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Burndown (1989): The Book Is Always Better, Even When It Sucks

Burndown (James Allen, 1989)

[originally posted 18Jun2001]

A generic woman's eyes suspended over a city skyline decorate the movie's poster.

Sometimes you CAN judge a movie by its poster.
photo credit: themoviedb.com

While Stuart Collins’ novel Burndown didn’t make my 15-worst list back in 1999, it wasn’t too far off. So when I discovered that a movie had been made of this morass of mediocrity, I felt a masochistic need to see how bad it was. Now I know.

James Allen’s first (and, to date, last) feature-length big-screen offering has a cast of worthwhile second-tier character actors lumbering their way through a godawful script (by first-timer Anthony Barwick and a chap named—yeah, right—“Colin Stewart”) matched only by the film’s incredibly
cheesy special effects.

For those of you who have blocked the plot from your minds, let me refresh your memories. A series of brutal rape-murders is happening in the vicinity of a mothballed nuclear plant in an almost-ghost-town. The bodies of the victims are radioactive. (Whoa. Bet you can’t see where THIS is going.) The alcoholic sheriff (Peter Firth), his journalist girlfriend (Cathy Moriarty), and the town’s medical examiner (Michael McCabe) go sniffing around the plant to try and figure out what’s up, only to be stalled by the plant’s caretaker, Manners (Hal Orlandini).

About the only thing I can say in the movie’s favor is that (if you’re one of the ten people who read the novel, close your eyes) the ending of the film is treated at least marginally closer to reality than the book’s was. Note that “marginally” is a relative term. On the other hand, if you never see this movie, you’re not missing out. * ½

 

No trailer. You’re not missing out.

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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