Everett De Roche
John Hargreaves as Peter
Briony Behets as Marcia
Peter and Marcia are having some troubles in their marriage. So what better way to bridge the gap and make their relationship whole once again, than to travel to a remote and practically untouched beach on one of Australia’s coasts for a reconciliation holiday?
On their way to the middle of nowhere, they’ll hit-n-run an innocent kangaroo, start a brush-fire and spread their blanket of trash across the countryside. Once they arrive and continue their irresponsible ways, they’ll find themselves at the mercy of the nature they lackadaisically ignore and carelessly destroy.
Mother Nature’s a bitch, and this estranged couple is about to learn this bloody fact — first hand.
Long Weekend is an Australian film from the late 70s, written by horror scribe, Everett De Roche – probably most known for penning the scripts on the relatively unknown (and fantastic) Razorback, the Elisabeth Shue and Terrence Stamp vehicle — Link, and the Jamie Lee Curtis gem, Road Games. However, as I sat down to watch the film, the credits rolled and I immediately recognized his name as the screenwriter of the mid-80s made-for-HBO film, Fortress (currently holding the #18 spot in my all-time favorite film list). And no, this would not be the Christopher Lambert picture. Do yourself a favor and look this one up. It stars Rachel Ward. But I digress.
The film starts off with several options for possible directions. It could be a little Deliverance, perhaps some The Hills Have Eyes and maybe even a little bit of Hitchcock’s The Birds.
In the end, it can be labeled as having echoes of all of the above. And the film’s unclear agenda makes viewing the film a very tense, very unsure and therefore, quite intriguing — experience. The path the film takes is never totally paved in stone. It keeps you on your toes.
Both of the performances are very good. Other than a few supporting players on the couple’s journey to their location, Hargreaves and Behets are the only actors in the film. The frustration, anger and resentment of the characters toward one another — perhaps keeping them from seeing the clear signs of danger all around them — drives their relationship. They bring their venomous hatred of one another into the forest with them. No wonder the animals retaliate!
The possible thoughts of the animals as they’re negatively effected by the couple’s vitriol, reminds me of a line from Madonna’s song ‘Human Nature’, “I’m not your bitch, don’t hang your shit on me.”
Director Eggleston also helmed a project in the mid-80s called Cassandra. It’s something I’ve always wanted to revisit, since that first viewing almost 30 years ago. In the horror heyday of my teenage years, my best friend and I would rent anything and everything we saw on the video store shelves – which is how we discovered Cassandra. I recall enjoying the piece, but now, with my positive feelings toward Long Weekend, it’s time to go on the hunt for that long lost beauty, Ms.Cassandra.
In Long Weekend, Eggleston ratchets up the tension from the get-go. There are beautiful shots of the nature surrounding our struggling couple, and it’s to the viewer’s advantage that we don’t know where this journey will take us. He creates a very paranoid, almost Twilight Zone feel to the picture. The couple travels in circles, and even though there may be no way this is physically possible (the beach is right there – how can they travel in circles?), the forest and its inhabitants will not allow for any easy escape.
The biggest and best thing about this film, is its glaring lack of explanation. Certainly, conclusions can be drawn, and a reveal of the main reason for the couple’s marital troubles (symbolized wonderfully by a smashed eagle egg – hint hint), makes it also sort of a rape/revenge film. This self-loathing and self-important couple are “raping” nature and nature simply won’t have it – the Tasmanian Devils, the ants, the spiders and snakes will eventually fight back – avenging their ill-treatment.
But there are many other mysteries floating around the film which are never explained – the abandoned camp in a nearby part of the woods – including a now feral pet dog — a giant manatee which Peter destroys, and the arrows carved into trees, pointing the proper direction to – what? It’s all left up to you to decipher.
Further demanding that nature retaliate, Peter drunkenly swaggers and shoots his gun quite a bit (randomly killing animals with no reason), and in their first morning in the woods, he is seen cutting down a tree. Marcia asks him why he’s cutting down the “defenseless” plant, to which Peter replies, “Why not?” Oooh, these blasted humans.
(And by the by, the irony is not lost on me that I’m seeing this film just a few days following Earth Day.)
The sound design on the film is top-notch. There is so much footage of the actors looking around, listening to the forest surrounding them. It can be assumed that Hargreaves and Behets were reacting to nothing while they were filming, but their fear is totally sold and the creature sounds – specifically that of the supposed “baby sea cow” (my husband repeatedly stated, “I don’t think that’s a baby sea cow”) – will stick in your head for a good long while post-viewing.
While much of the film is left to your imagination, there is no denying that Long Weekend is a not-so-subtle cautionary tale. I am reminded not only of The Birds, but of the slew of 70s films from American International — Frogs, Empire of the Ants and Food of the Gods. Humans are nasty beings, and once the animals have had enough, we’re screwed.
I do highly recommend Long Weekend. It’s an unusual, hypnotic film, and the slow burn keeps you guessing what’s around the next tree, what’s beyond the next wave and what could be falling from the sky – all the while, keeping you squirming in your seat.
It’s an ironic, almost Night of the Living Dead-type ending. But at least you cared a little for “Ben” (Duane Jones) in Romero’s classic. In Long Weekend, our two leads are repugnant, self-centered assholes. And the fact that they are so despicable, but we’re still able to fear for their safety – that’s the film’s unsung great success.
There was a poorly received 2008 remake (with an alternate title of Nature’s Grave), starring Jesus Christ himself, Jim Caviezel. Apparently, the producer of the original, Richard Brennan, as well as actress Behets, were consultants on the remake, receiving “special thanks” in the film’s credits. The remake was also written by De Roche.
Long Weekend is available on Blu-ray from Synapse Films. Check it out.