September 27th, 2007 DVD Reviews, Film, Moviehole

John Boorman’s story of man at nature’s mercy is a strong idea, one that’s been visited everywhere from Jaws to The Blair Witch Project.

Of course, it was also an American gothic horror film. In such a vast country full of local customs that could almost come from different planets, America is a dangerous place full of hidden pockets of unspoiled beauty, fury and bestiality. A more genteel cousin to Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it’s a mirror held up against American society of the 1970s; these inbred, banjo-pluckin’, pig-fuckin’ rednecks are out there somewhere.

Four businessman friends from Atlanta take their annual trip in the great outdoors to bond with each other and commune with nature, but parts of nature they’d rather not know about lurk in wait in the dark forests of Georgia.

Ed (Voight), Bobby (Beatty), Lewis (Reynolds) and Drew (Cox) have all the survival equipment they need for the cold nights, the raging waters and the thickly wooded country, but they’ll have to draw on reserves of determination and strength they didn’t know they had when a family of yokels takes a dislike to them and sets about hunting them down. Boorman cast real locals to play the vicious hillbillys, and you’ll never be so scared for four grown men in broad daylight again.

For the revered tones about which Deliverance is spoken, the overarching idea and theme flies a little separate from plot, and the connections between them are a little tenuous. You could watch Deliverance and wonder what sort of movie Boorman was trying to make — it could easily have been a shoot-em-up of the sort they now make videogames about.

All the above existential thematic discussion is in fact optional. You can view the film as a straight adventure movie, and if you do it almost becomes something Quentin Tarantino would remake as a cult classic (four male friends suffer anal rape by filthy hayseeds before their surviving number fights back with bows and arrows).

So read into it what you will. It’s one of the most sacred films you might not understand.

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