“Where does the camping trip end . . . and the nightmare begin?”
So you wanna go camping?
Deliverance did for camping goods stores what Jaws (1975) did for skinny-dipping, in a tale of four friends getting well out of their depth during an ill-fated canoeing trip in hillbilly country.
You’ll never hear a banjo played again without breaking out in a cold sweat.
Burt Reynolds and three other Atlanta businessmen start out on an innocent leisurely weekend canoeing trip in the Appalachian backwoods and get more than they bargain for as the trip turns into a violent nightmare.
Director John Boorman’s compelling thriller takes American poet James Dickey’s best-selling novel to new heights of suspenseful stress. The plausibility of having your world turned upside-down by random violence and consequent retribution is what makes the film a truly disturbing experience.
Boorman’s genius, however, was to give the audience a real sense of the terror of the four campers (Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox), but also to make them arrogant, stupid and utterly out of place, exuding a sense that they actually deserve their ordeal.
A prime example of reverse payback is the disturbing situation in which the “inbred” retarded boy engages in the classic banjo duel, yet refuses to acknowledge the group as they pass under his path once again on their doomed journey.
Add an ecological subtext ahead of its time (the valley is about to be flooded) and perhaps you have the idea that nature is biting back at the ignorance that defies it.
But having mountain men force you to drop your pants and squeal like a pig . . . well, that’s no-one’s friend!
Herbert “Cowboy” Coward