Don't you hate when so many cinematic gems get lost out there in that foggy midst of Oscars, box office successes and just overall bad timing? There are so many films which are the 'face' of a genre. You know the ones I mean, when it comes to Science Fiction/Horror everyone knows Alien is ahead of the pack , and how majority of people associate 'The Godfather' as the definitive Gangster film. And when it comes to intense survival drama films most people would probably choose 'Deliverance'. I have found 'Deliverance' to be one of the most intense films, with such great pacing because you just know something bad is going to happen and the journey into that dangerous abyss is an eventful one. I love this film a lot, and I think it is one of the most grimy films of the 1970's, and one of the most definitive 'Guys Drama', but there is a film which I was put onto recently which has definitely been forgotten and not exposed to the likes of 'Deliverance'; that film is 'Southern Comfort'.
Here is the run down. There's a group of 9 in the Louisiana Army National Guard and they are just spending the weekend running through manoeuvres. But they have hit a little snag and need to cross this swamp and that is where they find a couple of canoes that don't belong to them and so they decide to take them and they are caught by their owners who happen to be Cajun locals. And as they guys are trying to negotiate with the Cajun's in bringing them back PFC Stuckey decides to fire blanks at the Cajuns...yep...they are not amused. And from that moment on, this gang of 9 need to get out of the swamp before they get killed. It's definitely a manhunt. I believe this storyline with the cat and mouse trail works really well for this film even though the story has been recycled in hundreds of films. It actually reminded me a lot of 'Predator', because although you couldn't exactly see the Cajun's you knew they were around and they were going to teach them some survival manoeuvres that they wouldn't forget.
'Southern Comfort' was perfectly cast, enough said. I thoroughly enjoyed what everyone had to offer. No matter what their role was, they made it significant in every way that they could. While some are not in the film for too long, they definitely let you know what kind of person they are portraying so you get a real sense of who these men are, and what they about. And as the film goes on you can see how people cannot handle the pressure, the intensity to the point that they are a ticking time bomb, so you can only imagine what will happen to them. Keith Carradine plays PFC Spencer, and from the first impression I thought that he was a boy in men's boots, he just seem very cocky, sure of himself, and I truly believed I would dislike his character, but I was so wrong, because throughout the film you will see him grow, take initiative, support the group regardless of whether he likes them or not, all he wants is what is best for them, he was someone you could totally admire. At first you would look at him and think he was all talk and a coward but that all changes when things start to go sour. Powers Booth plays CPL Hardin who has been transferred from the Texas National Guard, and he does not like his new crew one single bit. He is very mysterious, it is clear he doesn't want any trouble, or anything to do with the arrogance that is shown in this squad of 9, but he makes it clear he is not a force to be reckoned with. I enjoyed Booth's portrayal of Hardin because you can definitely see a serious BADASS living underneath this calm, mysterious exterior, he looked like he had seen some messed up shit, so you can always tell that these kind of characters always have a 'beast' inside them waiting to come out. Fred Ward portrays CPL Reece, who definitely has seen some shit in his previous life, however instead of being calm, and being more of a thinker, he is a definite hot head, who does not listen to anyone, and cannot admit when he is wrong. His character is enjoyable because you can see the turmoil inside him, of wanting to be leader, wanting to take over the gang, and wanting some stone cold revenge on the Cajuns. But if you follow narratives very well it doesn't take a genius to know what happens to the hot head of the group.
This film made me feel quite on edge and at times uncomfortable, but not to the point I needed to turn it off, it made me feel uncomfortable to the point I just couldn't look away. It always found ways of pulling me in deeper and deeper to the point I felt I was there with them. This is the kind of film which can make you so uneasy because you are travelling into the unknown. Think about it you are with a group of guys who don't exactly get along, in a place you don't know how to get out of, you barely have anything to survive on and a group of Cajuns are hunting you for sheer pleasure of it. It's quite a sick game of hide and seek isn't it? What I loved about the Louisiana Swamp setting is that no matter where you turned you could barely see the sky because of the trees, there didn't seem to be any openings, you were just taking pot luck of where you were going. This film reminded of what Spielberg did in 'Jaws', where he made sure you could not see anything surrounding the Orca like the shore or other boats, it made you feel there was no way out of the situation, and that is what was done in 'Southern Comfort'; and it was done perfectly. When I was watching this it also reminded me a little of 'The Warriors' because of the whole cat and mouse concept, the chase, the longing to get back to your turf or your home. And then I realised that Walter Hill who directed 'The Warriors' also directed 'Southern Comfort' and he also produced all of the 'Alien' films, so he definitely has a taste for these kind of stories, and he conveys it will on screen.
'Southern Comfort' is a film I wish I saw earlier, and a film I recommend to everyone! I enjoyed it because there was not a single hint of romance, or saving a damsel in distress, it was just a real GUYS film. It was about survival of the fittest, every man for himself. If you found 'Deliverance' as an intense film that really exposed to you the vile nature that some of us pick up and nourish ourselves with, then you will definitely love 'Southern Comfort'. It isn't a rip off, of 'Deliverance' and it doesn't try to be like it either, 'Southern Comfort' stands on it's own two feet and grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go. Don't look past this gem, I put it off for weeks and my boyfriend kept telling me I needed to watch it because of how awesome it was, and what can I say he was right!