I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

The Burning

tn_burningTHE BURNING is a slasher movie I like, and I can acknowledge that it’s not great but it just fits into my wheelhouse (you know, the house where I store all my wheels as well as some of the movies I like). Something about those FRIDAY THE 13THs and SLEEPAWAY CAMPs just engrained the summer camp of the ’80s into my mind as a perfect place for a slasher. By day it’s canoes and pushing people off of docks and wearing those gym socks with the stripes at the top. Then at night you realize you’re out in the middle of the fuckin woods! What the fuck are you gonna do if (let’s be honest – when) something happens? Where are you gonna go? Deeper into the dark, quiet woods?

But actually Jason and these guys are scarier when they strike in the sunlight. The sanctity of the summer paradise invaded by machetes and improperly used spear guns. Lens flares and dripping blood.

I was gonna say summer camp wasn’t even a big part of my life, but on second thought maybe it had some small effect on my brain. Don’t spread this around you guys but when I was a kid I went to a “karate camp” on an island in the San Juans. Every morning we would walk barefoot down a gravel road to the “dojo,” which is Japanese for “tennis courts.” I still remember a punch and two kicks that we learned, I forget the blocks, but still, don’t fuck with me man. I’ve been training since childhood.

After our lessons it was normal camp shit except one day my cabin’s counselor had a big buildup to a story this other co-counselor type guy was gonna tell us that was gonna blow us away. It turned out to be about seeing Bruce Lee at a restaurant one time. I think he said he shook his hand, I forget if he got to sit down with him or not. The other story they told us was about “The Prop Man,” a camp legend who was supposed to have survived a small plane crash on the island and lost a hand, and decided that the best response to that situation would be to jam a propeller prop in the stump and live in the woods for now on.

In retrospect it seems like he’d be happier if he tried to return to civilization and receive the attention of medical professionals. There must be some bank robbery or other crucial piece of motivation either dropped from this campfire story over the years, or from my memory of it.

I don’t think I ever believed these actual accounts, but one time me and some fellow karate warriors took a canoe far beyond where we were supposed to, and I swear we saw the parts from a small plane. They were neatly stacked up though, not strewn around like wreckage. It was weird. Was this the inspiration for the story, or the evidence? Or do I think I remember something that never really happened? More importantly, is the Prop Man coming for me right now for revealing that I know too much? I don’t know. All interpretations are equally valid.

Anyway that must be some of the appeal of this genre. 1) You remember stories like this if you ever went to camp. 2) You see the counselors in the movie up to no good and you think oh shit, that’s what was going on? Come to think of it I kinda remember something about them sneaking off together at night.

mp_burningWhen I first saw THE BURNING some years ago when it was only available as an import disc, it was like discovering an old FRIDAY THE 13TH sequel I never knew I skipped. Instead of Jason, the disabled kid that drowned at the camp, it’s Cropsy, the alcoholic groundskeeper that some kids accidentally burned alive playing a mean prank on him. They claim he’s an asshole, but we don’t really know how true that is because the poor bastard is asleep when it happens. They light a rotted-head-shaped-candle (or a rotted head with candles in it?) next to his bed and then bang on the window. Unfortunately, he knocks the thing over and catches his pants on fire. Also he happens to have a big can of gas nearby. Wouldn’t you know it, the day you have an open can of gasoline nearby would be the same day you catch on fire? Anyway he burns to a crisp, the kids run off and later we find out that the whole camp burned down, although I don’t believe that is illustrated visually.

Later the legend goes that “they never found the body,” but actually they did. We know because he was in a hospital burn ward. Unlike the Prop Man, Cropsy does receive professional medical care, but he’s so fucked up even (extremely unprofessional) hospital interns think he’s a monster. So years later he’s like fuck it, I’m gonna strangle a hooker and then I’m gonna get my garden shears and go trim some campers, you know?

That little section between the origin story and the rampage years later is a nice touch. Traditionally you would skip over what happened to him after being burned, just jump right to him being a legendary ghoul.

This isn’t usually in the slasher movies either, but they have the camp movie element of the feuding kids. There’s a macho muscle guy who sexually harasses the girls and there’s the nerds that try to get revenge on him and what not. There’s a nerdy outcast guy who spies on a girl showering. To the credit of the movie this is treated as creepy and a violation, unlike many comedies and horror movies of the decade which treat that sort of thing as hilarious and awesome.

Among those campers are 18-years-old-but-looks-16 Fisher Stevens, Holly Hunter (I finally figured out who she plays this time, but I think she only has one line), and most impressively 22-year-old Jason Alexander. Yes, young Jason Alexander, already a wisecracker, doing impressions and shit, putting on a Vaudeville show in every scene, but with hair on the top of his head. I’m pretty sure that must be his real personality at that age. Always on, and acting way older than he is.

(Note: There was also a Seinfeld episode called “The Burning,” but I think Alexander was playing his usual Seinfeld character and not this character Dave. Therefore in my opinion the Seinfeld episode does not count as canon in the one-film BURNING franchise.)

still_burning

After a bunch of the teen infighting shit they all go rafting and they split up and Cropsy attacks. The great thing is that he attacks a raft full of them, so instead of the classic picked-off-one-by-one tradition the spree kicks off with a sudden massacre of five people, basically half of the main characters. And then the pile of bodies and parts floats back to greet the other half of the cast.

Then it’s mostly what you expect. Trying to get help, chasing, hiding, an abandoned mine shaft, an ax, a blowtorch, bleeding, burning, thinking he’s dead when he’s not. It’s pretty gory too. It’s fun.

I always thought this was a blatant FRIDAY THE 13th ripoff, but the first murder takes place in New York City, so it’s also like MANIAC. Which makes it a completely original new take on the summer camp slasher movie. But also supposedly this script was written before FRIDAY THE 13TH came out, and actually it’s much closer to FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2, which only came out about a week before this. In fact, FRIDAY THE 13TH makeup effects genius Tom Savini thought the idea of making Jason be the killer in part 2 was so stupid he chose to do THE BURNING instead, providing some disturbingly realistic stabbings.

Director Tony Maylam was not necessarily trying to be a horror director. He had done some TV movies and a Genesis concert movie. He later did SPLIT SECOND with Rutger Hauer.

This is the first movie produced by Bob and Harvey Weinstein, who also helped write the script. You gotta wonder if them having co-written this decades ago is what makes them so sure they know better than other directors how to edit movies. Brad Grey, another famous producer, was also one of the writers, and this was his first movie too. Apparently Cropsy was like the Prop Man, he was a legend that Weinstein had heard as a summer camper in upstate New York. And I guess MADMAN, another legendary-killer-discussed-around-the-campfire early ’80s slasher, also being inspired by Cropsy, had to be drastically reworked when the filmatists heard about THE BURNING being in the works.

According to camp legend, Weinstein still owns the original garden shears from the movie and uses them to hack random chunks out of Asian movies that he has purchased for his save-for-eventual-botched-release shelf.

There aren’t any THE BURNING references in SCREAM are there? I wonder why Weinstein didn’t get them to put some in there. I guess Randy probly couldn’t have rented THE BURNING at that Blockbuster Video or whatever, so that’s why all he knows is HALLOWEEN and PROM NIGHT and stuff. Well, now it’s available from Scream Factory, so everybody can have a look if they like this sorta shit.

 

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Thursday, October 16th, 2014 at 4:55 pm and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

95 Responses to “The Burning”

  1. Seeing this and JUST BEFORE DAWN in the 80’s made me realize just how scary the woods are during the day – and I grew up playing in the woods all day.

    Vern, are we to assume that Cropsy was a big liar?

  2. My favorite Tom Savini gags are in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART IV: THE FINAL CHAPTER but a close second is THE BURNING. I feel like they’re sort of similar, with acting that is above par for the genre and memorable kills. The raft sequence made an impression on me when I was a teenager.

    I’ve always wondered why it wasn’t more well known. It’s much better and a lot more fun than the vast majority of that era’s slasher movies. It also epitomizes what you’d find in the sleazy video store your parents didn’t let you frequent. Check out the poster they had for it in France where it was called CARNAGE:
    http://moviecovers.com/DATA/zipcache/CARNAGE%20%281980%29.jpg
    My teenage brain still thinks: “I gotta see this!”

  3. “Unlike the Prop Man, Cropsy does receive professional medical care…”

    Phrases like this are why Vern is my favorite writer on the Internet.

    Great review bud.

    Do they still have a karate camp in the San Juans and can schlubby single dads enroll?

  4. I rented the dvd of this back in 2008 and I thought it was awesome, this is more my style than the FRIDAY THE 13THs because for one there’s nothing supernatural about the story, it’s just a deformed dude killing people, not some sort of supernatural entity that can’t be killed, the idea seems to be “what if one of these camp legends was totally, actually REAL!?” and that makes it a lot more scarier to me

    and you gotta love Jason Alexander

  5. “I WAS IN THE POOL! I WAS IN THE POOL!”

  6. No love for the “liar” joke? It isn’t stand up material to og on the road with, but come on…

  7. Which one was that? You need to be more specific,pegsman.

  8. Imagine a whole franchise of movies, named after what accidentally happened to the killer before he started killing. (Every movie a new killer)

    – The Stabbing
    – The Hanging
    – The Falling
    – The Car Crashing
    – The Cutting
    – The Poisoning
    – The Exploding
    – The Safety Dancing

    It had endless possibilities!

  9. Forget it, Shoot. It was bad enough as it was. If I explain it…

  10. CJ – That sounds like a confusing gimmick, if every movie in the franchise had a different killer and a different name. How would you know it was part of a franchise? Is it “The” that makes it?

  11. Anyway, here is my contribution to the franchise; THE BLUDGEONING

  12. My local dvd pusher had a copy of PORNO HOLOCAUST – not the X-rated version – on the shelf. And one day, with the store full of people, I asked him how many copies of that he sold on an average day. He did not answer me.

    Shoot, “…he knocks the thing over and catches his pants on fire.” Get it?

  13. Well hell Vern you got me with ” I’m gonna strangle a hooker and then I’m gonna get my garden shears and go trim some campers”. Laughed my ass off at that for a few minutes and now I’m going to go watch the movie.

  14. Am I losing my mind or did you already review this a few years ago? For a while it was playing regularly on the directv and I swear I saw your review of it around the same time that I watched it…

  15. Dtroyt – I’m pretty sure I started this review years ago and didn’t finish it until rewatching it now. So I bet I talked about it in my a-z list of slasher movies or something. Unless *I* am the one losing my mind, which is definitely a possibility.

  16. I always wondered where they got the goddamn severed head from. They really buried the lede on that one.

    I just rewatched THE BURNENING last summer. I really liked the little segue from urban sexual predator to moralistic rural campfire story. There’s some weird symmetry going on there. City Slasher/Country Slasher.

    I also have never been able to pick out Holly Hunter.

    And now I got to get a controversial opinion off my chest: I think the finger chopping gag is poorly done. There’s no blood and the fingers look orange and waxy. I think it might be Savini’s worst effect ever, and it’s doubly disappointing in the middle of such a great scene.

    Vern, if you do watch THE PROWLER, listen to the commentary with Savini and Joseph Zito. They’re clearly old friends and have some great banter, including a story about flying Savini out to do one makeup effect in RED SCORPION. It’s not as good as the VIGILANTE commentary, which includes a story about Fred Williamson getting a Harlem gang leader to recover his stolen jewelry for him, but it’s pretty enjoyable.

  17. Vern- I must be remembering you mentioning it somewhere else… Or something. Who knows? I could even just be remembering that I thought you should write a review and then somehow my brain convinced itself that it already happened.

    I have always thought that it was super weird seeing Jason Alexander in this. He doesn’t come across like someone who would go on to give one of the all time great comic performances in tv history. He seems more like the generic, annoying slasher film comic relief guy.

  18. As soon as I saw it mentioned, I had to look and see if you ever reviewed SPLIT SECOND. What a weeeeeird movie.

  19. This fllm was my childhood nightmare. I loved it but at the same time terribly frightened of him. He was very realistic and work hard on the psyche. I would not recommend watching it growing up children.

  20. There’s a documentary about the Cropsey legend (appropriate titled CROPSEY) that’s on Netflix and stuff. I think I remember it being a pretty decent but paint-by-numbers true crime story. The real story is pretty sad but not very much like THE BURNING except for the name.

  21. I haven’t revisited this in years, but will attest to it’s greatness. Split Second is also all kinds of awesome, It’s as if the kid from Rushmore directed a derivative sci-fi/horror/actioneer and somehow convinced Rutgers Hauer to deliver every piece of dialogue as it was terribly written. I know this is the wrong thread and it may be to cheesey for your tastes Vern, but
    ts my endorsement for this year’s horror search.

  22. I’ve always liked SPLIT SECOND. And not just for the most gratuitous Kim Catrall shower scene of all time. It feels like Rutger Hauer’s I COME IN PEACE, but with some ALIEN and BLADE RUNNER thrown in there and, as I recall, some prescient prognostications about rising water levels. I think Vern’ll dig it. It asks the question, “What if a xenomorph came to London and was a serial killer and also kind of a dick?”

  23. “And if he was Satan”.

  24. Majestyk – thank-you, Rutger Hauer’s I come in peace, is a way better analogy for split second, than derivative sci-fi/horror/actioner. I forgot about Kim Catrall’s shower scene, although looking back it was a huge part of the rewatchability when. I was a kid.

  25. First, this is a terribly fun movie and one of the more solid slashers around from their heyday. I, too, enjoy it far more that the majority of the supernatural F13 films. Ditto for Sleepaway Camp. Second, I have always associated Split Second with I Come in Peace/Dark Angel as well. I even wrote Scream Factory encouraging them to release it after they had done so with ICIP, but received no response. The now out of print DVD fetches big bucks in the Electronic Bay.

  26. Dtroyt,

    In 2009 Vern listed a couple dozen of his favorite slasher movies. “The Burning” was halfway down the list, described as “the best non-FRIDAY THE 13TH camper movie”

    http://www.outlawvern.com/2009/10/22/a-slasher-overview/

  27. I thought the hospitalscene at the beginning was pretty funny. I am not sure showing your hideously burned patients into a freakshow spectacle is “where it´s at” in terms of medical profession. It´s helping them. That is just my layman opinion. I don´t work in medicine.

  28. I must also confess my love of Split Second, having watched it in the theaters opening weekend, when the LA riots were happening. PRetty empty theater, but all the more awesome to enjoy the Hauer hunting Satan in flooded London extravaganza! (Plus my Cattral crush finally paid off with those shower scenes).

    Random note: the sidekick in Split Second (DICK DURKIN!) at one point, after finally seeing the creature, declares “We need bigger guns!” and when I watched that Emmerich Godzilla film a few years later, someone utters the same line. My dad leans over to me and says “That’s from Split Second!”

    My dad rules.

    Anyway, Vern, you should watch Split Second. You can watch it on YouTube in it’s entirety.

  29. OK— bought it used from Amazon, finally watched it through last night, kinda liked it but FUCK!— There were two things that annoyed me shitless.

    One was Jason Alexander, whose one-note smug performance (here, and in PRETTY WOMAN, and in God knows how much SEINFELD) was a detraction, plus he looked like a 30-year old young adult hanging with kids a decade younger than him, much like the guy who played Buddy Repperton in CHRISTINE. For fuck’s sake!— cast him as a camp counselor. Where his being a consummate prick would’ve been suitable.

    Two was the campfire scene, when the studly guy who WAS the camp counselor was telling the spooky tale about Cropsy’s origin, and then that one guy snuck up behind the other campers with a false blade weapon and a rubber mask, and freaked ’em all out… if just for a moment.

    Right THEN, the real Cropsy should’ve jumped out just then, and killed 4-5 people, and then all the surviving campers scatter into the woods into the dead of night, and it becomes a survival free-for-all. Seriously; this plot deployment shit is not that hard to figure out.

    Here’s the three basic rules for Cinematic Thinking Outside The Box:

    1.) Take everything that’s been established up until that point, then…
    2.) Jolt your audience by pulling a hard 90 degree (or 120; trickier but still within reach) angle.
    3.) Go from there, but make it at least interesting, and at best inriguing. At that point, you’ve thrown the baby out the window, but make sure the new baby at least has a passing resemblance to its dead sibling, and its maturation fulfills within 45-60 minutes.

    Simple enough, but it’s sad how few filmatists have the balls to follow through with it.

  30. Just watched this. Good stuff. I also couldn’t for the life of me pick Holly Hunter out from the crowd, and it took me a few minutes of hard thinking before I recognized the camp counselor leading lady as the journalist leading lady from BLOODSPORT. There were a few examples of 1980s-style creepy male behaviour towards the girls, but most of the perpetrators got killed, so that was good. But that poor girl who goes straight from being sexually harassed in the lake to being stabbed with shears on shore …

    Oh, and Mr Pegsman, two years too late, but I’ll give your joke some love.

  31. SPOILERS, I’M SURE.

    Just finished my first watch. This one is an effective little gem. Can’t believe I’ve slept on this one all these years. I loved the soundtrack, enjoyed Alfred and his goofy faces, great quirky cast of camper teens and fun characters, good hunky/hottie lead counselor couple, dug Cropsey’s lair in the ruins setup, memorable and pretty horrific kills, and Cropsey himself is a pretty great central slasher. What else? Cropsey’s death is very solid, nice little obligatory fake-out, and I dug the little coda scene with the new set of campers. Competent, not a total F13th rip-off, good spirit of fun here. This one will have some re-watch value.

  32. Skani, you are a month early for all these horror movies lol Keep your thoughts coming my friend.

  33. Re-reading my comments I sent to you about this one I did seem a bit overly harsh even if I was being positive on it. Like you said this one does a good job distinguishing itself from the other post-F13 slashers and for that it deserves more recognition.

    Stern reminded me, I never chose a theme for this year’s October-viewing experience. Now that I think about it I have no clue what 31+ movies I’ve never seen before I’m going to watch. Better start planning now.

  34. Geoffrey, you have a page or something that you will be sharing what October films you will be watching?

  35. Stern, solid windows of time to watch movies can come in unpredictable bursts, so I’m making the most of whatever chances I get. I certainly can’t commit to 31 movies in October like, GJ here, so I’ve got to get a bit of lead time going! :) There’s a lot of great stuff I want to watch. Still got the CRAZIES remake in mind, ordered a Joe Dante flick called THE HOLE that is supposedly pretty good, have Lynch’s LOST HIGHWAY, ORPHAN, original MY BLOODY VALENTINE, original BLACK CHRISTMAS, SLEEPAWAY CAMP, HILLS HAVE EYES REMAKE, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT remake, TCM 2, maybe JAWS 2 all within my sights. If I can get through those by 31Oct, I’ll have done well. Not banking on it, but nevertheless striving for excellence in couch potato-hood.

    Oh, yeah, IT may also happen.

  36. I am going to see It but I still can’t get over how stupid Pennywise looks.

    I’ll also be doing the October Horror Movie Challenge. So stoked.

  37. “Stupid”? I strongly disagree, From what I have seen they seem to have made him look a bit more otherworldy which fits how the clown shape is described in the book. But, I guess it is subjective. But the short clip of the “Georgie”-scene I saw made me convinced that Bill Skarsgård is going to hit it out of the park. An dI am not saying that because I am a fellow Swede.

    Sterny- I´d appreciate it if you´d try to stop using such a hyperboly word as “stupid” and come up with something that does not trigger my inner IT. Or I´ll make sure you´ll float too. In a river upstreams.

    (Just kidding. or am I?)

  38. I hope that last paragraph came out humerous.

  39. ….instead of murderous

  40. There is some kind of Halloween challenge going on in the German blogosphere, but they only demand 13 movies in October. (I managed to watch 12 last year.) If anybody is interested, here is my list of 26 movies, which is mostly stuff that was sitting on my shelf for a long time. (Some of them were already on last year’s list.)

    https://letterboxd.com/sammybronkowitz/list/horrorctober-2017/

    Also I try to watch a season of AMERICAN HORROR STORY, although everything I’ve heard about the show just makes me hate it and the last time I actually tried to watch it (season 2), I gave up after 5 episodes because I felt I was getting dumber every week.

    I’ll definitely check out IT, but not until it hits home video. I simply can’t watch horror movies in theatres. It’s impossible for me to be scared when I’m surrounded by 100 other people, most of them talking, eating or texting.

  41. Is it that bad in Germany? Here in Sweden the audience is hiihly respectful to the film. I hope there is a high attandence rate, because my best horror movie expereinces has been with an audience. There are always the teenage girls who screams loudly which makes everyone else jumps , and laughs afterwards and create a great atmosphere. That happened with the EVIL DEAD 2013. I hope IT is as good as promised because if it is and the theatre is packed…boy oh boy this can be one experience for the ages.

  42. I can echo that, Shoot. I saw GET OUT at a sneak preview with a packed house last year (primarily college students), and it was a hoot.

  43. It might be just that bad in general. But even if the audience behaves, there is still the problem that I’m stuck in a big room with 100 other people, which isn’t nearly as scary and atmospheric as watching a horror movie alone, in my dark bedroom, followed by a night in the same, dark bedroom, where I can hear my neighbours suddenly yell at each other or slam their doors in the middle of the night.

  44. I think both have their merits, but I definitely don’t get out to the cinema much. My interest for IT is piqued, though, so I’ll probably spring for it if I can make the time and find a bro-date.

  45. The costume and Sarsgaards face do not scare me so far. However, the tone of the film looks so creepy.

  46. I think this year is the year I finally make The Shining one of my first time views.

  47. Skarsgård. Not Saarsgard.

  48. You’ve never seen SHINING yet, Stern?!? What?!?

    I’ve said it before, my own film-watching resume is pretty uneven. This was my first watch of THE BURNING, most of the movies I mention above I don’t think I’ve ever watched (I saw SLEEPAWAY CAMP once as a kid), etc. But I’ve probably seen SHINING at least ten times.

    The hype is real. Nicholson’s performance is famously unhinged and over-the-top. Less widely discussed is that even Nicholson was concerned during filming that Kubrick was pushing him to be toward too broad with the performance. Or so I’ve read somewhere. But I don’t think it’s actually too broad. I think there’s something brilliant and lovable about it. In the initial scenes, I don’t so much see it as over-the-top, as much as it reflects an inspired portrayal of a fundamentally misanthropic, maladjusted man-child in desperate straits trying his best to put on the mask of a well-adjusted job interview candidate, husband, and father. He’s trying to hold it together and tell everyone what they want to hear, acting the part(s), but he’s only barely masking his contempt at the absurdity of playing these social roles. And then as the Overlook hotel takes hold, he falls more and more into madness and gives into his darker impulses.

    And then there’s the fact that Stephen King famously hates Kubrick’s SHINING, but fuck Stephen King, then, because SHINING is a masterpiece, Kubrick made it his own (as well he should have), and it’s certainly better than the vast majority of King adaptations combined.

    But I digress. That is for another thread. Would love to read a Vern review of SHINING, as I know he’s got some fresh things to say about it, whether he knows it or not!!

  49. “Fuck , Stephen King”? Have you even read the book, motherfucker? The Kubrick film is great on its own premise. As a scary mood piece. As an european Dario Argento sort of film it works as a strange atmospherice piece. But the book is far more complex in terms of narrative and psyhology. While there is little to no narrative in the Kubrick film with a Nicholson on typical crazy mood the booki s rich and tragic as a normal human being succumbs to madness.

    The book is incredibly creepy as Jack Torrance slowly becomes one with the hotel. In the film he is crazy almost immediately without any pscyhological motivation. There is little to none narrative, the book however slowly builds it.

    I love the Kubrick movie as its own thing and Kings own miniseries however is pretty bad, because it relies to much on the source material and as a result is too literal which makes it less effective.

    I have mixed feelings about the adaptaions. I love the Kubrick version even though it has little to do with the book, but the novel is so fucking great you owe it to yourself to read it. Nobody writes crazy people like King!

  50. I don’t disagree with any of that, Shoot. I was being a bit hyperbolic. My point was just that Stephen King sounds so obviously butt-hurt by the fact that Kubrick did not feel obligated to consult King, and that Kubrick took the liberty of treating the film as source material and inspiration, not as a finished shooting script. In other words, King didn’t like it, because, in reality or at least in his eyes, it wasn’t faithful to his book. Well, tough shit. You sold your book rights to Paramount (or whomever), and now they can turn it into a stop-motion claymation film or do whatever the hell they want with it. Get over yourself. I mean, if you (King) don’t like it, that’s you’re prerogative, but it’s the not liking it because Kubrick had the temerity to make it as a Kubrick film and not as some hacky, slavish Mick Garris adaptation, it’s just, whatever man.

    I do like King’s work, too. I think he’s probably more scatological than Freud’s most Freudian patient, but he’s got a brilliant imagination. I just think his instincts on which “faithful adaptations” = “good movies” are a little blinkered.

  51. Also, I did read the book of THE SHINING once way back when, and I remember liking it all right. I also actually don’t think the miniseries was all that bad (sorry for my outburst, Mick Garris), I just don’t think it’s got anything on Kubrick’s.

  52. I apologize for that outburst, Skani. I agree with everything you said. I am just sensitive on everything King, I guess. he has becoem my favourite writer after all. You basically nails down everything with your last post. Both King´s strength but also his sometimes weird ideas on what an adaptaion is. I hope we can have some weid and fu discussions about it when IT arrives.

  53. For sure, Shoot. If that was an outburst, burst away. It’s all good, my man.

  54. I have never read a Stephen King book but I have read his son’s book Nos4a2 which is either going to make a terrible series or be amazing. I’m not sure.

  55. I have never read a Joe Hill book, but I have listened to that one song by 4NonBlondes.

  56. I have never read a Sternshein book. But I imagine one.

  57. Stern: If by page you mean a spreadsheet where I log all the movies I watch then yes! I was thinking of getting a Letterboxed account but my distaste of social media keeps me from committing. I logged last year’s movies and this year I started to log all movies I watch. I DO have a twitter account though but I do not post anything and use it exclusively for news (handy when I’m busy with work and don’t have time to read the news proper). I guess I could either try to DM you on there or list it somewhere on here or share the spreadsheet via Google Drive or iCloud. Or get a Letterbox account (if anyone like CJ has first-hand accounts of it being awesome I may pull the trigger).

    So I am open to ideas to both best to share that AND a potential theme or individual movie recommendations. I work better if I have a theme to work with (two years I did J-Horror, last year I did Slashers).

    By-the-way I’m honestly kinda flattered you’re interested in what I’m going to watch. Thank you for that!

    CJ: I made it one episode into AMERICAN HORROR STORY on what was told to me to be the best and maybe only good season. Based on your criteria I am in no position to tell you I didn’t like it buuuuuut I kinda hated what I saw. So yeah, agree with you on that it made me feel actively stupider for watching it and I’m a guy who posted that he kinda likes the TRANSFORMERS sequels.

    Thanks for sharing you Letterbox page as well. I mean I know that’s the link in your name but it’s different when you put in a post.

    RE: Stephen King vs Movie SHINING. THE SHINING is a very personal book for King in that it is unloading his demons with alcoholism. So Kubrick, in effect, taking a giant dump all over his source material I think would tend to rub him the wrong way. Also it IS his book they’re adapting, I do not believe that filmmakers have the need to be faithful to their source, so he was a personal ownership over the story and I’m sure it sticks in his craw that they did not follow every syllable. Most writers (even screenwriters) tend to be like and I find it hard to disagree with them from a moral perspective, writers constantly get screwed and rarely get credit they deserve (but damn do they get credit when a movie is unliked or unpopular) and usually get the short end of the stick salary-wise as well (not even mentioning all the unpaid work asked for them). Anyways my mom wants to see IT so I will not be seeing IT (ha!) till next week when the crowds die down.

  58. Well, I like Letterboxd, but I only use it because I was doing the movie diary thing for years, but originally on Tumblr and it’s easier to to it on Letterboxd. Also I know that at least once in a while some people actually read what I write there and I never had any encounter with spam so far. The community is pretty chill too. (So far I only had one “fuck you” comment, because I really don’t like BREAKFAST CLUB.)

    All in all I think it’s a good way if you randomly wanna show people what shit you’ve watched and what you thought about it. (You don’t even HAVE to write something about it. Just give it a star rating. Or don’t.) If you are into that. I think a Google spreadsheet or whatever is okay too.

  59. I don’t think Stephen King is butthurt about The Shining or is mad because it’s not a perfect adaption. He just doesn’t like it, primarily because Jack is basically crazy from scene one. Any suspense or character struggle from a descent into madness is stripped away, in King’s opinion. But he doesn’t seem to have a vendetta against it, and he concedes that people like it. I think it’s fair for an author to have an opinion on how his work is interpreted.

    I’ve never read The Shining, but I’ve never made it more than 30-40 minutes into the movie, mostly for the same reason King doesn’t like it. We start with a crazy guy who acts like a crazy guy, and his nervy wife, and his weirdo kid, and about five minutes into the thing wacky stuff is already happening. There’s nothing to hang my hat on, no set up so I can have characters I care about be put in peril. It’s straight to crazy Jack and the big empty hotel so Kubrick can show off his steadicam.

    And the GLOWERING. Does no one else have a problem with that stupid, stupid Kurbrick glowering? You know, where an actor has their chin tucked down but looks up with their eyes so we can see how crazy or scared or whatever they are. Like Private Pyle in Full Metal Jacket before he does his murder-suicide. It pops up in The Shining from Jack and the kid and stops me cold every time, because it looks so goddamn dumb.

  60. I like both the book and the movie, but I can see why King would take offense to Kubrick’s treatment of Jack. After all, Jack Torrance is little more than a thinly veiled substitute for a slightly younger version of King himself: a struggling writer/professor/father just beginning to wrap his head around the idea that he might have a drinking problem. The problem is, King wouldn’t admit to himself that he he really, truly had a serious problem for many years, and that’s the place he writes Jack from. He sees that character as a basically decent guy with a few issues he just needs to work through who gets unfairly targeted and corrupted by an evil supernatural force. Kubrick saw through all that shit. He saw Jack as a fundamentally angry, entitled asshole who hated his family and society so much that his only escape was booze and bitter condescension. And there is more than enough evidence to support that reading in the book. Even before Jack gets to the Overlook, he’s a real prick, a violent, patronizing jerk who puts his family through hell. I’ve seen that type up close, and I have much less sympathy for it than King does. King thinks that character deserves redemption, and maybe he’s right. King, after all, pulled out of his tailspin and became, by all accounts, a solid dude. Kubrick, however, is more interested in the giddy thrill of leaning into the character’s antisocial tendencies. He plays the story as a black comedy of a guy definitively shrugging off the shackles of family and society with just the slightest of nudges from the Overlook, and enjoying every last goddamn second of it. He’s wanted this his whole life: to stop fucking pretending that he gives a shit about his annoying wife and kid and his idiot boss who’s not half as smart as he is. (Why do you think Kubrick so famously directed Duvall to be as shrill as possible? To stack the deck in Jack’s favor and force the audience to relate to him more than her.) Now he’s free to focus of what’s truly important to him: the self-important noodling of his own narcissism, a.k.a. “his work.” The fact that his work turns out to be nothing but childish gibberish (to everyone else but Jack, of course, who thinks it’s genius) is the black cherry on top of the perfectly nihilistic joke. I can totally see how a noted cold fish and misanthrope Kubrick would see a kind of dark fantasy wish-fulfillment in the story of a man who completely severs himself from all connections to the world and goes on living in his own imagination. I can also see why King would find that integration insulting: It might have hit a little close to home.

  61. *interpretation

  62. Thanks for telling me about letterboxd.com. I started a profile there. My user name is Doubleh55. How can I locate and follow you guys that have it?

  63. Chopper, I think it’s fair for King to have an opinion, and perhaps it just comes across as him nursing a wound only because he gets asked about it a lot–it’s more a function of how often he’s asked and him being honest in reply than it is a function of him screaming it from the rooftops or whatever. On the other hand, consider a few things:

    1. It seems probable-to-certain that King in some sense views the Torrance family as a proxy for his own family, and Jack as a kind of narrative incarnation of himself. There are a lot of autobiographical notes (English teacher struggling to become a writer, struggling with alcoholism and family discord and fatherhood), and, from the way he speaks about the adaptation, King clearly has a particularly strong personal investment in the characters, how they are portrayed, and their arcs.

    2. In describing the Kubrick adaptation, King is not merely critical of what he perceives as bad filmmaking choices (though he also makes those kinds of criticisms), but he seems especially preoccupied with filmmaking choices that he views as somehow morally or socially objectionable. He doesn’t like that Wendy is not portrayed as overtly tough, and he does not like the Jack is unsympathetic from the beginning, and he does not like that Jack fails to have a quasi-redemptive arc. Never mind whether Kubrick’s characters and portrayals work on their own terms, King seems to be preoccupied with the liberties Kubrick took: That Kubrick’s Jack is not the novel’s Jack, the Kubrick’s Wendy is not the novel’s Wendy, and so forth.

    3. There are reports of King being very much offended at how Kubrick personally was dismissive toward him and his novel and disingenuous about his plans in adaptation.

    4. One of King’s main complaints is that, whereas the novel is “warm” (again, betraying the personal sentiment King has wrapped up with the characters, their portraryal, their fate), Kubrick’s film is “cold.” Well, yeah, duh. It’s Kubrick. Of course, it’s cold. What do you expect from Kubrick but for him to use the source material to make a Kubrick film with Kubrick sensibilities.

    In summary, some of King’s criticisms may be legitimate on their merits (though I think critics at large resoundingly disagree), but given that it’s his novel, it’s got deeply autobiographical elements (more so than his other “books about authors”), and he seems to have a big stake in these characters being portrayed in a more sympathetic or winning light than they are, it’s hard to view his criticisms as purely aesthetic.

    Chopper, fine if you didn’t dig the film and if you share some of the same complaints King does. But it’s hard for me to see King as having a detached critical view. He’s personally hurt by what Kubrick did to his semi-autobiographical baby.

  64. Typed that post asynchronously between household obligations and missed Majestyk’s post in the process. Good, insightful stuff, Majestyk–or at least it resonates with my own interpretation of the film and of King.

  65. Sternsheim, well I think the only ways are if someone tells you their name on there or if you already follow them on Twitter or Facebook. Then you can connect your accounts under “settings” and have an option to let the site search through all the people you follow there and show you if they are on Letterboxd too. (I already followed you, btw.)

  66. Skani-

    We disagree on the severity of King’s reaction to it. Majestyk suggests it’s a result of Kubrick revealing something in King’s own personality that he’s not willing to accept, which is fun speculation but requires a few leaps. You think he’s deeply hurt by it, and I’m not sure what you’ve seen or read that suggests this is so. Do you have anything to link to recently that shows he has this personal wound?

    I’ve seen a few King lectures, interviews, and Q&As over the years, and The Shining does come up, usually someone asking him about it, and he’s never seemed bitter or entirely dismissive of the film. He just doesn’t like that it undermines the central arc of the main character. And I know he wrote his own script for it which Kubrick tossed aside, so I can understand some anger at having his contributions ignored.

    But I haven’t seen or heard anything more unreasonable than any other writer not happy with what was done with their work. It’s just this is more prominent because some people consider Kubrick’s The Shining a masterpiece.

  67. Nicholson’s Jack Torrance is not “crazy from the beginning”. He’s an abusive narcissistic patriarch and Kubrick directs and shoots the character in a way that forces the viewer to see him as his terrorized wife and child do – the barely concealed contempt, the coiled violence, the hollowness of his love – even during moments of (always awkward and feigned) normalcy. I guess we can debate whether this was a successful choice or to which ends it works towards but it seems clear to me that the lack of a dramatically functional “downfall” arc for the character is an intentional creative choice integral to the broader connection the film draws between the patriarchal family and white racism, the attempted genocide of the American Indians, etc rather than just Wacky Jack accidentally chewing too much scenery or whatever.

  68. I don’t think I said that King is “deeply hurt,” though I did use the jocular term “butt-hurt” just for fun. My point is not that he’s deeply hurt, but that it’s a deeply personal reaction to the film that is as much for personal reasons and deep personal investment in the Torrance character, his family, and their plight. Of course, I don’t have a link to King saying, “You may not know this, but my issues with THE SHINING are deeply personal.” That’s the whole point, that it seems like a pretty clear inference from context that it is personal but that King lacks the self-awareness to realize that he’s being personally “triggered” by how his Jack and family are represented vs. simply evaluating the film on its own merits as an exercise in psychological horror. I’m trying to prove a thesis about King that he would deny, so, no, I don’t have a link to him endorsing my thesis.

    But here are some relevant materials that offer a jumping-off point:

    25 Things You Might Not Know About The Shining

    All month long, we're bringing you little-known facts about your favorite movies and TV shows. Meredith Danko starts us off.

    Is Stephen King justified in hating Kubrick’s vision for The Shining?

    In Page To Screen, we compare a movie to the book that spawned it. The analysis goes into deep detail about specific plot points—in other words, you’ve been warned.

  69. Stern & CJ: Got a Letterboxd account. First breach that steals information is on you guys!

    Jeffrey Roberie’s profile

    Jeffrey is using Letterboxd to share film reviews and lists with friends. Jeffrey’s profile contains 0 films and 0 lists.

    Already following both of you.

  70. Skani, get on the letterboxd.com train.

  71. The “all work and no play” scene, which is not in the book, is scarier than anything in King’s novel, which is solid and well worth reading, but I think King knows that THE SHINING is the one King adaption that actually tops the book and cool, down to Earth guy that he is, I think he still has enough of an ego that it stings a bit.

  72. Done. I have an account now.

  73. The scariest scene in the movie is when Jack and Danny are sitting on the bed together. That scene just rings too goddamn true for me. An abuser is never scarier than when he’s trying to be nice.

  74. That is creepy as hell, Majestyk, the mirror adding nicely. I have to say, for me, it’s still Jack’s encounter with the beautiful woman in 237. That is hands down the most terrifying thing I ever saw in a film as a kid, and I’m still not sure anything tops it.

    The “All work and no play” reveal is also creepy as hell. List goes on.

    The encounters with Lloyd and Grady are also great. Not “boo!” scary, but just utterly chilling.

    I could go on and on. That’s what so’s great about the film, is that it really taps into all kinds of shades of horror and terror, from the slightly off to the restrained but sinister to the gory and unhinged. When people (like me) talk about the slow burn, I think this film is a great example of the modern horror slow burn at it’s finest. There’s something about really taking the time to let the dread, the uncanny, the off-ness of things cumulate and percolate for a while only to have the kettle really start to whistle in the last 1/3 or 1/4 of the film.

  75. On an ,in no way related, thought, has anybody noticed that every movie trailer has to be cut to match the beat of whatever song is playing in the background? What was once a cool thing has now gotten to the point where I hate it and I wish they would stop.

  76. So, since we’re all in agreement that The Shining sucks and getting mad at Stephen in King for not liking it is stupid, let’s talk about the elephant in the room:

    The Burning rules. My favorite part is where Glazer finally convinces his girl to make it with him but he goes too soon. She’s disappointed in him, but despite his dopiness is still into him. It’s a very sweet and real moment.

    And then they die horribly by garden shears.

  77. Has anyone here read Kings sequel to THE SHINING. DOCTOR SLEEP is really good. It´s not another haunted hotel even though the memories still haunts Danny Torrence as an adult. And Overlook do play a part in the story. It is more of a story about the sins of your father and Danny struggling with not going down the same road as Jack. He is a struggling alcoholic, angry and self destructive until he finds something that might break that spell.

    On a more personal note, I find this story deeply moving as my own dad is an alcoholic and I have found myself repeating history.

    Good book. Really good book.

  78. Chopper, you bastard… Yes, Glazer is such a surly meathead of a character, but then seeing him in such a place of dorky and earnest vulnerability is a welcomed change of pace. “It’s gonna be good, baby, I promise!”

    Shoot, I remember hearing about DOCTOR SLEEP coming out and being mildly intrigued. I don’t often read fiction, though I did go through a big Stephen King and Dean Koontz phase back around 8th grade where I read a lot of their respective back catalogs circa 1992. Since then I have not really kept up on their output, though I did a couple of the Stephen King short story anthologies that he puts out every so often, and I read MR. MERCEDES, which I enjoyed.

    Shoot, also, I hope you are able to look into some support or treatment with the alcohol. It comes up on here often enough in various contexts that I don’t want to turn a blind eye to it. You’re a good egg and a good presence on this site, and I wish and encourage you to be as well as you can. Easier said than done, I know. I have had a few of different situations of my own where I have in the past operated in various degrees of “I can lick this” denial where I have since realized I needed assistance of a professional kind. One of them is active now, but I’m working with medical folks to address it. TMI perhaps, but this is real life we’re talking about, and I know that, deep down, we all want to be healthy enough to continue having constructive conversations about blood cascading out of elevators for as long as possible. Also, my parents drank way too much, and it screwed up big swaths of my childhood, so I can relate to at least some of it.

    Speaking of trauma, I watched THE PROWLER yesterday night. My slasher bucket list adventure continues!

  79. Thanks for the kidn words, Skani. I guess we all have our own demons to fight.

    Also, on unrelated Stephen King adaptaions; I watched DREAMCATCHER last night for the first. If somebody always wanted to see aliens crawl out of peoples assholes you get that!

  80. Shoot, I guess we all have our own turd monsters to fight. Against, my better judgment, I watched this whenever it first came out on DVD, and it was about as bad as I’d heard. Very solid cast and production values squandered on a bad, bad movie. Morgan Freeman is a national treasure who will act in just about any piece of shit for the paycheck.

  81. It is bad. But I enjoyed it somewhat. But the characterization of Morgan Freemans character was so terrible. He says numerous times that “he is on the edge and shouldn´t be in the field”. You don´t write hamfisted dialogue like that. That is something you show the audience through his actions. Sure he shoots a lackey in the hand to prove a point. But he always seems calmer than a cucumber. I never got the notion that he was losing his shit. Even when the government shows up to shut his operation down he takes it pretty easy. “Well, that´s the end of me, I guess”

    I don´t think I have seen crazy being portrayed this laidback.

  82. I think The Prowler is one of the very best slasher films that was ever made.

  83. Stern, I just made some comments on it in another thread. Would love to hear your thoughts on the film.

  84. I forgot to mention one more thing about King and THE SHINING, I think King also resents the fact that if it wasn’t for that movie he probably wouldn’t be quite the household name that he is.

    For all the initial success King had prior to THE SHINING movie and despite the fact that the THE SHINING movie took a while to really gain popularity, as the years went on, particularly in the 90s, it helped a lot to have his name attached to this famous movie everyone has seen, I know THE SHINING was my introduction to King.

    And what’s cool is the IT is movie is now doing the same thing and introducing him to a whole new audience.

  85. IT (the movie) is pretty great. It’s like a prestige A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET sequel. I saw it last Thursday with a packed audience of mostly Gen-Y’ers, and they kept their smart-ass little know-it-all mouths shut FOR THE ENTIRE FUCKING FILM! Except for when they were laughing or screaming, but it was during all the appropriate moments. Now that’s pretty rare these days.

  86. Hearing that it’s like a “prestige A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET sequel” is just the motivation that I needed to see it. Thanks Mastor Troy.

    It’s interesting to see these Stephen King books, so awash in 50s nostalgia of his childhood, being updated to the current wave of 80s nostalgia. I wonder if all the people who grew up in the 50s bitched about all the innacuracies in 80s films (“This is set in 1956 but that Little Ricard song wasn’t released until 1957!”).

  87. I don’t know about that theory, Griff. CARRIE was a huge hit, well reviewed and even got Oscar nominations for Spacek and Laurie. THE SHINING made a profit but was not well received at first, as evidenced by the Razzie dipshits giving it nominations for worst director and actress. I think King just doesn’t like it because the changes from the book don’t fit with his view of what the story is about. As silly as it is in this case I’m willing to forgive an author for not being able to take that leap.

  88. I agree somewhat with Vern. CARRIE made his name. It is quite an accomplishment to get his book published but also his first published book become a movie that had significant impact on popular culture. And SALEM´S LOT may have also cemented him as not just a fluke.

    THE SHINING has had an enormous impact but before then King had enough successes in his belt. I´ll agree that the film reached out to a wider audience (cinephiles etc) and helped elevate King outside the literary circel.

    His career has strangely intertwined with the movie industry from the start. Nowadays that is not unusual. I´ll imagine plenty of popular authors write their books with an intent to make them into a movie someday so they try to make them possible to realise cinematically. Perhaps King was a trailblazer in that regard.

  89. Except King’s books are distinctly difficult to realize cinematically. His premises are often either hokey or difficult to explain without laborious backstory He can sell the shit out of them on the page because of his strong grasp of psychology and setting and the hypnotic power of his prose, which lets you in on the inner workings of his characters. That’s much harder to get across onscreen, where so much needs to be told visually.

  90. I think what I meant to tell was that his career has been built upon adaptations from the beginning. I am not saying they are easily adapted. He just happened to have brilliant filmmakers to do make that ahppen. I do think he somewhat owes his superstar status as a writer of books to these adaptations. And in that regard I kind of argee with Griff. Just not fully.

    Nowadays when I read a new writer they seem to go out of their way to not construct prose or stories that could be difficult to translate onscreen. King had help of fantastic filmmakers to help realize his very literate work and in the process make his name famous outisde of the literary circle and make horror somewhat mainstream. There is a difference. he thinks of the written word foremost and then everybody else have to figure out the puzzlebox he created.

  91. I agree with that assessment. King thinks in the rhythms of prose narrative, not film, and it takes a talented filmmaker to translate. And you’re right, it’s impossible to ascend to the heights of pop culture ubiquity that he’s attained as *just* an author. Books alone can make you famous among readers, but movies bring you to everyone.

  92. Two days before I can see IT. Never been so excited to see a Stephen King adaptation. THE DARK TOWER was a messy disappointment but not without its merit. Just a wrongheaded and flat attempt of adapting what is essentially Stephen Kings KILL BILL into a mainstream kid freindly fantasy adventure.

  93. Vern – I would say the CARRIE movie is mostly it’s own thing though, it doesn’t quite have King’s name attached to it in the popular consciousness as THE SHINING does, maybe because it’s a female centric story and pretty atypical of most of King’s work, I’m not saying CARRIE didn’t help his popularity at all, because of course it did, but as the decades went on not as much as THE SHINING kept his name in the popular consciousness.

    Also I want to see IT really badly but unfortunately my local theater is closed due to Hurricane Irma, I’ll keep my eye out but I feel like there’s probably not going to be many people in the theater anyway here if I see it, it’s a shame timing was on my side as far as that goes, but thankfully I’m ok in case anyone is wondering.

  94. This is an odd one to watch now, with the Weinstein stuff being out in the open. I think a lot of pictures that they were heavily involved in are gonna look a little different in retrospect, and the thing that leaps out here is that the two guys in the big fight in the end are… a weedy pervert and this older-brother-type counsellor figure – and their bonding scene was the latter sheltering the former from the consequences of his actions. Spying on girls.

    If those two, in the Burning universe, went on to set up a production studio you can bet that the headlines in 2017 would not have been kind to them. Cropsy should’ve killed them IMO.

  95. Skani, you need to watch Most Likely to Die. It’s on Netflix and an above average slasher with great deaths.

Leave a Reply





XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <img src=""> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <b> <i> <strike> <em> <strong>