A Nite to Dismember: The Burning (1981)

dismember splash

A Nite to Dismember — October 31, 10pm – 8am (Buy Tickets)

A Nite to Dismember is Nitehawk’s first all-night horror movie marathon happening Halloween night from 10pm to 8am. We’re playing five of our favorite horror films that night (An American Werewolf in London, Burn Witch Burn, Fright Night, The Burning and Dawn of the Dead), and to get in the spirit, we decided to discuss our favorite scene from each of the Nite to Dismember films here on the blog.

First up, Hatched Co-Editor and Nitehawk Programmer Caryn Coleman on The Burning.

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Through the lens of a campfire horror tale, Tony Maylam’s slasher classic The Burning (1981) begins with a prank gone wrong and ends with a series of slash-tastic murders. Gleaning from a culturally volatile period in America history (the early 1980s), The Burning eviscerates youth in the most gratuitous manner as it perpetuates, capitalizes, and exploits the fear that the unknown can happen to any one at any time.

Reaganomics killing me

Reaganomics killing me

Reaganomics killing me

Reaganomics killing YOU! -Reaganomics by DRI

You might be surprised to know that The Burning was the first production by Bob and Harvey Weinstein (Miramax) and the debut for actors Jason Alexander, Fisher Stevens, and Holly Hunter. And while it’s certainly not a perfect film (its similarity to Friday the 13th is, well, uncanny), it is a ton of fun and it does get a couple of things very right.

For instance, it uses the Jaws technique of not revealing the monster until the very end, so that when Cropsy’s rather melted-shaped head is available for a good, long look we’re not already bored with him nor are we picking apart the special effects. It also contains a good dose of humor, incorporating elements of the raunchy kind of comedy prevalent during the time. By establishing marginal character development (who would think this would be a good thing), a substantial portion of the film is actually more comedic than horrific; depicting the kids at camp teasing each other, playing sports, and trying to get laid.

The Burning also cleverly picks itself apart at the end by hinting that it’s all simply been a visual, and fictional, representation of another campfire story. While not the most sophisticated open ending in cinematic history its implementation of an urban legend narrative provides a small dose of sophistication. 

Enjoyable on many levels, The Burning has a very important cautionary tale we all must remember: burning someone either accidentally (such as our dear Crospy) or on purpose (ala Freddy Kruger in A Nightmare on Elm Street) is never really a smart idea. It will always some to bite, tear, and stab you in the ass.

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