Monday, March 2, 2009

When 80s Nostalgia Goes Horribly Wrong

Greetings, readers. I was going to regale you with the wonders of movies about killer hair, but then I got sidetracked by this little number from 1981.

I have no idea why I put this on my Netflix queue. Maybe because it was one of the few 80s campground-slasher flicks I DIDN'T see during my admittedly twisted childhood. Maybe because I wanted to see what Jason Alexander looked like with hair. Maybe I am simply masochistic. Either way, I asked for this, so I deserved what I got.

The story here is....oh good grief, do you even need to know?

Mean kids at summer camp play prank on drunken caretaker, Cropsy (great name, by the way) who accidentally sets himself on fire as a result.

Five years later, horribly burned caretaker takes a pair of hedge-clippers to a new batch of sex-crazed campers. Eye-scorchingly red arterial bloodspray and lots of senseless screaming ensue. Not to mention that the entire cast has the thickest Noo Yawk Welcome Back Kotter accents that you have ever heard.

To amuse myself, I checked the Wikipedia entry on this. Wow. Whoever wrote the plot summary is a stickler for detail. Excruciating detail. So excruciating, in fact, that I think the writer saw a LOT more in the movie than I did. Like, stuff that wasn't even HINTED at. I guess all bad horror has its slavering fans.

Anyway, The Burning is largely notable for the screen debuts of Holly Hunter (blink and you will miss her), and, as I said before, a very young Jason Alexander (with hair)....

.....Jason Alexander really never DID play any other character than George Costanza in his life, did he?

They also got the nerdy guy from Fast Times At Ridgemont High. Here, he plays....a nerd.

Oh yes, and as is customary with movies of this era, they have a jive-talking hospital orderly. I hitherto decree that like turban-wearing swamis, and cameos by Udo Kier, and bad hair-metal bands playing the same song endlessly on Night Train(s) To Terror, every movie needs a jive-talking hospital orderly expounding endlessly on how the drunken caretaker got turned into Chili-Mac.

Let's move on, shall we?

Now, I should mention that I LOVE the 80s. I love the music. I even love the bizarro, weirdly shaped, completely unflattering fashion aesthetic. Hell, I wore the legwarmers and the Flashdance sweatshirts and the Madonna rubber jewellery and fluorescent accessories. But I also want to point out that when I think of the 80s, I'm thinking mid-to-late decade, like, Square Pegs hipster new-wave era. (NOTE: Please remember that I grew up in Australia and we were a couple years behind the American trends. Also remember that I am old and cannot remember exact years of any previous decade to this one.)

I am most certainly not thinking of 1981, which apparently was the year of Richard Simmons/Steve Guttenberg from Can't Stop The Music fashion. Y'know, racing stripe short-shorts and tube socks worn to the knee.

Who am I kidding? That Steve Guttenberg outfit is FABULOUS. No one in The Burning is that fabulous. This film has a dearth of fab. It is in Fab Recession. In actual point of fact, the HAIRCUTS in this movie are more frightening than the shears-wielding lunatic. Cropsy could give them better haircuts with his hedge-clippers. Geez.

Okay, so I would be remiss in mentioning that there is ONE instance of a smart move, clothing-wise, in this flick, performed by none other than actress Carolyn Houlihan - have you ever heard of her? - didn't think so, because if you Google her you discover her ONE claim to fame is that she appears full-frontally nude in this movie. (Sorry, no photo. I know you are disappointed.)

Anyway, after blitzing our bimbo-radar by running around in low-slung bikini bottoms and T-shirts, and giving us all the urge to bitchslap her silly with her whining, ol' Carolyn emerges from a skinny-dip to find her clothing gone. Before she goes in search of it, she puts her shoes on. I mean, she's walking around a forest entirely nekkid but for her shoes for awhile, which is not exactly weapons-grade killer-proofing, but still, good girl.

The moral of The Burning: Summer camp is nothing but an extended term of sex, sex, having your fingers chopped off by crazed revenge-seeking madmen, hanging with people who have really bad haircuts, more sex, and maybe some singalongs.

Come to think of it, this would have been improved with some singalongs.


Tenebrous Kate said...

Oh my god... Steve Guttenberg's batch is completely hypnotic. Lift and separate indeed!

Anonymous said...

I never saw this movie, but Cropsey was one of the "monsters" that the counselors would try to scare us with at camp. You know, "Beware walking alone in the woods, I hear CROPSEY is on the loose."

Him and the Creep from Creedmore.

Emily said...

Hah, I caught this movie late one night while channel surfing at a friends' house and we were completed transfixed/befuddled by it.

Seriously, what prompts Burny McGee to go on a hooker killing spree immediately out of the hospital? So. Random.

The Vicar of VHS said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that New Wave purple-fro guy Jeff Conaway aka Kenickie of Grease fame?

At least that's the word that I heard. ;)

The Costuminatrix said...

Vicar: Nope! That is Merritt Butrick, a.k.a Johnny Slash, of Square Pegs fame.

The Vicar of VHS said...

Well, it's an easy mistake...Merritt's obviously got groove, he's CLEARLY got feelin'... :P

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