Grand Guignol are definitely present as there is no shortage of blood… or vomit… or frog slime… or guts… or retina fluid… you get the idea!

The tales are all of a high standard, really, aside from Sweets, I loved every one. That’s not to say Sweets was bad, it just wasn’t the greatest film in this collection. Props must go to Richard Stanley too: I am not a fan of his and was blown away by The Mother of Frogs, so I might now go revisit some of his older works again!

It was a real pleasure to see a horror film that was horror-full, instead of horrible.

Score: ****1/2

The Theatre Bizarre menu screen


Format: The reviewed copy was a US DVD from Severin which runs for approximately 1 hour and 53 minutes. It is presented in a nice 2.35:1 vision with a clear and excellent Dolby 5.1 soundtrack. 

Score: ****

Extras: The disc opens with a trailers for Smile, which actually looks pretty good!

The first extras option is a director’s commentary, first we have a muddy sounding wraparound bit with Jeremy Kasten before each segment gets a commentary from the various creatives who made the film. It’s a many and varied commentary but wholly interesting. The sound quality is varying as the commentaries are clearly done in a variety of environments.

ShockTilYouDrop interviews is a series of interviews about the film with David Gregory, Buddy Giovinazzo and Jeremy Kasten. It talks about the origins of the film and what it took to make. There almost 40 minutes of interviews and it’s quite interesting.

There is also some Behind the Scenes stuff for the various segments but it’s not informative, just people on the set doing stuff. Each section goes for about 2 minutes and it’s not really worth watching, except for the last one, Vision Stains, which reveals a needle in the eye effect.

The Theatre Bizarre trailer is just what it claims to be.

Score: ****

WISIA: It’s pretty intense, so whilst it won’t be regular on the rotation list, it will get at least another watch. I’ve actually had this film since 2011 and never watched it…. what a mistake!

The Theatre Bizarre: Peg Poett (Udo Kier) spins a tale or two!