Savage Water (1979)

Well, it finally arrived. I’d been wishing on a star for ages and the star came through for me.

Turns out that I wasn’t ready for it.

Dave Savage runs a Grand Canyon White Water Rafting Tour company. Random folks from All Over The World join him, a nice lady and his crew of jean-shorted men to cruise down the beautiful canyons of America. And, someone made a horror film around it!

They raft. They camp. They eat. They talk and talk. Slowly, people start getting killed. There’s some brief commotion and then it ends with the same majestic theme (“Savage Water”) with which it began. I would warrant a guess that about 10 minutes of this movie has to do with the actual killings and the aftermath. Most of the film is just folks talking. People hanging out. Occasionally playing tricks on each other. There’s a several minute long scene with two guys standing around a portable Toilet Tent just talking as a woman changes inside. Long scenes play with the camera just sitting as everyone talks. Then, the camera will cut to a close up of one of the characters and slowly zoom out to the exact same framing as the previous shot. Folks say their names a lot but it took three viewings to match most people to them. So many things in this film are just so inherently odd that shaking your head at it is a perfectly acceptable response.

My favorite odd moment happens one lovely morning…A bunch of the rafters leap into the water and start swimming. The ladies take their tops off. A guy says “Hubba Hubba”. At the exact same time, a scene of some other people playing around in the mud begins to dissolve in over the swimming…and then everything stays that way for about 30 seconds. Both scenes play out on top of one another. Then, the swimming fades out and mud is thrown for a few seconds before a cut. If this were any other film, I’d say this was psychedelic. Because it’s Savage Water, I say it’s awesome. It happens once more later on so it’s either a stylistic choice or a mistake. Shall we choose the former and have a nice evening?

OK…back to the beginning, this movie is That Thing. “When the actual killing begins, my interest fades.” “I prefer the parts of the movie where everyone just hangs out.” And so forth…Savage Water is the movie where the horror, apart from a few minutes here and there, never, ever overtakes the lazy traveling and the endless conversations…and I wasn’t prepared the first time I watched it.

It took three viewings and I got it and I rejoiced . . . I had finally received what I had asked for and it is superb. You will forget that this is a horror/thriller. (Copyright 1979. The killing is occasionally violent and the killer remains hidden. Not quite a slasher but it has a cool 70s-horror-film-approaching-the-80s feel.) You will watch the characters talking and talking. There are moments when you will laugh out loud and moments when you will worship the beauty of the Grand Canyon. You might fall asleep. You might get pissed off. You might fall in love with every person in this film. I did. Enjoy.

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