‘The Burning’ Better Than ‘Friday the 13th’?

I was contacted this past weekend and asked what I thought of the 1981 film, The Burning. For what it is meant to be, which is a rip-off of Friday the 13th 1980, it plays quite well. The raft massacre is by far the best killing scene in the entire film, but outside of that one scene, the film does play as a cheap independent knock-off, ripe to go direct to video. Now, don’t get me wrong, I own the film and enjoy watching it, but I don’t think it touches the original Friday the 13th in terms of acting, writing and direction. The only common ground between the two films is Tom Savini’s effects work.

Where Friday the 13th has the plot device of the whodunit along with very clever first person point-of-view angles, The Burning seems to tell the audience right from the beginning that this is going to be a revenge tale where camera tricks with angles will not lend anything to the tension of the film. The Burning, in essence, is the sequel that the later Friday the 13th movies would become, but without the production values that put the Friday the 13th films above the rest of the dime-a-dozen slashers that studios were throwing into cinemas in the early to mid 1980′s.

Although the characters that encounter Cropsey in The Burning are entertaining, most of them play as goofy and cartoonish. However, outside of prankster Ned, every character in Friday the 13th have a story and contain substance. The audience feels for these characters as they meet their demise and that helps with the tension that is built before their very creative death sequences.

In the end, the Mrs. Voorhees saga is the small independemt movie that jumpstarted the slasher genre. The Burning is a fun little movie with great Savini effects, but there are no real creative deaths, little character development and a killer that you just don’t sympathize or relate with. Mrs. Voorhees suffered a tragedy and as such, everyone who enters the quiet confines of Crystal Lake will suffer the curse and wrath of Jason Voorhees. I feel that there really is no comparison between the films outside of the camp setting. Victor Miller’s story is far superior.

The Burning capitalized on the Friday the 13th success and holds a special place in the genre with the likes of Prom Night, Terror Train and Hell Night. My one question with Cropsey is why did he try to get some love from a prostitute before exacting his revenge. I guess he was in that hospital for way too long.

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25 Responses to “ ‘The Burning’ Better Than ‘Friday the 13th’? ”

  1. I Agree I enjoyed the film for what it was (Friday rip off) for the feel etc and Tom’s Effects but come no where close to Friday the 13th in many ways including creative death’s

  2. I’ve never even heard of this movie. How have I never heard of this? lol
    Do they ever play this movie on TV?

    Another great movie (a little OT) that I had never seen or heard of until recently that apparently has a large cult following is “Dark Night of the Scarecrow,” and I only learned about it because it was recommended to me by Amazon, so I ordered it and actually loved it!
    Why aren’t these movies played more during the Halloween season???

  3. The Burning is a good Horror movie, but better than Friday…nuh uh.

  4. I heard, and this may be rumor, that THE BURNING’s script was written at the same time or even before F13′s was written. THE BURNING was supposed to be named CROPSEY, an urban legend about a man whose child is accidentally killed by camp counselors. The father then seeks revenge upon the camp counselors, killing them off one by one.

    If the above “rumor” isn’t true, then THE BURNING did rip off FRIDAY THE 13TH, which ripped off HALLOWEEN, which ripped off BLACK CHRISTMAS, which ripped off the Italian Giallo films of the 70′s.

  5. I bet some people are making this same debate between the original F13 and Halloween lol.

  6. Did nobody notice Jason Alexander in The Burning!! Take that friday the 13th with your Kevin Bacon!! LoL

  7. I’ve heard of The Burning, but have never seen it. When I first heard of it, I did not care to look up the film, but now with the comparisons between the film and the original 1980 F13 film I’m intrigued about so I’ll look for it now.

  8. The Burning is a well campfire tale based slasher (among Madman and some others). I think maybe the best after Friday. My only complaint is it’s too plain, too simple. WHile friday plays on the other, much higher level. Both have excellent atmosphere, but for the burning it’s the atmospfhere of campy slasher flick with good gore scenes and good playing with capfire legend, for Friday it’s… well, you all know what it is. Burning will simply never give such tension. For me the first friday is a lot like John Carpenter’s Halloween in a way of having this gripping atmosphere of ‘fear in the air’
    Overall, two films are often compared, but for me it’s only for their external liknesses.

  9. The Burning is a fun movie with good Savini gore. The Prowler had the same thing going for it as well. F13 had a better mystery going for it and a crap your pants ending that a lot of the slashers didn’t have (unlike Prom Night which was a fairly simple “mystery” to solve).

    The big thing about The Burning is that it has this undeserved level of praise which it had built up for years and years. Mainly because there was always the talk of the uncut version. Back in the day every now and then you’d see some terrible quality RealPlayer file on some horror site that gave you a glimpse of the uncut carnage that the movie had. Now of course the uncut version is much easier to find and most of that fire has quelled but The Burning was in this odd place where it got better in peoples minds because of the need to have the uncut version be this great movie. It wasn’t a great movie then and it’s not a great movie now. It’s a good fun 80′s slasher with great effects and I’d love to buy the Blu-Ray of it but it’s not GREAT. GREAT is reserved for certain movies and The Burning doesn’t fit the criteria.

    As for who ripped of who or whatever who cares. In the end it’s all about the execution. Mario Bava will never get his due in the states. Carpenter is an unabashed Dario Argento fan and even called Halloween his “Argento Picture.” I don’t care who ripped off what as long as its done well which we all know is easier said than done.

  10. It’s an ok movie, nowhere near as good as Friday the 13th for all the above stated reasons. It’s available on Netflix watch instantly for those with the means and desire to check it out.

  11. I’m half and half. I love them both. I love Friday the 13th and everything that came after it, but I love the Burning because it’s a stand alone tale. I’ve always loved the fact that it was an early summer camp based slasher that actually had kids at the camp. Granted those kids appeared to range from 10 to 25, it has always been neat to me that this was an open and operating summer camp (much like Sleepaway Camp), as opposed to a camp with a handful of teens just hanging out. The whodunit premise of Friday the 13th is there…but the reveal is a little weak considering we never meet Ms. Voorhees until right up to the point of where it’s obvious that she is the killer. I do feel that the original Friday edges The Burning slightly, but that edge is every so slight. However, there are sequels in the Friday series that I feel eclipse The Burning for various reasons. Either way, great film and very fun.

  12. From the recent MADMAN documentary it seems as if THE BURNING and MADMAN were the ones being made at the same time using the Cropsey legend. Apparently the it was so similar that the producers of MADMAN were pretty nervous about it. Madman is actually pretty laughable in how bad it is. I’ll take The Burning any day.

  13. The Burning is ok. I think the raft massacre is the highlight of the film and Savini’s make-up is top notch but the story just isn’t all that and it cannot even tough Friday the 13th in this fans opinion.

  14. I’m pretty sure The Burning was written before F13 but made later as mentioned above. In any case I have to agree F13 is far superior in just about every aspect except the demise of the villian… Poor Cropsey gets his ass handed to him with 2 different weapons and then gets burned alive to end it… thats a solid ending although the ultimate ending to F13 scared the beJeezers out of me when I first saw Jason pop out of the lake… I like both of these movies for different reasons but F13 takes the cake for this slasher fan.

  15. There’s a million other movies like these, why should this one stand out just because it has cool effects? Didn’t Tom Savini just work on this one to try to get back at the people making Friday the 13th Part 2? Friday the 13th did indeed cash-in on Halloween, but they really went for originality, because no one wants to see the same movie again. That’s my take on it.

  16. @ Croc Master, I agree. They did rip off the Italian Giallo films of the 70’s, especially from the film “Twitch of the Death Nerve”(Bay of Blood). I do love both The Burning and F13, but in choosing, I pick F13. But I still prefer F13 part 2 over the first any day.

  17. I wanna say it was in the Fango with Pams head in the refrigerator that it talks about Tom not coming to Friday the 13th Part 2 because of cash; not because he was tied up with The Burning and couldn’t get away like is told by him today. Sadly it was about the almighty dollar and The Burning was paying more than Friday the 13th Part 2.

    I like The Burning but Friday the 13th is the better picture in my book.

  18. I think everyone here makes great points. Yes, Friday tried to capitalize on the ideas that Halloween set forth and was successful. Having a good plot and the Paramount marketing the film was a huge bonus.

    As for Halloween ripping off Black Christmas, here is a link to a short write-up I did about Halloween actually being a sequel to Black Christmas! :)


  19. I like both films, but yea, Burning does play as a very cheap imitation.

  20. I’m glad it was a rip off (to a degree). Cause it has that old school 80′s flavor that I miss so much. Plus never have lawn sheers been so brutal.

    I remember seeing Savini talking about this in that slasher documentary where he was explaining how sticking the sheers into the wood at times during the raft scene makes the mind realize they are real and sharp and he was right. It’s that little magic that Savini uses that always made his effects so powerful.

    Shame I hear he is a prick at conventions. But that just what I heard.. but I still appreciate his talent.

  21. I know it’s gonna be a good read but before I open that link Jasonsfury, I remember reading the BLACK CHRISTMAS retrospective in Fangoria many years back. I love HALLOWEEN, but after reading that article I must say that it did seem Carpenter stole, or at least “borrowed” from BLACK CHRISTMAS.

    F13 is superior to THE BURNING. It’s just interesting to see which script came out first. The campfire scene in F13 PART 2 was an open palm slap to the face of the same scene in THE BURNING for it’s similarities to F13. Unbelievable how similar those two scenes are.

  22. Well The Burning is a part of horror history, but better than FT13th? No way. Anyone who grew up in the 80s knows that FT13th opened the door for alot of slashers. And yes Halloween came first, but FT13th had what Halloween didnt. Alot of blood. I do love The Burning, but its an obvious ripoff.

  23. I don’t like the Burning at all I think its over rated. I’d rather it got remade to be honest.

  24. I havt heard off that film before so cant comint on it!

  25. Tom Savini is slowly realizing his mistakes, which at this point, he’s even open to work on Friday the 13th Part 2 (the remake), even after unofficially retiring from the effects biz! The whole gripe only started because he only wanted Jason to be exactly the way HE invisioned, which I can understand, but you can’t change what’s already been done. But it seems like he’s gotten the idea now.

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