Here we are, the last entry of our special week of Buried Credits, a column that dives deep into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten, or unknown film and TV credits. This week, in honor of the upcoming Halloween holiday, instead of just looking at one person’s early or forgotten work, we looked at famous firsts in horror movies.
Today’s final “frightful first” is….
Jason Alexander… and Fisher Stevens… and Holly Hunter!
All three of these names should be familiar to you. Jason Alexander is best known as George Costanza from Seinfeld (two Seinfeld alums this week!) but has also appeared in numerous movies. Holly Hunter has an extensive resume and has won Emmys, an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. Finally, Fisher Stevens starred in Short Circuit and has been in a few dozen other films. But before Dunston Checks In, Raising Arizona and Hackers, all three appeared together in a little film called:
The Burning (1981)
Directed by Tony Maylam
Written by Harvey Weinstein, Tony Maylam, Brad Grey, Peter Lawrence & Bob Weinstein
So here we are, my epic grand finale of Buried Credits (thanks to Rachel Bellwoar for letting me mess with her format a little for this week). I need you to picture tons of mortars shooting fireworks into the sky making it look like the most grand of celebrations. Not only do I like this movie, it’s got a ton of “firsts” in it: Jason Alexander, Holly Hunter and Fisher Stevens all made their movie debuts in The Burning. It’s the first writing credit for Bob and Harvey Weinstein and the first producer credit for Harvey. Heck, it’s the first film released by Miramax Films, for crying out loud.
So, The Burning… The Burning is the story of a Cropsy, the cantankerous campground caretaker, who is severely burned when he knocks over a burning skull that was part of a prank being played on him to try and scare the bejeezus out of him. I’d say it worked. Anyway, Cropsy spends the next five years getting skin grafts and recovering before he finally returning to the scene of the crime to exact his revenge.
At Camp Stonewater, amongst many others, are campers Dave (Alexander), Woodstock (Stevens) and Sophie (Hunter). Of the three, Hunter has the least amount of screen time and really only has one line, otherwise she just sort of stands around in the background. With such limited time it can be hard to recognize her until a little later in the movie unless you freeze-frame the film. Stevens has more time to shine, getting a fair number of lines as the “horny virgin” character as well as having one of the more graphic run-ins with Cropsy and is pretty recognizable, mainly because he’s got such a memorable look about himself. The awkwardly skinny body and neck are exaggerated by his youthfulness, making him look a lot like a tall, gangly pre-teen boy. Alexander’s Dave is the “funny guy” of the group and is more of a “supporting” role than the other two (although Woodstock comes close) and is noticeable a mile away. Sure, he’s got hair and he’s not wearing glasses, but there’s no mistaking that it’s him as soon as he’s on screen for the first time.
As far as their characters go, Dave and Woodstock seem to be pretty good friends. They’re together quite frequently and theirs is the only real “buddy” relationship that we get to see – they’re together when a fellow camper is pushed into the water by the “jock”, they are in the same cabin as each other, Dave gives Woodstock a porn mag and they joke with each other as a group of campers sets out on a cobbled-together raft to go for help when their canoes turn up missing. I would have liked to see more of Dave and Woodstock as they reminded me of the two goofballs that are friends of the main character in most 80’s teen comedies like Sixteen Candles, One Crazy Summer and Once Bitten (which features a comedic “frightful first” of its own). As far this trio of future stars go, it’s pretty much just Dave and Woodstock as Sophie only appears in the same scene as them a couple of times, most notably when Woodstock heads out on the aforementioned raft and she gets her one line of “Hey, Todd!”.
It’s not often that you run across a movie with so many firsts associated with it. While fans of Holly Hunter could pass on this and not miss much, those who like Fisher Stevens and/or Jason Alexander should definitely hunt this one down. Both actors have their moments to shine and it’s fun to see them so young and, in Alexander’s case, playing a character so unlike the ones that we’ve come to associate him with. Dave is no George Costanza, that’s for sure. Plus, it’s a decent film, so if you’re a fan of slasher pics, this one should be in your library. It’s a bit slow in the middle while we get to know all of the players and I’ve see a lot of (in my opinion) unjustified claims that it’s practically a beat for beat ripoff of Friday the 13th, but neither nick against it should dissuade you from checking it out.