Screams From The Crypt: Summer Camp Slashers
It's been a long time coming but welcome back to Screams from the Crypt! After a little bit of retooling, The Talk Film Society's bi-weekly horror column is back and ready to bring you the frights and scares that you crave.
The 2017 summer movie season has begun with the release of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and what better way to bring back Screams from the Crypt than to look at two classic summer slashers?
The Burning (1981) d. Tom Maylam
Directed by Tom Maylam from a script by the Weinstein brothers (Yes, those Weinsteins) The Burning tells a classic summer camp legend. Starting with a prologue in which a mean groundskeeper named Cropsy is horrifically burned in a prank gone wrong, The Burning flashes forward a few years to a new crop of campers arriving at Camp Blackfoot.
Here we're introduced to a motley crew of counselors including a young Jason Alexander (in hindsight, hilariously cast as a jock) and an unknown Holly Hunter in a small role. The story around the campfire is one that kids at camp have heard many times; there's a hermit who lives in the woods just waiting to slaughter misbehaving youths who dare break the rules.
When I was young and actually went to a sleepaway camp, the counselors told us a similar story and it scared us out of our wits. This led to numerous adventures where a few campers and I would venture into the woods in an attempt to find the hermit's house. We actually found a broken down cabin once and my group couldn't run away fast enough. Luckily this was just before the end of the summer so we didn't have to deal with the repercussions of trespassing on his land.
Unfortunately for the counselors and campers of Camp Blackfoot, Cropsy is very much alive and well. The screenplay by the Weinsteins is very smart in that its written for the budget. The kills are few and far between but when they do hit, the impact is felt thanks to the incredible gore effects by Tom Savini. The legendary makeup artist has a field day during the best scene in the picture. A bunch of counselors are in the middle of a lake on a raft having a leisurely time when out of nowhere Cropsy appears! Gardening shears in hand, he dispatches at least five counselors in a glorious bloodbath of brutal practical effects.
The makeup effects for Cropsy may be low budget but they're nevertheless effective. He's a gruesome looking creation, scarred from head to toe in graphic burns. The Burning is one of those unfortunate one-offs of the ‘80s slasher boom, as this character could've been iconic given a few more pictures. Cropsy joins My Bloody Valentine's Harry Warden as one of the best of the bunch - a slasher with a distinct look that unfortunately wouldn't get the respect due to him until years after the fact. It's a shame since with the right push, The Burning could've turned into a franchise but alas that wasn't to be, as a certain hockey mask wearing killer essentially cornered the market on summer camp slashers.
The Burning is available on Blu-ray via Scream Factory and features a terrific video transfer and behind the scenes featurettes. Definitely grab this one and give it a shot, I doubt you'll be disappointed.
Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982) d. Steve Miner
The Friday the 13th franchise holds a special place in my heart and Part 3 is the most important one for me. When I was eight years old I came across a TV listing for a Friday the 13th double feature that was going to be on Cinemax. My family didn't get that premium cable channel at the time but luckily my sister, who had recently moved out, did! So the next week I had in my hands a VHS of Friday the 13th parts 3 & 8. These were my first exposure to Jason Voorhees and his escapades at Camp Crystal Lake and for my money they're two of the most fun times to be had at Camp Blood.
Part 3 is notable for two main reasons; this is the first entry where Jason gets his famous hockey mask, but it was also the first (and only) entry to be released in 3D! Sure the 3D that's utilized is the old school red and white stereoscopic type and not up to the standards of today but it's a hoot to watch the film with friends and the glasses that are included with the Blu-ray. The production clearly goes for it with as many sight gags add they can muster - heads are crushed and eyeballs shoot towards the screen, a harpoon is launched at the camera, and one of the kids even plays with a yo-yo.
The story here is secondary but it's the memorable characters such as Shelley the jokester and his bag of tricks that makes it a memorable experience. Oh and the kills! They definitely help. Here, in the third entry, Jason is an absolute monster, literally cutting a man in half and crushing skulls left and right. It might not be a particularly good film but it's a fun installment that adds to the overall mythology of Camp Crystal Lake.
Friday the 13th Part 3 is available on Blu-ray from Paramount either as a solo release or as part of the nine disc Friday the 13th The Complete Collection. Each release comes with two pairs of 3D glasses featuring hockey mask patterns and come with numerous deleted scenes and behind the scenes clips.
Again, we at Talk Film Society welcome you back to Screams From The Crypt and we look forward to bringing you looks at some of the best releases this genre has to offer.