A group of teenagers at a summer camp (Camp Blackfoot) play a prank on their mean, alcoholic caretaker and groundskeeper, Cropsy (Lou David) but it all goes wrong and they accidentally set him on fire, disfiguring him horribly. He spends the next five years recovering and freaking out the hospital staff with his grotesque scars and burns (some of the staff even dare each other to go look at him).
Upon his release, Cropsy murders a prostitute after she shows revulsion at his hideously disfigured appearance.
Cut to another Summer Camp (Camp Stonewater) where Seinfeld‘s Jason Alexander (in his feature film debut) is Dave, a cool, suave and athletic teen. It’s George Costanza’s wet dream: Every girl wants him, every guy wants to be him – and he has a full head of hair! (pictured at left).
The middle section of the film is more Meatballs (1979) than slasher film, but once the killing starts, the body count rises fast with superb effects from F/X legend Tom Savini providing some very compelling gore and splatter scenes as Cropsy gets to work with his trusty garden shears.
Fingers are chopped off, foreheads slit open and a whole lot of people get their throats cut – but all of the killings are cleverly directed and well thought out, so the violence never seems gratuitous or sensationalised.
The Burning provided Holly Hunter with her film debut (and her Screen Actors Guild card) – essentially as a glorified extra – and launched the careers of producers Harvey and Bob Weinstein. The electronic music score was composed by Rick Wakeman.