April 9, 2009

Justify My Netflix: Deliverance

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)


Today's movie: Deliverance, 1972 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix)

Why I added it to my queue: Because it's one of the most celebrated films of the 1970s, a brutal look at what was then the growing tendency for soft "urban adventurers" to trek to the rural wilderness on the weekends in their station wagons, spreading litter and insults and trouble everywhere they go. Because it's the most well-known movie in the ouevre of John Boorman, a master of the strange and intense who I was already a big fan of. (In fact, I've written a full-length review here in the past of Boorman's head-scratching science-fiction trainwreck masterpiece Zardoz, the very next film he made after this one.) Because it's a cultural shortcut by now, used whenever one wants to quickly invoke the image of psychopathic inbred hillbillies, with a notorious confrontation in the middle that has become one of the most often-quoted-yet-never-actually-seen moments in film history.

The reality: Dark, brilliant, and surprisingly pro-hillbilly. In fact, I was shocked to see what a major role in the film this aspect plays -- that Ned Beatty's character, to cite one infamous example, doesn't actually get ass-raped until spending the entire first third of the movie severely mocking and insulting the locals at every gas station and campsite they stop at, and that this film clearly means to imply that these snotty urban hipsters deserve every single bad thing that happens to them (and there's a whole lot of bad things that happen to them), merely for being the insufferable little f-cking hipsters that they are. How ironic that the once-horrific torture and rape scene mentioned above (still horrific when watched in context) should eventually become the drunken shouted joke of a million insufferable little f-cking hipsters that it now has ("Squeal like a pig, boy! SQUEAL LIKE A PIG!"); how ironic that this film's main point is that these hipsters deserve to be raped in the ass precisely for making ass-raping some sort of glib joke.

If I had watched it when it first came out: I would've been severely creeped out.

Strangest piece of trivia: James Dickey, author of the novel this movie was adapted from, plays the cynical sheriff at the end of the film.

Worth your time? Hell yes, although understand in advance that this movie is much more disturbing than its modern reputation gives it credit for. This is not a black comedy about toothless yokels; it's a chilling look at how unequipped most humans are to survive the horrors of true wilderness, and you deserve to know that before sitting down and watching it.

Filed by Jason Pettus at 4:19 PM, April 9, 2009. Filed under: