Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Camp Crystal Lake vs Camp Blackfoot

It has been a while since I’ve seen The Burning and though it never really stuck into my head, I always looked back on it as just another slasher film. A few weeks ago I re-watched it so that I can get a good sense of it again and I realized that this movie was way better than I ever gave it credit for. Is it a generic slasher movie? Yes, it is. Was it a cheap knock-off to Friday the 13th? Yes it was. Was it only made to bank off of camp-related horror movies? Of course. However, when comparing it to the Friday the 13th movies, I have to say that The Burning is a far superior film. I was never really a F13 fan from the start and I believe that’s due to the fact that the film(s) lacked character and was made as an excuse to have a body count. With The Burning, there are three main reasons why I find it better than any of the F13 movies.

The Characters

As I already mentioned before, I felt like all the Friday films lacked something that I really look for in movies and that’s characterization. Sure, if the film is campy I don’t look for it that much but there still should be something that makes me feel ‘connected’ to the character. In The Burning we are introduced to a wide variety of teenage camp counselors who, sad to say, are actually funnier than any of the counselors at Crystal Lake and in some cases… more natural as teenagers. There are a few love stories that The Burning has that feel real and when somebody gets rejected you’re left saying, “well that kinda sucks!” The head counselor, one of the people who played the prank on Cropsy, isn’t just some dumb teen but rather someone who learned his lesson and tries to enforce ‘respect’ to his fellow workers and campers. It’s an interesting approach to such a cliché role.

The Weapon

The weapon makes the killer. It sort of embodies who the killer is or at least ‘fits’ with the killer’s style and or character. In the first Friday film, the killer uses whatever he or she finds at the campground and it varies from knives to sharp-tipped arrows. That’s fine but I found a pair of rusty old hedge clippers to be far more frightening if not worse, in some cases, than an arrow or knife. Also, it goes well with a dirty, grungy, revenge drunk psychopath. If you really want to look into, I’ll go further into saying that Cropsy is better than Jason in some cases.

The Suspense

I always found the F13 movies lacking in suspense, at least the ones following the first one and even with the first film there are just a few scenes of it. The movies usually banked on creating jump-scares but every time it happened it would usually involve somebody getting killed and I would usually shrug and say, “oh look another person is killed.” Jump-scares are fine but after a while it just gets bland, especially when there is no substance to the movie. In The Burning, there are several points where the film builds up a strong sense of tension and foreboding peril and for the most part it ends in nothing happening but there is a method to this; since the film had a few cop outs, when a voyeuristic shot of someone stalking someone appears back on screen you’re left to think it’s somebody goofing around. That is until the hedge clippers rise in the air and you knocked off your seat.

I was asked by Horro’s Reviews if Tom Savini was right in declining the makeup work for one of the Friday films and instead working on The Burning. I standby with his decision not because The Burning had mind-blowing effects, but because it gave him diversity in his career. As somebody already pointed out, The Burning is more effective than Friday the 13th in almost every way but there is just one thing that it doesn’t have: Jason. He’s right. The film didn’t take off like the Friday films and I’m sort of glad it didn’t because it would have been butchered and obscured. Right now, it stands as a small indie horror film that accomplishes everything that Friday the 13th doesn’t and that’s the way I like it.


Anonymous said...

Nice article. I remember renting out The Burning about 15 years ago as a youngster, because my mates and I had heard it was 'previously banned'. I remember being disapointed because (as we were just a bunch of kids) we had been expecting gore and explosions and it was much more subtle than that.

You've made me want to revisit this movie and see what I actually think of it. I recently watched all the F13 films back-to-back over several days and really enjoyed them, but it would be good to see The Burning now that the Friday films are fresh in my head.


Anonymous said...

The scene that sells The Burning for me is after the raft and bodies are discovered. The remaining campers and counselors are all crying on the riverbank with the older kids consoling the younger ones, which seems to me to be a natural reaction. It is so rare to see horror characters acting like real humans that it stuck with me.

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