A National Guard squad on a weekend exercise in Louisiana finds themselves under attack from local Cajuns in the swampland after stealing their canoes...
It's a simple enough premise, but this is a pretty stunning, edge-of-the-seat film. It's always a relief when a movie you haven't seen in maybe 25 years and have good memories of, turns out to not only be as good as you remember it, but actually even better. If Southern Comfort does partly follow a path already trodden by 1972's Deliverance, I would argue that this is a superior film, and has probably aged a lot better that its predecessor.
By turns a tense tail of pursuit and survival, and a cutting allegory for the Vietnam war, it keeps you glued to the screen in anticipation of who the next calamity will befall, or what trick the Cajun hunters will unleash next to banjax the soldiers.
This squad of weekenders are a mixed bunch, with a large portion of the group being pretty unlikeable, but they're not two dimensional by any means. With limited time to introduce them individually, we still know a fair bit about what makes them tick and their weaknesses as the action unfolds, and the tensions in the group start to cause divisions.
Walter Hill turns in a career-best as director: realising that less is more he doesn't dwell exploitatively on any acts of violence, but still packs enough of a punch to hit the viewer hard. Surprisingly, the BBFC have seen fit to downgrade the film from certificate 18 to 15 since its last DVD release, a move I personally disagree with.
A decision I do concur with, however is the decision of the film's makers to commission Ry Cooder to create the soundtrack. The result is a truly perfect marriage of music and images.
Only caveat - there is some graphic animal slaughter at one point. The footage is admittedly brief, and not dwelt upon exploitatively, and any objection to it is purely a personal feeling on my own part, but I do feel it only fair to warn anybody who is like minded.
Blu-Ray notes: The transfer is great, really showing off Andrew Laszlo's cinematography. There is also an extended interview with Walter Hill about the making of the film which is most illuminating.
PURPLE RATING: 8.5/10
USA 1981 - Cinema Group Ventures/20th Century Fox
Certificate - 15 (UK, originally X then 18)
Blu-Ray/DVD: Second Sight (UK)
Original Theatrical Trailer: