Developed by the Weinstein brothers (Harvey helped to come up with the story while Bob wrote the screenplay with Peter Lawrence), The Burning is, arguably, the most beloved of the many slashers that immediately began to flood the market in the 1980s after the success of Friday The 13th, which was itself created due to the success of Halloween.
It all starts, as so many slashers do, with a prank that goes horribly wrong. A mean caretaker, named Cropsy, is badly burned by some kids who just wanted their revenge for him spoiling their time at summer camp. Fast forward a few years and it's all fun and frolics with a bunch of horny teenagers at some other summer camp. But some musical cues and POV camerawork let viewers know that Cropsy is hanging around. And he's not happy.
With some interesting music provided by Rick Wakeman, great special effects by Tom Savini, and THAT fantastic set-piece, it's certainly easy to see why The Burning lingers in the memory long after the end credits have rolled. Of course, that doesn't mean that everyone will love it.
It's simplistic stuff, directed with little flair by Tony Maylam, but it's effective, both for what it shows onscreen and what it often implies, thanks to the famous slasher flick that it most closely resembles.
Brian Matthews and Leah Ayres are acceptable, if slightly bland, leads and Brian Backer tries his best, despite his character - the youngster who doesn't make friends easily - being just a bit too sullen to gain any sympathy. Larry Joshua plays one of the nicer bullies that this subgenre has given us, understandably smitten with Carrick Glenn, but the most fun for modern audiences is in seeing the few stars who appear here before becoming much more famous a few years down the line. Holly Hunter has a small role, Fisher Stevens is memorable and Jason Alexander is like a smaller version of the Jason Alexander that we've all come to know and love over the years. It's good to know that he was always ready and able to be a smartass when the situation needed it.
If you're looking for something fresh and complex then look elsewhere. In fact, if that's the case then most entries in the slasher subgenre probably aren't for you. But if you're looking for a film that throws together a bunch of kids and camp counselors, setting them up to be killed by a memorable madman, then this is as good a choice as any. Indeed, it's one that you kind of have to check off "the list" if you're a fan of the horror genre, in my opinion.