The Burning Steelbook (1980) (film Blu-ray review).

October 20, 2016 | By | Reply More

[I should point out that the film title is ‘The Burning’ (1980), the ‘Steelbook’ is what its contained in although as an advance copy, I didn’t see that or any booklet it might have. From the extended opening credits which don’t contain the cast names, an obvious selling point is Tom Savini’s special effects and I’m surprised I’ve seen so few of them.

Five teens at summer camp pull a prank on Cropsy, the so-called sadist drunk caretaker (as informed later on) ends up incinerating him somewhat. He survives…just. It takes five years before he is released from hospital but we’ll know how his insurance would cover that. He then returns to the summer camp where he was burnt, not necessarily out for revenge but to kill anyone he finds there. He’s not fussy about finding his tormentors. We don’t actually see him that much. Only when he approaches people, do we get his eye point of view. Don’t American hospitals give psychiatric appraisals before letting some people back out into the community, even back in the 1980s?


It ends up more a guessing game who gets killed first. Before that starts, there’s the usual problems these American groups always have from the camp pervert who sneaks into the girls’ shower who ends up scaring them to the camp bully. Like skittles, much of the opening is set up. As usual with such ‘B’ movies, you can tell something is going to happen by the change in tempo of the music although expect some false starts just to get the heart pumping. In many respects, like a lot of slasher movies, you’re waiting on events about to happen.

Fortunately, most of the camp is spared as the older teens go on a canoe trip and our burns victim goes in pursuit. After the first person goes missing, so do all the canoes. They build a raft to get half of them back to camp to get replacement canoes, with one reminding them it’s too thick a forest to walk back, although that doesn’t stop the caretaker and his favourite shears. For their fate and what happens next, why should I relieve you of any of the scares. Shears heart attack.

I should point out that ‘The Burning’ doesn’t always follow a predictable path. Oh and Holly Hunter and Parker Stevens are amongst the cast, although it would be hard to spot the former.

I’m more amazed after seeing such a film as this why any American parents send their kids to such summer camps even when there is no stalker going after them because it sure brings out the bad side of teen-agers.

There are no less than three audio commentaries. The first is with British director Tony Maylam being interviewed by movie journalist Alan Jones. There’s a lot of insights and how making a horror film is a great way into the movie business. Maylam also brought other key people from the UK in for production. They also point out that Holly Hunter has removed this film from her CV, although as they point out, she’s barely in it.

The second audio commentary is Edwin Samuelson interviews cast actresses Shelley Bruce (‘Tiger’) and Bonnie Deroski (‘Marnie’), both were 14 and 20 when it was filmed, explaining how they were cast and how others went on to greater things so good casting. For many of them playing teens, this was their first film. Their examination of Tony Maylam’ directing from a British perspective makes more sense to me than to them. They give a lot of insight into the production.

The third audio commentary is from ‘The Hysteria Continues’ people from their UK website None of them sound particularly hysteric and loaded with details about the film. For the life of me, I can’t recall it as one of the video nasties of the 1980s. This one covers the geek perspective with all you want to know about the film as they compare the US and UK releases. This version is the complete one.

There are eight extras. The prime one is an 18 minute interview with Tom Savini and that this is Miramax’s first film before they got its name. You have to admire his enthusiasm as he explains how the gags are done and, as he says, watch the film first.

A 12 minute interview with film editor Jack Sholder, who reveals he wasn’t a horror fan when growing up. From here, he went into directing. A 7 minute interview with actress Leah Ayres, the swimmer who investigated the raft, is another person who didn’t like horror films. A 11.5 minute interview with music composer Rick Wakeman and how the music budget got cut to pay for the re-filming. The Image Gallery shows a lot of behind the scenes effects with Tom Savini as well as stills for promotion. There are 8 minutes of footage showing the effects being filmed. If you’re treating this as a primer in learning special effects, please be careful as some it is deals with fire.

I didn’t realise this was regarded as a ‘video nasty’ in the UK at the time. It’s a little gross in places but mild to what we see today. It might have got that reputation because Savini’s effects were so accurate. In one of the stills, he stands next to the actress with her false naval and you’d be hard pushed to tell the difference. Saying that, I can also see why Savini got on well with the cast because they had to put a lot of faith in his work.

Watching the film four times in a short period of time has been an odd experience. For those of you buying it, you might want to stretch out the audio commentaries over a longer period. From a story perspective, you might wonder why Cropsy never became a franchise but, unlike his contemporaries, he didn’t really pursue his tormentors and so didn’t raise him any higher than a psychopath. The fact that unlike them, he was supposed to be a nasty person in the first place but not shown to be does tend to leave mixed messages. Learn the lesson and even if you don’t like someone, don’t use fire to scare them.

GF Willmetts

October 2016

(region B blu-ray: pub: Arrow Films. 1 blur-ray disk 92 minute film. Price: £37.99 (UK). ASIN: B01IBUZYS8)

cast: Alice Braga, Gael Garcia Bernal, Claudio Tolcachir, Chico Diaz, Jorge Sesan, Lautaro Vilo and Julián Tello

languages: english and spanish

check out website:


Category: Films, Horror

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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