movie poster

Release date: May 8th,  1981

Tagline: "A legend of terror is no campfire story anymore!"

Budget: $1.5 Million (estimated)

The Burning is a 1981 slasher film directed by Tony Maylam, with music by Rick Wakeman. It tells the story of a cruel alcoholic caretaker of a summer camp (nicknamed "Cropsy" and based on the urban legend of Cropsey) who falls victim to a prank that went awry, which leaves him horribly burned and disfigured. Following his release from the hospital, he returns to his old stomping ground and begins a murder spree.

The film was one of the first from Miramax Films: Harvey Weinstein produced the film and Bob Weinstein was a co-writer.[2] Jason Alexander, Fisher Stevens and Oscar winner Holly Hunter all made their motion picture debuts in this film.

Originally released theatrically in the United States by Filmways, the rights to The Burning currently belong to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.


In 1976, at Camp Blackfoot, several campers pull a prank on the caretaker, "Cropsy", during the night: sneaking into his cabin, they set up a wormy skull next to his bed with candles in the eye sockets. When Cropsy awakens to the campers banging on his window, he is so frightened by the skull that he knocks it onto his bed where it ignites his sheets and clothes. Aflame, Cropsy leaps from his bed and knocks over a gas tank, causing flames to spread through the cabin. The boys watch in shock as Cropsy, engulfed in flames, stumbles out and falls into a river.

Five years later, Cropsy is released from the hospital, wearing a coat, sunglasses and hat to hide his deformities. Out of rage, he murders a prostitute by strangling her and stabbing her chest with a pair scissors repeatedly until she dies. He then sets out to another summer camp, Camp Stonewater. Cropsy arrives and tries to attack a female camper, Tiger, who is searching for a baseball in the woods, but he hesitates to kill her.

The next morning, camper Sally showers and pulls back the curtain, exposing camper Alfred, who runs away. Sally's screams bring Karen, Michelle, Todd, and Eddy, who catch Alfred. Michelle demands Alfred leave, but Todd talks to him. Todd learns that Alfred has no friends, and was pulling a prank on Sally. Glazer, Sally's boyfriend, later attacks Alfred, but Todd tells Glazer to cool off, and Alfred apologizes to Sally.

That night, Alfred spots Cropsy outside his window, but no one believes him. At the mess hall, Karen tells Michelle that she and Eddy are going to sleep together. The kids all go on a canoe trip up the river. After supper, Karen and Eddy go to a lake to skinny dip. Just as Eddy and Karen are about to have sex, Karen reconsiders, upsetting Eddy. Upon leaving, Karen discovers her clothes strewn in the woods. As she collects them, Cropsy grabs her and slits her throat.

The next morning, Michelle finds Karen has not returned. She and Todd find Eddy, who tells them she left. They discover the canoes have been cut adrift on the lake that surrounds the camp. Michelle does not believe Karen is the culprit, so some campers including Todd, Michelle, Alfred, Glazer, Dave, Eddy, Sally, Woodstock, Tiger, Barbara, Marnie, Sophie, Diane, Fish, Alan, and Rhoda go and search far away from the camp. They create a raft to collect the canoes, while other campers and counselors gather wood. Eddy, Fish and Woodstock (Fisher Stevens) board the finished raft, along with two female campers, Marnie and Barbara . Alfred begins to explore, while Todd reassures Michelle that Karen is fine. Eddy and the campers spot a canoe and paddle toward it, Woodstock reaches for the canoe only to have Cropsy jump out and kill them all with his shears. He stabs Fish in the chest, stabs Marnie at the back, cuts Woodstock's hand and stabs him, stabs Eddy in the neck and Barbara screaming and scrambling was stabbed in the head.

Michelle starts to worry about Karen. As night falls, Glazer finally has sex with Sally, but suffers premature ejaculation. He later goes to get matches to start a fire and resume their intimacy. Cropsy then appears behind Sally, and forcibly shoves his shears into her chest, Sally fighting to remove the shears only to be killed. Alfred finds the spot where the couple is staying, and watches as Glazer returns. He uncovers Sally but Cropsy is hiding under Sally, Cropsy stabs his shears at Glazer's neck and pins him to a tree. Alfred returns to the others. He awakens Todd and tells him about what he just saw. Todd does not believe him until he finds the bodies. He is then attacked by Cropsy, who knocks him out, and chases Alfred.

Alfred is chased, while Todd chases after Cropsy with an axe. The campers see a raft moving towards them with no one on board moving. When Michelle approaches the raft, she discovers it is full of dead bodies, Fish's severed arm falls on her head while she pulls him. She screams in horror while the other campers help her. Todd appears on the nearby island and goes to them. He tells them to evacuate as the campers are scared and panicking. On the island, she rows the remaining campers – Dave, Tiger, Barbara, Sophie, Alan and Rhoda towards the campsite. Meanwhile, Cropsy has captured Alfred, and drags him towards an abandoned mineshaft. Todd follows nearby, eventually tracking down Alfred in the mine, where Cropsy has pinned him up against the wall in the arm with his shears.

Michelle returns with the campers, and calls the police to helicopter the kids and survivors to safety. Todd looks through the mine opening for Cropsy and Alfred. When he steps across a piece of track, a mine car up on a raft rolls down, causing him to fall. He falls through a wall and discovers Karen's body, hanging from the ceiling. He and Cropsy struggle as Cropsy is trying to kill Todd with a blowtorch, and when Cropsy's disfigurement is shown, he remembers he was involved in the original prank. Alfred frees himself and helps Todd by stabbing Cropsy in the back with his own shears, seemingly killing him. The police arrive, while Michelle travels by boat to find Todd and Alfred. While Todd and Alfred are leaving, Cropsy attacks them. Todd hits Cropsy in the face with an axe, then Alfred ignites his clothes with Cropsy's blowtorch. Afterward, Alfred and Todd make their way out to Michelle, who brings them to the helicopter and to the hospital. The film ends with another group of teenagers telling the story of Cropsy around the campfire.


  • The film was produced by the then-new company Miramax Films run by Harvey Weinstein and his brother Bob. Harvey wrote and produced while Bob co-wrote the screenplay. Brad Grey, who later became chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures, was another of the film's writers.
  • The weinsteins invested a hefty price at the time to capitalize on the slasher film craze.
  • Hired as makeup effects was maestro Tom Savini, who turned down a job for Friday the 13th Part 2 to do The Burning. Savini has stated that he was only given three days to design Cropsy's makeup.
  • The movie did not fare well with the MPAA, which demanded several scenes be cut to receive an R rating; one of these scenes being the infamous raft massacre scene in which Cropsy leaps out of an abandoned canoe and dismembers five campers in rapid succession.
  • Filmed in western New York in the summer of 1980.
  • The film's obscene and graphic violence led to it landing on the video nasties list. The British video label Thorn-EMI; the company was supposed to release the slightly trimmed version passed by the British Board of Film Classification. The tapes were impounded under the Obscene Publications Act
  • The Weinsteins went on to become properous producers in the film industry, later founding the successful production company Dimension Films. In 1996, They reinvigerated the slasher genre by producing the spec script Scream.



Directed by Tony Maylam
Produced by Harvey Weinstein
Screenplay by Bob Weinstein

Peter Lawrence

Story by Brad Grey

Tony Maylam
Harvey Weinstein

Starring Lou David
Leah Ayres

Brian Backer Larry Joshua Brian Matthews

Music by Rick Wakeman
Cinematography Harvey Harrison
Editing by Jack Sholder
Studio Miramax Films

The Cropsy Venture

Distributed by Filmways (United States)

Ambassador Film Distributors (Canada)

Release dates *May 8, 1981 (United States)
Running time 91 minutes [1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1,500,000 (estimated)
Box office $707,770
Theatre of Alienation

  • CAST
  • Brian Matthews as Todd
  • Leah Ayres as Michelle
  • Brian Backer as Alfred
  • Larry Joshua as Glazer
  • Jason Alexander as Dave
  • Ned Eisenberg as Eddy
  • Carrick Glenn as Sally
  • Carolyn Houlihan as Karen
  • Fisher Stevens as Woodstock
  • Lou David as Cropsy
  • Shelley Bruce as Tiger
  • Sarah Chodoff as Barbara
  • Bonnie Deroski as Marnie
  • Holly Hunter as Sophie
  • Kevi Kendall as Diane
  • J.R. McKechnie as Fish
  • George Parry as Alan
  • Ame Segull as Rhoda
  • Jeff De Hart as Supervisor
  • Bruce Kluger as Rod
  • Keith Mandell as Young Todd
  • Jerry McGee as Intern
  • Mansoor Najeeullah as Orderly
  • Willie Reale as Paul
  • John Roach as Snoop
  • K.C. Townsend as Hooker
  • John Tripp as Camp Counselor
  • James Van Verth as Jamie
  • Therese Morreale as Girl playing softball