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Christopher Webster [Celluloid 06.20.11] movie news horror

Since we're officially hitting summer this week I figured it was a good time to talk about the long lost summer camp slasher genre and ask you all to share some of your favourites. I'll start the ball rolling with what I consider the the granddaddy of the lot, The Burning.

Hardcore horror fans probably don't need a lesson here, but if you've never heard of The Burning you may be surprised to learn about the pedigree behind the mostly unknown 80s project. I was created and produced by the now legendary Harvey Weinstein and the film helped launched the juggernaut that would becomes Mirimax studios. Not only that, but it was co-written with the help of soon-to-be Chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures, Brad Grey. And that was just before the film even started lensing.

The Burning was directed by Tony Maylam who PA fans will know from the UK Alien rip off Split Second with Rutger Hauer. And the practical visual FX and the Cropsy the killer creature were handled by the great Tom Savini.

The film was made on a shoestring, but Maylam does a few things with the film that make it work extremely well. For one, it seems to be inspired by Argento as much as Friday the 13th and many parts feel as much a Giallo as a straight up teen slasher. Early scenes, particularly one involving the murder of a prostitute, have all the hallmarks of Italian horror. An impressionistic color pallet, a faceless black-gloved killer, fetishistic cuts to implements of violence. Right away the whole thing feels surprisingly deliberate and not haphazardly thrown together like a lot of the 80s cheapies.

Another thing that Maylam does is coax some great, natural performances from the young cast (which included Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame). Sure they're just talking about hooking up the whole time, but for some reason it feels legit and that exotic experience of being a kid at camp is lovingly preserved.

The Burning was the target of the British video nasty brigade and was heavily edited at first. Thankfully it is available on DVD in its original state and actually the transfer on it is pretty terrific.

So anyway, celebrate the first day of summer tomorrow by screening a summer camp slasher. And tell us your faves below!

You might like: Sleepaway Camp

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Diggler (10 years ago) Reply

Definitely one of the greatest of the camp slasher crop. In Australia we had gotten the heavily edited British version as well, and I was very surprised at the extreme violence in the original.

What about Sleepaway Camp with the "Crying Game" twist? :)

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