The Burning (1981) Blu-ray review

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Once dubbed a “video nasty”, 1981’s The Burning is the latest horror to get the Arrow Video treatment and what a fantastic release it is.

the burning skull The Burning (1981) Blu ray review

The late 70’s and early 80’s was a notorious time for film makers trying their hardest to shock audiences with graphic over-the-top death scenes and using buckets of fake blood and prosthetic limbs. Many of these movies were dubbed “video nasties” and some were also banned.

Take The Burning for instance. A horror slasher based around a summer camp was heavily censored in the UK and US and had to have many cuts in order to be released. Watching the full uncut version now, it’s pretty hard to see why it caused such a stir, but then again, we have been rather desensitised in recent years.

As stated above, The Burning is set around a summer camp (as are many of these types of movies). We start off with a bunch of kids playing a prank on the camp’s caretaker (who is supposedly a bit of a dick). The prank is pretty poor to be honest and just involve placing a real skull with some candles next to his bed. The prank goes wrong though and a screaming caretaker accidentally sets his room ablaze (he has a canister of petrol next to his bed, as you do) and he gets horribly burned.

It’s pretty obvious what happens next – the caretaker makes a recovery, although horribly disfigured, and decides to gain revenge on all the kids at a neighbouring summer camp, slaughtering them in brutal fashion.the burning steelbook The Burning (1981) Blu ray review

The Burning is actually pretty slow to get going after the initial prank scene. What we get is more akin to a teen drama before caretaker Cropsy reappears, but that is no bad thing. It was also good to see a string of future stars making their first/early appearances as the kids. Jason Alexander (Seinfeld, Shallow Hal) has a decent size role as the likeable Dave, Holly Hunter is in there, Fisher Stevens (Short Circuit) plays Woodstock and Leah Ayers (Bloodsport) is camp counsellor Michelle.

When the killings do start, we are shown kids being sliced in the neck, fingers being cut off, arms being decapitated and so on. The one scene to stand out for me personally was the canoe scene. Without giving too much away, a bunch of the kids are paddling on a raft when they see, what they think, is an abandoned canoe. They paddle over to the canoe and all hell breaks loose. It really is a classic horror scene that needs to be seen.

As with all Arrow Video releases, the Blu-ray comes with an abundance of special features such as a documentary on the special effects, interviews with the cast and crew, behind-the-scenes footage, the theatrical trailer, two galleries and additional commentary. The first pressing also gets a collector’s booklet.

Arrow released a Steelbook version of The Burning this week (October 10th) but it was limited to just 4000 copies and was sold out fast, though you could find some on Ebay. I know what you are thinking, ‘why review the Blu-ray if I never bought my copy in time’, well, Arrow Video are also releasing The Burning in an amaray box with reversible sleeve this December, so put it on your Christmas lists and enjoy a fantastic release for a beloved horror.

5 / 5 stars     

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