Dir. John Boorman (1972)
Four men go on a canoe trip down a soon-to-be destroyed river in the North Georgia mountains. They find more than they bargained for.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS.
Deliverance is an American classic, and not usually considered a horror movie by most. However, the themes and events unfolding throughout the movie are pretty terrifying. Four men are taking a trip to get away from the hustle and bustle of life in Atlanta, and they are trying to get "deliverance" from their mundane lives. In doing so, they go on an adventure that will make them wish their lives were a little bit more boring.
The film opens with the men getting ready to head to the river, three of them working out the details while one of the men, who has brought along a guitar, plays a duet with an inbred boy playing the banjo, creating one of the most memorable and enduring scores in film history. Dueling Banjos is the only music played during the entire film, and the various breakdowns and chops, from the original song to different parts being played on various instruments, helps to create an unsettling atmosphere.
When things start to go awry, the men soon realize that sometimes natural beauty has a darker side underneath. And the film is absolutely beautiful. They actual had to play with the film quality to make the river seem less pretty than it came across in person, because they wanted the movie to have a grittier feel. I grew up in Georgia and actually live there now, and I can attest to the natural beauty through much of the state. Thankfully, I'm in a much more urban area, but several miles from my house you can find places that have much of the appearance of this film, and I can't say that's particularly comforting. In fact, I gotta say, I've always been a little offended by this film. Don't get me wrong, it's outstanding, and well deserving of its Oscar nominations (and Burt Reynolds isn't particularly far off when he says that he believes his spread in Playgirl cost the film the Best Picture Oscar). However, I've always been more than a little bothered that this film seems to be what people think of when they think of film in Georgia. You know, not the Dukes of Hazzard, not Gone With The Wind, but the movie featuring one of the more bizarre and disturbing rape scenes ever set to celluloid. That being said, I've got a lot of family that is a bit off the beaten path, and while my family has (mostly) avoided these types of stereotypes, I can't say that none of the people I've met in my travels fit these horrifying descriptions.
The men are out of their element, clearly, and they quickly become violated, debased, and then hunted. They judge these backwoods residents harshly, and completely by their appearances, and the way they treat the rednecks is quite rude. Unfortunately for them, however, they're actually not far off. Their assertion that the woods are filled with inbred people who sleep with their relatives is confirmed by the aforementioned banjo player, as well as one of the men who accosts them in the woods and says that Jon Voight "has a pretty mouth." The man who rapes Ned Beatty makes him squeal like a pig, and whether this is intended as a way to break him further, or simply because the man has been known to partake in bestiality, is unclear, but neither is particularly a good option.
But, let's be completely clear: this movie doesn't just hold its place in history because of the rape scene, or the disturbing picture of the backwoods South. It's excellently acted, with a trio of amazing actors (Reynolds, Beatty, and Voight) and another who is an outstanding musician. The score is excellent, serving to both create one of the more memorable songs as well as to carry the feel of the film throughout. The direction is absolutely flawless, which tends to be the case when you make all of the actors perform their own stunts and almost drown several of your stars. And yes, Jon Voight actually jumped off of a cliff for the filming of this movie. These stars were dedicated, and it comes off as about as realistic as a movie like this can be.
Who this movie is for: Psychological horror fans, Dramatic horror lovers, Outdoors enthusiasts
Bottom Line: It's truly an amazing flick. If you don't consider it horror, give it another watch. Outstanding American classic, one of those movies that everyone should see at least once before they die. This is the movie that made an entire generation not want to go camping, and for good reason.