Friday, February 6, 2015

Review: Southern Comfort (1981)

It would always entice my interest and curiosity when ever I heard it's name mentioned, but for years it just lingered on my mental list of films to see. Due to a limited release on home media it was a hard film to come by. However last night I finally had the means to see it so without hesitation I indulged in my first viewing of Southern Comfort. 

Set in 1973 a squad of National Guard soldiers on weekend exercise in an isolated Louisiana swamp suddenly find themselves thrust into a life and death situation when they carelessly anger local Cajuns hunters. Now I won't deny that there are some similarities to Deliverance, but in reality this is a very different film. While 'Deliverance' echoed themes of man's desecration of the American wilderness in addition to leaving a profound impact on it's viewers. Southern Comfort simply exists to entertain more than anything else; as a result achieving a level of cult status throughout the years since it's release. Much to the dismay of the film's director Walter Hill, Southern Comfort can be viewed as mirror to the Vietnam War as the many parallels are very evident. This is an interesting idea to explore and discuss but most of the film's enjoyment comes from the characters. Who consist mostly of very inept and incompetent individuals. Their antics are often laughable and puzzling, which doesn't really make them very sympathetic when their hostile predicament begins. It's only when our two lead protagonists named Spencer and Hardin (Keith Carradine and Powers Boothe) come into their own that the film begins to excel. Which is followed by an increased scene of fear and paranoia as the situation becomes increasingly dire. The location is undoubtedly a key element to the film's desired effect. The looming presence of the countless cypress trees, a staple of the seemingly endless and eerie landscape both hinders our heroes while hiding their often unseen perusers. This is an absolute credit to cinematographer Andrew Laszlo.While performances from the cast are relatively mixed with the except of Carradine and Boothe, Southern Comfort delivers some genuinely intense and terrifying moments. Read into it what you will regarding social commentary but don't forget to have fun and enjoy the ride of this fine example early 80s cinematic escapism. It's cheesy, it caters heavily to the red-neck stereotype but I had a lot of fun with it.


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