The specter of the Vietnam War looms over a squad of National Guards when their weekend exercise in a Louisiana swamp turns into a violent survival game with a group of Cajuns. Shooting entirely on location, director Walter Hill (The Warriors) extracts palpable tension from one relentless white-knuckled sequence after another. A muddy, bloody, brutal vision of the American South, this backwoods horror masterpiece is packed with inventive filmmaking—a soundtrack by Ry Cooder; a sustained, expertly modulated claustrophobic atmosphere; and a treasure trove of character actors of the era, including Keith Carradine, Fred Ward, and Powers Boothe.
“I remember standing in front of the poster for this film, at a cinema in England, in 1983, the shape of a man holding a knife in a swamp. At 14, you ask yourself, ‘How am I going to get in to see that?’ (It was then rated X in Britain). Southern Comfort is that rare breed of the ‘scary thriller,’ not quite a horror film, but eerie in its own way. As in The Wicker Man and Wake in Fright, it’s here as another reference for the portrayal of a community on high alert, though things get even more interesting with references to Vietnam. Walter Hill is one of the great American filmmakers.” —Kleber Mendonça Filho