The Burning is notorious for having one of the coolest scenes in slasher movie history. It’s impossible for me to exaggerate how amazing that raft scene is. Savini’s effects were at their peak while the music and photography compliment the mayhem perfectly. It may be less than a minute of screen time, but the ante is continuously raised. It’s like one “Woah!” after another.
I’m not here to talk about the raft scene today, though. Instead, I’m interested in the crackpot medical staff at St. Catherine’s Hospital. Cropsy (a summer camp maintenance man and the film’s killer) is brought to this medical facility after a camp prank and some highly flammable pyjamas left leave him severely disfigured. Not only do they fail to help him beyond keeping him alive, they gawk at him like a freak show attraction, and make the worst judgement call possible on releasing a patient.
These guys seriously make the Cresthaven Asylum medical staff in Silent Madness (they released maniac Howard Johns instead of the harmless John Howard) look like they have a reasonably good handle on hospital procedures.
Cropsy’s only there for a week when some snivelling medical student is coaxed into taking a peak at him some jive talking orderly. There are a couple of things going on here. One, the doctor in training obviously has no business there if he’s taking shit like that from an orderly. He went through how many years of med school to be intimidated by some guy who might have a GED? Two, why is he so squeamish? He’s completely turned to jelly before he even sees anything. I get that they’re trying to sell Cropsy’s state as above and beyond the typical burn victim; so much so that even seasoned medical vets are disturbed by his injuries. The problem is that they don’t show any seasoned vets. Just this guy who looks like he would faint at the sight of a bloody nose and this orderly:
He’s got quite a bit of swagger behind his “I’ve seen it all” demeanor but this all disappears when a burn victim grabs his arm. At this point, it’s just a burn victim and he’s just touching you. He hasn’t killed anyone and there’s no Cropsy legend yet – just a burn victim. Talk about compassion; how would you feel if someone made this face at your very touch?
Beside the fact that they treat him like a circus attraction, did they do anything to help Cropsy there? As he is being wheeled out to the door, we hear about the failed skin grafts etc. We know that the surgeries were not successful and that’s understandable. You can’t expect miracles or anything, but this is seriously the best they could do:
No wonder Cropsy is so pissed. Which brings me to my last point, why is this man being released? I know he hasn’t committed any crime and the doctor says that he has to leave now that he has regained his strength, but couldn’t somebody evaluate his mental state first? Instead, he is told to “try not to blame anyone” and to “control your hatred” as he is wheeled right to the front door.
It’s obvious this advice didn’t stick. He appears to be out of the hospital all of a few minutes before he makes a bee-line for the red light district and promptly kills a hooker. After this, he heads over to a camp close to where the original accident happens and massacres a bunch of surprisingly likeable kids.
There’s so much to love about The Burning. It ranks up there with the best slashers of the 80s. Because of this, it’s easy to forget about this curious moment amidst all amazing stuff that happens at the camp.