One night at Camp Blackfoot, a group of teenage campers plot to pull a prank on Cropsy, the cruel caretaker who's been terrorizing and tormenting them, the latest in a long history of similar behavior. However, when their prank, which involves a skull with lit candles in the eye sockets, is put into motion, it goes awry when Cropsy, in his terror, knocks the skull onto his bed and the flames then reach a nearby gas can, causing a massive explosion. Completely engulfed in flames and screaming in agony, Cropsy bursts out of his shack and jumps into the nearby lake. Following five years in the hospital and some failed skin graft operations, the horribly burned Cropsy is released, having been told by the doctors to try to let go of his anger and hatred towards the pranksters. But, when a prostitute who lures him into her apartment rejects him upon seeing his injuries, he murders her in a fit of a rage and, soon afterward, begins stalking the grounds of Camp Stonewater, a camp on the same river as the now abandoned Blackfoot. Among the campers is Alfred, a socially awkward kid who lands himself in hot water when he's caught while attempting to prank a girl named Sally while she's in the shower. While Michelle, the lead female counselor, is absolutely furious and calls Alfred sick, the other counselor, Todd, learns that he has no friends and is often picked on by the other kids, especially Glazer, a big, brutish camper who's interested in Sally. Todd tells Alfred that he'll be there for him if he needs him, later warning Glazer to leave him alone, and afterward, he makes some friends with some other boys, particularly the wise-cracking Dave and the horny but likable Woodstock. The night before an annual overnight canoeing trip down the river to an area called Devil's Creek, Alfred spots Cropsy lurking outside the window of the boys' cabin but no one else sees him, so Alfred's warnings fall on deaf ears. However, when he follows them down the river to their campsite, Cropsy proves himself to be very real when he begins brutally murdering the kids with a set of large garden shears. It soon becomes a race against time with Michelle and the remaining campers trying to paddle back to Stonewater for help, while Todd, who has a personal connection with Cropsy, tries to save Alfred from the madman.
As you've probably gathered by this point, Glazer (Larry Joshua) is the typical asshole bully you often have in one of these kinds of movies: a big, brutish dickhead who isn't popular amongst the guys in general but particularly torments Alfred, especially after his failed attempt to scare Sally, the girl he has the hots for. In his first appearance alone, he kicks Alfred, grabs him by the hair and shirt while threatening him, and kicks him in the butt as he walks away, and after that, he does stuff like shove Alfred in the lake, even though he can't swim, mock him when he claims to have seen Cropsy outside the window, continue to threaten him, and even go as far as to blame him for the rafts disappearing while they're camping down at Devil's Creek. The other guys aren't safe from his wrath either, as he mocks Dave, Woodstock, and Fish when they're looking at porno mags, refuses to pay Dave for the condoms he gives him since they're not lubricated, and threatens him when he teases him when he's flirting with Sally. The only people at the camp he acts nice towards are the girls, particularly Sally, who isn't so sure about him and his overly forward nature, as he's constantly trying to make a move on her, but she ultimately relents and the two of them have sex... and Glazer ends up ejaculating prematurely. Despite this, though, Sally decides to stay with him in their private spot in the woods, and he sneaks back to camp to get some matches in order to light themselves a campfire, but when he comes back, he finds Sally dead and he himself is quickly killed as well. As for Sally (Carrick Glenn), there's not much to her, as the most notable thing about her is that she provides the film with an early instance of fan service when we see a her body in a lot of detail when she's taking a morning shower. She comes across as a kind of shy girl, especially when it comes to Glazer's constant advances on her, which she continuously rejects, but she is also nice enough not to hold a grudge against Alfred for what he did and she can heard mentioning that he probably didn't mean any real harm by it. The first time I watched this movie, I was expecting her to eventually break away from Glazer, hook up with Alfred, and the two of them end up being a couple of the survivors, but nope. Instead, she finally allows Glazer to have sex with her, decides to stay in this particular spot in the woods with him, despite how disappointing it turned out, and is killed while he's heading back to the campsite for some matches.
One of the most notable campers is Jason Alexander as Dave who, throughout the film, is quick-witted, wise-cracking, and incredibly charismatic. This guy is just a hoot to watch, as he has some of the best lines in the movie (some of which I'm sure were improvised by Alexander), like when he and Eddy are commenting on how nice Karen's rear is during the baseball game they're playing early on, telling him, "You're crazy, man. That's a no sale... That's prime meat. You ain't buying,"; his referring to Woodstock as the "World Jerkoff Champ,"; when he's asking if the girls need anything for the canoeing trip ahead, such as "spermicide," adding, "Hey, you gotta be prepared. Know what I mean, huh?"; and, when they're looking for wood to build a raft with, he takes one girl's hand and says, "Jane, we seek wood." He's also a really good guy to boot, as seen when he angrily yells at Glazer, "Are you crazy?! He can't swim!" when he shoves Alfred into the lake and when he and the others help him onto the dock, you can hear him ask, "You want me to fix Glazer for you?" He makes good on his promise, as well, as he gets Woodstock to shoot Glazer in the rear with a small air pistol while he's out on the raft in the middle of the lake, trying to talk Sally into swimming with him, and when Glazer's yelling threats afterward, he and the others all moon him. They must've known what a great character he was too, as he survives along with the other kids who paddle back to Camp Stonewater with Michelle. Dave's two buddies, Woodstock (Fisher Stevens) and Fish (J.R. McKechnie), however, aren't so lucky, as they get caught up in the infamous raft massacre scene. They're not quite as memorable as Dave, although Woodstock is notable for living up to his name, to the point where he takes vitamins to ensure his virility, and he's also the one who shots Glazer in the butt with his air pistol; Fish, on the other hand, isn't very notable at all, save for a moment where he and Glazer send Todd to "help" Woodstock while he's back at the boys' cabin, looking for his vitamins, as well as for having a kind of goofy look to his face, as you can see.
Eddy (Ned Eisenberg) is definitely the bad boy amongst the guys, having a real macho attitude and, according to Karen (Carolyn Houlihan), the girl he has a particular interest in, is often talking about all of the girls he's had. This air about him kind of scares Karen, and she seems to have reason to be nervous, given how forceful and demanding Eddy comes across when he tells her to meet him later during the baseball game, but she's attracted to him nevertheless. Things come to a head between them during the canoeing trip to Devil's Creek, where they end up skinny-dipping together, with Eddy promising that he won't try anything, but when they get out in the middle of the lake, he, of course, tries to force himself on her. When she rebuffs him, he becomes enraged and tells her to get out of his face, leading to her swimming back to shore and, unbeknownst to Eddy, getting killed by Cropsy while looking for her clothes, which he hid. Since Karen had talked with Michelle early on about him, Eddy becomes the prime suspect in her disappearance and is confronted by Todd and Michelle about it the next morning. He doesn't take it seriously at first but eventually admits that he came on too strong and, when it's discovered that the canoes are gone, it's initially believed that Karen may have used one to paddle back to Camp Stonewater after what happened; they drop that idea, though, when they realize it doesn't explain what happened to the other canoes. Eddy is among the kids who attempt to paddle back to the camp on a makeshift raft and end up getting absolutely massacred by Cropsy.
Those are all of the characters who are really noteworthy, as the rest are made up of a bunch of faceless non-entities in the crowd. The girl named Tiger (Shelley Bruce) is somewhat memorable because of her freckles, short hair-style, and how she almost becomes Cropsy's first victim at the camp while looking for the ball that went into the woods during their game, as well as for her teasing nature, particularly towards Sally after Alfred's little prank. She's also one of the survivors, as is Holly Hunter in her role of Sophie, who is such a nothing character, with no lines of note and who is really just a random face amongst the kids. In fact, were it not for Going to Pieces, I would've never known that was Hunter, nor would I've known her character's name if I hadn't looked at the credits or at Wikipedia. However, a couple of noteworthy characters who appear in only scene early on, are these two guys at the hospital where Cropsy's taken after he's burned: a fast-talking, overly pushy, obnoxious orderly (Mansoor Najeeulah) who pressures this unwilling, nervous intern (Jerry McGee) into taking a look at Cropsy. In fact, the orderly is more than a little dickish, as he tells the intern, "When you've seen what I've seen, you'll soon change your mind. Hey listen, after two months of working here, you'll start to feel like an old man. Guys like you won't last five minutes. Hey, there's this guy down the hall in the burn center I'd like you to see. After you see this guy, you'll never want to come back in here again. Man, this guy is so burned, he's cooked! A fucking Big Mac, overdone! You know what I mean? And, it's a miracle that he's still alive. If it was me, I'd prefer to be dead. No way I'd want to be this freak. He's a monster, man! I've been working here 10 years and I'm telling you, I've never seen anything like this." The poor intern makes it very clear that he's not interested and tries to get away but the orderly grabs his arm and says, "Hey, you want to be a doctor, right? This is what you've got to see. This is where it's at!" When they go into the room where Cropsy is being kept, he continuously goads the intern into taking a look through the oxygen tent but when he gets up close, things back fire on the orderly big time when Cropsy grabs his arm, scaring the hell out of both of them.
Now that we're getting into the real meat of the review, you should know that I'm going to be referencing Friday the 13th a lot, as it's unavoidable given the setting and the time period they were both made in. Speaking of the former, as I said in the introduction, I feel that this film makes good use of the popular campground and wilderness setting. For one, unlike Friday the 13th (or that entire series, for that matter, save for Part VI: Jason Lives), we have a camp that's actually functioning, and while, admittedly, the practically deserted campground in the former movie made for better atmosphere, it still makes for a nice change of pace, as the only other summer camp slashers that take place at a running camp that I can think of are the Sleepaway Camp movies. For another, the way it's portrayed feels very genuine, as we get to see the big mess hall, the interiors and exteriors of the cabins where the teenage boys and girls sleep, a tool shed on the property, and a dock and stationary raft on the lake. The same goes for the campers, who actually look and feel like teenagers, rather than people who are pushing thirty (Larry Joshua is the one exception, as he's older than Brian Matthews and Leah Ayres, but he makes it work), and are convincing in being into the things teenagers are into: sex and having a good time. Above everything else, a campground is simply a great setting for a horror film for the notion of being miles away from civilization and any possible help, but this movie takes it one step further and has the characters head out deep into the wilderness, where there literally is no help and no escape. The river and the surrounding woods are very well shot, looking beautiful but also a bit foreboding, especially during the big kill scenes and when Cropsy is chasing Alfred through them during the third act. I also like that Alfred comes across the cinder-block ruins of some type of building out there, which adds a familiar element to it, as we've all seen the remains of houses and the like in the woods, and while the mineshaft where the final confrontation with Cropsy takes place feels a little random (it was originally meant to be a boathouse back at the camp but was changed when they discovered the actual mineshaft), it does the job well, creating the deepest, darkest shadows the film has. And finally, the first sequence after the opening credits feels like it's a leftover from Maniac, as it takes place on the seedy streets of a city that I assume is New York, given that's where the movie was actually shot (in fact, Cropsy's murder of the prostitute itself feels like a holdover from that film).
One thing I've come to notice about a lot of the slasher movies made around that time is that they were shot in that very soft cinematography style that you often saw in the 70's and 80's, where the lights had a somewhat faint but noticeable flare and halo around them and the sunlight tended to flare off from the edge of the screen. It's a look that can be seen in films like Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Superman, and 1941, just to name a few, as well as in more critic-friendly horror films like Carrie. Strangely, you never see that look in any of the major slasher franchises, save in a more subdued form in Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood later down the line, but you can find it in not only this film but also stuff like Prom Night and The Prowler. I don't know why this look was so prevalent in low-budget horror films back then. Maybe it was cheaper to film a movie like that or they thought it would give it more of a touch of class than filming it in the style of a grungy, Grindhouse movie like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Maniac, and while it helps to make this film look fairly pretty, especially since a lot of it takes place in the daytime, it's not a look I'd expect for this type of movie.
Like I mentioned earlier, when Bob Weinstein and Peter Lawrence were writing the screenplay (which they wrote in just six weeks), they constructed it to conform to the tropes of the slasher genre that, even then, were becoming apparent. As a result, you have a movie where there's quite a bit of nudity, like the full-on shots of Sally's breasts while she's showering, a look at Karen's everything when she goes skinny-dipping with Eddy, and, for the ladies, I guess, a clear shot of Glazer's butt when he gets out of the sleeping bag following his and Sally's less than satisfactory attempt at intimacy, along with shots of Karen's rear in what can only be described as a bikini bottom during the baseball game (Eddy and Dave make plenty of comments about it, as they're more focused on it than the game), the girls in swimsuits and Glazer in fairly brief swimming trunks, and Michelle looking really good in this dark-blue one-piece she wears while during much of the section at Devil's Creek. As if that weren't enough, you have Dave and his boys drooling over a Playboy mag and all of the talk of Woodstock's... stamina, which comes back to bite him while they're paddling to Devil's Creek. In addition, there's also a kill or some kind of scare about every ten minutes, but, unfortunately, this is where the movie falls victim to a very annoying trope: the false scare. As Cropsy doesn't kill anyone during the section that does take place at the camp, we're left with a number of false alarms, like the scene where it turns out that Alfred is the person creeping around the shower while Sally's in there, a very pointless moment where Todd walks up to what I think is a tool-shed and asks if someone's in there, only to open the door and for a bird to fly out, and a moment when Woodstock goes back to the boys' cabin to get vitamins and Todd accidentally scares him. There are some other false scares, like when Eddy jumps out in a freaky mask to scare everyone during the campfire scene, and a couple during the climax in the mineshaft, but this middle part of the movie is where it gets a bit egregious.
Often when I review these types of movies, I don't include the monster or killer in the section devoted to the cast, mainly because I feel they deserve their own section, but in the case of Cropsy (Lou David), it comes down more to the fact that he's as much of a non-entity as the truly faceless of the teenage characters here. We only hear about his history of being a horrible, abusive caretaker towards the campers at Camp Blackfoot from the kids who prank him and when Todd is telling his story around the campfire, rather than actually seeing it; we get only a few brief glimpses of him before he's horribly burned (enough to see that he is a very shady, nasty-looking person); he has no lines whatsoever through the entire film; and, again, we merely hear of his anger and hatred towards the teenagers from a voiceover of the doctors talking to him as he's being released from the hospital. The only true look into the workings of his mind that we get is when, after he's let out, he tries to get with a hooker who has him follow her to her apartment, but when she sees how horrifically burned and disfigured she is, she decides not to have anything to do with him and tells him to leave. He becomes enraged by this and murders her, and this rejection further fuels his desire for vengeance, prompting him to take his favorite pair of garden shears to Camp Stonewater and start cleaning house. There is some significance to the shears, as Todd, when he's telling the campfire story, mentions that he often had them with him while he was working at Camp Blackfoot, and also, the shack he's sleeping in there at the beginning looks it could be the tool shed, but, given the type of movie this is, that's about as much character as we get with Cropsy, as all of this is setup is nothing more than an excuse for him to become the thing that terrorizes the kids. Like Mrs. Voorhees, his rampage is, in the end, unjustified and pointless since, except for Todd (again, they don't make it clear if Cropsy knew who he was or not, but again, that was probably the furthest thing from their minds), these teenagers had nothing to do with what happened to him but, even though she wasn't revealed as the killer until the latter part of that movie's third act, she was still much more of a character than him because we learned of her delusion and psychosis that stemmed from what happened to Jason. And unlike the original Friday the 13th and many other slasher movies, it's not a murder mystery, as we know who the killer is from the beginning.
It's interesting how this came out the same year as Friday the 13th Part 2 and they both feature a memorable scene where the head counselor tells the teenagers the legend of the killer around the campfire, followed up one of the kids jumping out in a weird mask, freaking everyone else out. In the case of The Burning, it's particularly interesting in that this film is based on a fairly well-known urban legend and, since Todd is embellishing what actually happened to Cropsy, saying that his body was never found and that he now lives in the wilderness, feeding on wild animals (exactly how Paul describes Jason), you can take this scene as a look at how tales like this get started and are carried over from one generation to the next. It's unclear if this is the first time Cropsy has taken on this type of mythical status, with Todd deciding to relate this since he was there, or if, in the five years since the real incident, it had already begun to spread, but it still has an impact, as the last scene, after Cropsy is truly killed, is another counselor telling a new group of kids the story, now adding that his spirit lives on in the forest and that every summer, he chooses a new camp to terrorize (because of this, I originally thought this counselor was meant to be Alfred at an older age, relating it because he experienced it like Todd, but I don't think it is). Obviously, if you want a horror movie that truly explores the notion of urban legends, watch Candyman, as this movie has no such lofty ambitions, but it's still fascinating how they sprinkled a little bit of the real tale into the film's story. And, I must say, I like the buildup to the fake scare better than in Friday the 13th Part 2: "Don't look; he'll see you. Don't move; he'll hear you. Don't breathe; you're dead!"
Other than his backstory and his urban legend origin, Cropsy's most memorable aspects are his look and his modus operandi. Save for the damage caused to his arm when he grabs the orderly during the prologue and a very brief glimpse when Alfred spots him lurking outside the cabin window, the full extent of Cropsy's disfigurement is kept hidden until the climax in the mineshaft. They mainly do this by just not shooting him from above his waist but sometimes, they get creative, like when you see him standing in the shadows in the hooker's apartment and backlit by the sun during the raft massacre, which make for some memorable images. They also hint at the damage done to his eyes by giving his POV shots a slightly distorted look, which they accomplished by merely smearing Vaseline around the camera lens. When you finally do see the makeup design that Tom Savini came up with, while not exactly scary as hell or really disturbing, because of how exaggerated and over-the-top it is, it's still memorable. Despite having used text books on burn victims and memories of a burned beggar he saw in Pittsburgh as a kid for inspiration, Savini himself has said that it looks more melted than burned, which he chalks up to the very rushed nature of the production, which gave him only three to four days to come up with it; regardless, it works for what it has to do. The look of Cropsy's arm during that moment with the orderly and the intern is where I feel Savini succeeded in creating the look of a burn victim, as that is truly realistic and unsettling. And as for the garden shears, they do make for a memorable and wicked murder weapon and have, as a result, become one of the movie's most memorable elements, but I think the downside is they don't make for much variety in the murder scenes, which you get with most other slasher films. In fact, Cropsy himself is the only person who doesn't die by the shears or a similar type of weapon, as he kills the hooker at the beginning with a pair of scissors.
The rushed production may have also contributed to how the gore effects and kills, while still well-done and believable, are just a tad bit less spectacular and creative than what you normally expect from Savini. The killings are mainly just typical stabbings and similar types of deaths, such as the prostitute getting a pair of scissors in her gut, Karen getting her throat sliced open with the shears, and Glazer getting stabbed in the throat and pinned up against a tree (a long and agonizing death for him), and some of them feel lifted from Friday the 13th, like Karen's throat slash being akin to Annie's, Eddy's throat puncture being similar to the arrow that went through Jack, and Cropsy's own death with the axe to the face feeling a lot like Marcie's. They're well-executed, for the most part, but they're not stuff you haven't seen before. The famous raft scene, though, is where Savini gets to cut loose, with gags like Woodstock getting his fingers sliced off, with the stumps then spewing blood, Eddy's aforementioned stab to the throat, and the random shots of the shears missing a few times and cutting into the wood, which is something Savini always liked to do in order to give the fake weapon some strength. The severed body parts and mutilated corpses that Michelle finds on the raft when it floats back to the campsite look pretty good, and the blood itself, while maybe not 100% realistic in its texture and color in some shots, looks good enough and shows how far he'd come from the pink and orange blood that was seen in Dawn of the Dead. However, if I'm going to be honest, some of the shots of Eddy's death on the raft don't look that great. Savini used the same technique he did with Kevin Bacon in Friday the 13th, by having Ned Eisenberg stick his head up through a hole behind the fake body, but in that film, they shot it from the side and at an angle in the uncut version, whereas here, you get a big close-up of the fake neck, followed by a full-on shot of the neck and real head when Cropsy pulls his shears out and you can see how it was done. Fisher Stevens' fake arm is also a bit questionable but his pained yelling and moaning help sells that. All in all, these effects are pretty good, but I feel that, in terms of Savini's overall career, they're kind of middle of the road and aren't on the level of some of the stuff he did before or after. They were enough to get the MPAA to force the filmmakers to heavily trim them in order to get an R-rating and the uncut version of the film was never seen until it was released on DVD in 2007; it also ended up on the infamous "Video Nasties" list in the United Kingdom, primarily because of the raft massacre, and there was quite a bit of added controversy when the company Thorn-EMI accidentally released the uncut version on video.
The film opens on Camp Blackfoot, in the boys' cabin, where a group of kids plot to really scare Cropsy for all of the abusive crap he's been pulling on them and other campers for years. Once they decide that they're all in, one of them reveals an unseen object in a box that they're going to use to pull the prank off. They then head out to do it, making their way as quietly but quickly as they can to Cropsy's shack/tool shed, with the leader prompting his group to head around to the side of the building while he goes inside. He creeps around to the right side of the shack, where Cropsy is sleeping on a small bed, and as he moves over to the table to his left, there's a jump scare where Cropsy appears to jump up awake but simply turns over and goes back to sleep. As the others watch from the window, their leader places the box on the table, opens it up, takes out a match, and lights whatever is in there. He takes the object, which is still offscreen, out of the box and puts it on the table, and quickly heads outside to join his buddies. They all begin tapping and softly knocking on the window in order to wake Cropsy up, with one of them making wolf sounds, and as he slowly but surely begins to wake, they increase the speed of their knocking. Cropsy finally does wake up fully and sees what they left for him on the table: a worm-covered skull, with lit candles in the eye sockets. Cropsy lets out a terrified scream and smacks it off the table, but it lands on his bed and the candles set the sheets on fire. His pants legs get caught up in the flames as well and the kids quickly realize that their prank has gone haywire in the worst way possible. The fire spreads to other parts of his clothes and, in his panic, he gets up at the foot of the bed, only to knock over a gas can there that is immediately covered in fire and explodes. Now, the entire bed is in flames, as is Cropsy, who rips open the door and staggers outside as a human fireball, screaming in absolute agony, as the kids can only watch in horror. After seeing them standing nearby, Cropsy staggers across the grounds and tumbles down a hill, landing in the lake below. Realizing they're in for it, the kids take off running after seeing this.
After the opening credits, we cut to five years later, as Cropsy is released from the hospital, despite an unsuccessful skin graft operation that's left his disfigurement exposed. As he's wheeled out to the entrance, voice-overs of doctors are heard, telling him that he will adjust to life on the outside in time and that he must try to let go of his anger and hatred towards the kids who pranked him. Upon his release, he walks down the sleazy, porno theater-filled city street, glancing at a prostitute standing in a small alley, who then begins to follow him. Following a cut, the prostitute takes Cropsy to her apartment, and has to really coax the reluctant man into the building, as he stands in the doorway, looking at her, while wearing a hat and coat to hide his burns. He follows her up the stairs to her apartment, which is just as tacky and scummy as the streets outside, and turns off the light from outside the door, prompting her to say, "Like the low-key lighting, huh? That's alright with me." Getting off the bed, she asks him if he's at least going to take his hat off, talking about how she's had people who've done it with all sorts of things on. As she gets ready, saying that she would like for him to get on with it, Cropsy walks into the room and closes the door behind him. Once he walks up to her and his face is illuminated by the lamp she's switched on, as well as a sudden flash of lightning, she's horrified and disgusted when she sees how horribly deformed he is and tells him to leave. He backs her up to the window behind her and, in a rage, grabs her by the throat and starts shaking her, as she tells him to get away from her. Holding her up against the window by her throat, Cropsy sees her trying to go for a pair of scissors on her dresser but he grabs them first and stabs her in the gut, plunging them in before ripping them out, sending blood spewing out of the wound and her mouth. He pushes her back through the glass, shattering it, as lightning flashes in the sky and blood splatters on the mirror in the back of the room.
Going back to what I said earlier, not much happens during the middle section of the movie establishing Camp Stonewater, save for some false scares and close calls. During the baseball game, there's a moment where the ball gets knocked into the woods and Tiger runs in after it, all the while being stalked by Cropsy as she looks for it. He comes pretty close to killing her, raising his shears to strike (I have a feeling that's a shot left over from when they filmed the raft scene), but she then finds the ball and rushes back to the field, unknowingly saving herself. Shortly after that comes the moment where Sally is using the outdoor shower, when she, at one point, hears the sound of the door to it creaking and shutting. When nothing happens, she goes back to showering, but when she hears it again, she calls to whoever it is, asking if it's Michelle, but a cutaway to the girls' cabin reveals that Michelle is there, waking the other girls up. Sally calls again, asking if it is Michelle, but when she still gets no answer, she becomes more frightened, now simply asking, "Who's there?" She then rips the curtain back and lets out a loud scream, which those at the girls' cabin hear and Michelle and Karen head for the shower. Michelle gets there first and runs into Alfred running away from the spot, before finding a frightened, crying Sally putting her shirt back on and explaining that he looked at her in the shower. Alfred, meanwhile, is caught by Todd and Eddy, who've come running as well, and drag him back, where Michelle tells them what he was up to. Todd has Eddy take Alfred to the rec room while he tells Michelle that he'll take care of him. Following that, Glazer is introduced when he threatens Alfred for what he did to Sally and when Todd, in turn, threatens him. That night, there's a moment where, while Alfred, Dave, Woodstock, Fish, and Glazer are hanging around in the boys' cabin before dinner, Cropsy is seen stalking around and appears to be walking right for the front door, though he doesn't go in. Instead, he walks around to a nearby window, where Alfred gets a quick glimpse of his burned face. Seeing this, he yells and tells them what he saw but, when they look out, they don't see anything, and Glazer, naturally, mocks him for this. Right after that is where you have that fake scare where Todd hears what sounds like somebody in this small shed but, when he opens the door, a bird flies out (that moment could've been cut completely). And during dinner, Woodstock excuses himself to go back to the cabin to get some Vitamin E, with Cropsy watching him from the bushes when he walks in through the front door. When he walks in and switches the light on, it shorts out, forcing him to use a flashlight in his case under his bunk, as he looks for his vitamins. Just as he finds them, Cropsy's POV shows him heading for the front door again, and inside, Woodstock hears a creak outside and sees a shadow coming through the doorway. The silhouetted figure walks straight towards and leans down to look at him. Woodstock turns the flashlight on and shines it, to reveal that the person is actually Todd. The two of them walk back to the mess hall, with Cropsy continuing to watch from nearby.
The next day, everyone paddles down to Devil's Creek, getting into a playful bit of splashing each other with their paddles as they go, while Todd and Michelle futilely try to get them to stop, until, inevitably, one of the canoes tips over and sinks (watching that actually irritates me, as I was on a similar trip during my freshmen year of high school and every time we passed a canoe on this river, they'd splash us with freezing cold water). That night, everyone's gathered a campfire, as Todd tells them the story of Cropsy: "There's a camp not far from here, just across the lake. It was called Camp Blackfoot. No one goes there anymore. Everything burnt down. There's nothing left, except ruins. Now, this camp had a caretaker, a really evil bastard. His name was Cropsy. Everyone hated Cropsy. For a start, he was a drunk: two bottles of whiskey a day, no problem. Most of the time, he was somewhere out in space, but if he caught you, Look out. Because Cropsy could strip the paint off the walls, just by breathing on them. Now, this Cropsy was a sadist, and he got real pleasure out of hurting people, scaring them. And he had these garden shears, you know? The kind with long, thin blades. He carried them all the time, wherever he went, and he had this kind of demonic way of looking at you. One time, this Cropsy really went after this kid from Brooklyn, followed him around night and day. He made this kid's life a living hell. But this time, he chose the wrong guy, 'cause the kid and some of his buddies had planned a little prank that would scare the living shit out of Cropsy. Only problem was, the gag went wrong. The next thing anyone knows, Cropsy's trapped alive and burning in his bunk. They try to get him out, but the fire's so fierce, they can't reach him. All they can do is stand outside and listen to him cry out in agony. They say his smashed his way through the bunkroom door in just a mass of flames, and as he screamed out, burned alive, he cried out, "I will return! I will have my revenge!" They never found his body. He survived. He lives on whatever he can catch. Eats them raw, alive. No longer human. Right now, he's out there, watching, waiting. Don't look; he'll see you. Don't move; he'll hear you. Don't breathe; you're dead!" As the story winds down, a black gloved hand and a knife appears behind Sally, who's sitting next to Glazer, and when Todd yells that last line, somebody wearing a freaky, skull-like mask with blood on the forehead and long, stringy hair pops up and runs amongst the campers, wielding the knife, causing everyone to panic and scream. Todd grabs the figure from behind, acting like he's struggling with him, only to pull the mask to reveal that it's just Eddy, causing everybody to laugh and sigh in relief; however, it's clear that Alfred isn't amused.
Later that night (it's obviously day-for-night, though), Eddy and Karen are walking along the shore of the lake and after they talk about their relationship a bit, Eddy suggests that they take a swim. Karen says she doesn't have a swimsuit but Eddy, who strips down naked (thankfully, we don't see everything), tells her she won't need one, since there's nobody else around. When she's still reluctant, he tells her that he's going out with or without her and heads into the shallows. Karen asks if he promises not to try anything and he says that they're just going to swim around for a bit and head back to the campsite. He then heads out, while Karen, having been won over, strips down and wades into the lake as well. She joins Eddy in the middle of the lake and they start kissing and making out... not surprisingly, Cropsy is watching and stalking from the shore. Eddy, however, breaks his promise and starts to get a little too rough for Karen's liking and when she rebuffs him with a slap to the face, he angrily flings water at her and tells her to get lost. She heads back to shore, as Eddy punches the water and then continues swimming by himself. When Karen gets back to shore, however, she finds that her clothes are gone, with some cutaways showing them placed throughout various parts of the nearby woods. Putting her shoes on, Karen looks around for them, whining about what's happened, and finds her underwear hanging from a branch. After putting them on, she finds her shirt and slips it on too, but when she sees her overalls laying at the foot of a tree and bends down to grab them, Cropsy steps out from behind it. He covers her mouth with his hand and slices her throat open with his shears. He sticks the shears into the tree and either walks away or just stands there and watches as Karen slowly bleeds to death and collapses.
The next morning, Todd and Michelle wake Eddy up and question him about where Karen is. When he's initially not taking it seriously, they tell him that they've already looked everywhere they could and she's not around, prompting him to admit that he probably came on too strong the night before and that after their short swim, she went back to shore and he assumed she went back with everyone else. Then, two of the girls tell Michelle that the canoes are gone and she believes that Karen took one of them in order to go back to Camp Stonewater, accidentally letting the others go in the process; Todd, however, isn't so sure that's the case. Everyone then gathers at the spot where the canoes were moored, trying to figure out what happened to them, and Glazer, of course, blames it on Alfred. Alfred denies it and Todd and Woodstock tell Glazer to get off his case. Todd tells everybody to split up and search every inch of the area for the canoes, saying that if they can't find them, they'll build a raft. Michelle suggests that they could just walk back but, with nothing but thick forest for miles, it's no feasible. They all disperse to try to find the canoes, with Todd telling Michelle that he feels uneasy about the whole thing, thinking that they couldn't have just disappeared and that Karen wouldn't have tried to go back to Stonewater in the middle of the night. With no sign of them, they have no choice but to build that raft, using big pieces of wood they find in the forest as supplies. As Cropsy stalks the woods, Sally finally gives in to Glazer's advances and promises that they'll have sex that night. Neither of them see that Alfred is watching them from nearby. Meanwhile, with the canoe finished, Eddy, Woodstock, Fish, and a couple of the girls begin the long trip back to Stonewater, with the others seeing them off.
Some time later, the kids on the raft are still paddling back up the river, with arguments starting to break out when one of the girls complains that she's tired and Woodstock says that he and Eddy are the ones doing all the work. Eddy tells everyone to shut up and keep paddling, and when one of the girls asks him why Karen left, he simply answers, "Hey, look, it's like Michelle said, okay? She was upset about something, alright?" They keep on paddling, when the other girl points to the shore across from them, to a canoe floating a couple of feet away from it. They debate about whether or not it is one of their canoes and then begin paddling rapidly towards it, with a newfound enthusiasm and encouragement. It takes a lit bit of crazy paddling but they eventually reach it... only for Cropsy, who was lying down in it, to pop up, wielding his shears, ready to attack. Fish gets sliced across the left side of his chest, the shears hitting one of the logs that make up the canoe, before he brings them down on one of the girls, sending her falling into the water. The other girl falls down screaming, blood streaked across her face, and Cropsy again misses one of the other kids, punching into the bottom of the raft, but comes back up and cuts off the fingers on Woodstock's right hand in one bloody snip, with the kid yelling in pain as he watches blood spray out of the stumps. Cropsy swings his shears, knocking Eddy down against some bags they had on the raft, and before he can defend himself, he gets one of the shear blades right in the neck, spitting up blood before Cropsy pulls it back out, as the remaining girl screams nearby. He slices the screaming girl across the forehead, silencing her, and the scene ends with a shot of blood trailing down an arm hanging over the raft, as the screen fades to red.
Back at Devil's Creek later that night, Glazer finally has his intimate moment with Sally, only to arrive before the party's started in the sleeping bag they're sharing (he reaction after it happens is, "That's all? Is it?"). Glazer then figures that she's going to want to go back to the campsite but Sally surprises him by suggesting that they stay where they are. Glazer is really happy to hear this and, as Cropsy watches from nearby, he tells her that he's going to sneak back to the campsite and get some matches to make themselves a fire. He puts his clothes back on and heads off, leaving Sally alone in the woods. She's not alone for long, though, as Cropsy sneaks up on her from behind, steps in front of her as she's sitting up in the sleeping bag, takes out his shears, and lunges at her, Sally grabbing ahold of the shears and trying with all of her strength to push them away. Her death is not actually shown, though, as the film cuts to Glazer making it back to camp and finding a matchbook sitting next to the fire pit. Taking it, he heads back through the woods, grabbing some sticks and small branches for the fire, all the while unknowingly followed by Alfred, who was feigning being asleep while he was looking for the matches. Arriving back at the spot, Glazer sees that Sally appears to be sleeping in the bag but thinks that she's just playing with him. Playing along, he slowly pulls back the edge of the bag, only for Cropsy, who was hiding in there along with Sally's corpse, to put the shears right through his throat, jutting out the back of his neck. Lifting Glazer up off the ground, Cropsy carries him over to a nearby tree and stabs him up against it, as he desperately tries to wrench them loose. Alfred watches as Glazer expires and runs off into the woods, as Cropsy drops his body at the foot of the tree.
Alfred runs to where Todd is sleeping and wakes him up, trying to tell him what just happened, babbling incoherently about it, which makes it hard for Todd to believe him. He gets out of his sleeping bag when Alfred says that Glazer's dead and he then tells him that it was the man with the burnt face he saw at the window back at Camp Stonewater, but Todd still doesn't believe him, which infuriates Alfred. He starts raving about it and Todd, mainly to keep him from waking everybody else up, agrees to go with him. Alfred then leads him back to the spot where, sure enough, Todd finds Glazer's bloodied corpse. Within seconds, though, Cropsy appears, opens up his shears, and takes a swing at Todd, grazing him on his left temple, before taking off after Alfred when he panics and runs through the woods. He runs through the forest as fast as he can, with Cropsy not too far behind him at first, but he manages to lose the killer when they reach a spot where the woods opens up into a small quarry, with Alfred standing flush against the rock wall down below; at the same time, Todd is shown regaining consciousness back at the site where he was attacked. Meanwhile, the raft that the other kids used to try to make it back to Stonewater comes floating back down the river, in view of the others. They're initially confused about what they're seeing and where everyone is, with Dave suggesting that the kids are just playing a prank, but Michelle, feeling that something's wrong, tells everyone to stay where they are, as she strips down to her swimsuit and wades out towards the raft. When she's about to reach it, the kids continue pondering what's going on, when Todd, who was earlier shown rushing through the woods, appears on a ridge on the opposite of the river. He yells at the kids, asking if Alfred's with them, but they instead direct his attention to the raft, just as Michelle reaches it. Grabbing onto the raft, a bloodied hand falls onto her shoulder, and when he grabs and pulls on it in a panic, she wrenches free a severed arm that she drops in the water. Dave rushes into the water to help her, as Woodstock's mutilated corpse rises up out of the water right beside Michelle, horrifying her even more (I originally thought that was a dummy but actually, it was Fisher Stevens with mutilated makeup appliances on his face and neck). Following another fade to red, the kids are seen crying and whimpering about what's happened and terrified that they're not going to get back. Todd then tells Michelle to get herself and the others back to Stonewater and to get some help in finding Alfred. He then coaxes them all onto the raft.
Alfred is still running through the quarry, at one point stopping to catch his breath beneath a ledge before continuing on, unaware that Cropsy is standing up there, watching him. As the others push up the river on the raft, Todd walks through the woods, armed with an axe, and calling for Alfred, who's continuing to run through the forest. Back on the river, Michelle has to spur the exhausted kids to continue paddling on, while Todd keeps looking for Alfred, who's still being stalked in the woods by Cropsy. The others arrive back at Camp Stonewater and Michelle quickly runs onto shore and asks Jeff, the camp supervisor, where the outboard motorboat is. When he questions why she wants the outboard, she tries to tell him what's going on but he doesn't believe her at first, thinking it was something Todd put her up to; when he sees how exhausted and frightened the kids look, however, he realizes that she's telling the truth. Back at Devil's Creek, Alfred ends up at the ruins of an old building constructed from cinder-block and takes shelter inside, while Michelle and Jeff race to the spot on the motorboat, having called the police back at the camp. Alfred is then show sneaking around the building, checking every corner comes to in order to make sure Cropsy's not there, and after a while, when he's convinced that he's alone, he leans up against the wall and stops for a breather... when Cropsy's hand comes around the corner and grabs him by the throat. Alfred screams and yells for help as he's dragged back through the building, which Todd hears nearby and rushes to the source. Cropsy pulls Alfred through a large, metal door, closing it behind him, and slams him against the wall inside, gagging him and pinning his left arm to it with the shears, the blades on either side of it. Todd arrives at the spot, continuing to hear Alfred scream, and walks through the hollowed out building himself until he comes across the metal door. Hearing a sound inside, he walks into an old, abandoned mineshaft. Walking through the place as quietly as he can, he stops and calls for Alfred at one point before walking on and falling to the floor due to a cracked floorboard. Getting back up, he continues looking and calling for Alfred, coming to a sloped track with a minecart sitting atop it. He walks up and peers around, but doesn't see anything and prepares to walk back down. The minecart then moves and rolls down the track towards him, forcing him to jump out of the wall and smash through a weak, wooden wall nearby. When he opens his eyes and looks up in this little space, he sees Karen's body up there, prompting him to jump up and out (if you look closely, you can see that the shot is a still image from her death scene earlier).
Elsewhere in the mine, Cropsy lights a flamethrower and Todd, hearing the sound of the fire, turns his head and sees brief glimpses of the figure walking across the other side of the room with it. Grabbing his axe again, Todd remembers the night that Cropsy was burned, in a flashback that reveals he was one of the kids who was in on it, and readies his axe, watching the killer through the broken and spaced beams in the mine. But, as he rounds the corner of the section of track to meet him, the flamethrower suddenly goes out and the mineshaft becomes eerily quiet, with no sign of Cropsy. Todd then walks back the way he came, creeping along through the mine, when he hears Alfred's muffled cries nearby. Calling for him again, Todd continues creeping through the place, as Alfred is then seen trying to pull the shears away from his arm. Todd keeps looking, when he reaches a tight spot between two support beams and, when he looks to his right, he comes face-to-face with Cropsy, who lights up his flamethrower again, and Todd attempts to fend him off with his axe; elsewhere, Michelle and Jeff arrived at Devil's Creek, searching for Todd. He continuously swings his axe at the killer, avoiding the flamethrower at the same time, as Alfred keeps trying to get free to help. After another cutaway of Michelle and Jeff searching for them, Cropsy manages to knock Todd to the floor, causing him to lose the axe, and Todd backs up against the wall, as the madman comes in for the kill. It seems as though Todd is doomed, when Alfred finally manages to get free and stab Cropsy through the torso with the shears. Cropsy falls backwards against a wall, yelling in pain and dropping the flamethrower, before falling face-first to the ground, the shears sticking out of his back. Outside, a police helicopter arrives at the site, Michelle waving it down, and as Todd and Alfred begin making their way out of the mineshaft, the helicopter lands. But, as they're walking out, Cropsy pops up behind them and grabs Alfred by the throat from behind. Todd tells him to watch out and Alfred manages to get free, as he then swings the axe and puts it right in Cropsy's face. Then, just for good measure, Alfred grabs the still lit flamethrower and sets Cropsy ablaze, the sight of it causing Todd to remember the night that started the whole thing. Todd takes the flamethrower, turns it off, and the two of them head out, leaving Cropsy's burning body behind.
The film's almost completely electronic/synthesizer music score was done by Rick Wakeman, a member of the band Yes who knew both Tony Maylam and Harvey Weinstein from their rock concert connections. It's a memorably unique and unconventional score, with a main title theme that has an unexpectedly sympathetic and somber sound to it, leading into a more thrilling section that climaxes with a number of "dun, dun" notes. This main theme is re-orchestrated into several different versions that are heard throughout the movie, such as a lower, more urgent one that you first hear during the scene where Cropsy's burned, a somewhat upbeat-sounding, happy one that you hear after the prank at the campfire happens, and a faster, more thrilling one that shifts tones and pitches which you hear during parts of the climactic chase through the woods. Cropsy himself has a distinctive theme whenever you see his POV: a rumbling, harsh piece, accompanied by what sounds like a heartbeat. There are also a couple of notable, building themes that you hear whenever an attack happens or is about to happen, a very high-pitched, melodic one during other parts of the chase through the woods and similar instances, and a very jarring, loud sting whenever a scare happens. The only bit of the score that isn't electronic in nature is this banjo piece that plays when the kids are having fun splashing each other as they head down the river to Devil's Creek. Overall, while I wouldn't say that I absolutely love the score, it's still one of the most distinctive amongst those done for a lot of its peers and helps give the movie its own personal, bizarre nature.