Four Atlanta businessmen decide to prove that the frontier spirit is not dead by spending a canoeing weekend shooting the rapids of a river high in the Appalachians. Terrific boy's own adventure stuff with adult ingredients of graphic mutilation and buggery, but Boorman is never content either to leave it at that or to subscribe to the ecological concerns of James Dickey's novel (where man's return to nature becomes vital because 'the machines are going to fail, and then - survival'). Instead, he adds a dark twist of his own by suggesting that concern is too late. From the quartet's first strange encounter with the deformed albino child in a mountain community almost Dickensian in its squalor, down to the last scene where Voight watches coffins being unearthed and removed to safety before the new dam floods the valley, their trip down the river becomes an odyssey through a land that is already dead, killed by civilisation and peopled by alien creatures rather than human beings. Signposted by the extraordinary shot of a corpse, surfaced from the water with one arm grotesquely wrapped round its neck and the other pointing nowhere, it's a haunting, nightmarish vision.
Cast and crew
Jon Voight Burt Reynolds Ned Beatty Ronny Cox Billy McKinney James Dickey