SPOILERS! My review is mostly meant for examination by those who have already seen the movie! As others have said this is a truly chilling and sinister film, many so called scary films lose their edge over the years by becoming dated, but this film feels sinister from the beginning and becomes almost unbearably oppressive to watch. Probably what makes it so chilling is the terrible events are entirely plausible. One reviewer here said that this film was about how violence (real violence) affects people, I won't repeat his review because he explains it more eloquently than I, but I totally agree. But interestingly enough as a woman it seemed to me that this movie was also examining masculinity but none of the male reviewers here have mentioned that, so I may be wrong. But I feel this way because it is noticeable to me how differently the men react, compared to women, to trauma. After the male rape not only is it never mentioned again but even initially when Ned is rescued it is not mentioned. I feel women would at least have a cry and hug each other first, but I may be wrong, because shock can manifest in different ways. However all of the men react in the same seemingly unemotional way, of course it is obvious that the men are traumatised by the event but their reaction is to protect their friend and fix the problem. And their way of fixing the problem is by not talking about it. Of course, part of the reason this event can't be discussed is because it is so emasculating. But their caring is obvious in little vignettes, for instance when Jon Voight helps Ned dress after the rape. Why men suppress emotions is something I have not always understood and at times has annoyed me, but this movie was such an insight for me, as I finally got it. We women know how to let out emotion safely, but men are so trained to suppress it that when it does happen it is often like a dam bursting then they can't control it, so it's safer to bottle it up. But the sad thing is though that their suppression will have terrible effects on them, this is one of the reasons therapists often say people shouldn't "bury" their problem (never was a metaphor so apt as in this film), however letting it out will make them crack, so they can't win, if they talk about it or suppress it, either way it will affect their sanity. Mind you even as a woman I could understand that many women would want to bottle up an event as traumatic as this one. Depressingly enough most movies when women get raped there is often something still "sexy" about the way it is shot but the male rape scene here is so sudden and so chilling you feel their helplessness and you know that if they aren't rescued that they will be killed and horribly, and you know they know this. Often rape reports deal with the violation but this scene really brings home to you the thought of not just the violation but the sheer terror that victims must feel, so I think this scene would be equally illustrative of what both men and women would experience. Even before the rape, it is obvious to me that all these men feel inadequate as men. Macho Lewis is over compensating, whiny Ned boasts about sexual conquests because he knows how unmanly he seems. So they want adventure (ie violence) so to transform themselves into real men, but ironically they don't understand that real violence isn't an adventure. Weirdly enough what should be considered emasculating, the horrible rape Ned experiences, is actually what transforms him into a real man, one who is scared but determined to survive and help his friends. Lewis almost does the opposite he goes from being the strong survivalist (though who undoubtedly saves them) to being terrified and in visible distress from his injury and helplessness. But I don't think the movie is saying that he is a coward. I think the movie shows them all as true human beings, they all show great courage at times but are also reduced to absolute terror at other times as anyone experiencing such horrors would. But that's part of the point is that you can not have true courage without real fear. So unlike the comic book heroes that they wanted to emulate, true heroism evolves from enduring terrible trauma. And it makes me wonder if perhaps one of the reasons that war veterans do not speak of war isn't just because of the horrors they saw but perhaps they are also ashamed of the times that they showed fear, no matter how courageous they may have been, deep down they may feel like cowards. The sad thing is that I think that the characters here will be forever traumatised and feel emasculated by what happened to them but the events were also the making of them as courageous heroes but they probably won't see it that way, but I had no doubt that Ned would go away being stronger, kinder and less brash to others and that Lewis would become more humble and that Jon Voight would appreciate his family more. This is one of the few movies I've seen adult male rape in, and society rarely mentions it too. I think issues such as this should be explored more in cinema, so that men who have experienced such terrible trauma can at least feel that the issue is being addressed in some way. Because let's face it part of the reason why Ned and the other characters can't speak about the rape is because society has deemed adult male rape to be an unspeakably shameful subject.
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Intent on seeing the Cahulawassee River before it's dammed and turned into a lake, outdoor fanatic Lewis Medlock takes his friends on a canoeing trip they'll never forget into the dangerous American back-country.
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April 15, 2019