As celebrated in Mark Hartley’s recent, excellent documentary Not Quite Hollywood, the Australian horror genre has a gloriously schlocky history. A raft of outlandish movies from Down Under rocked the international scene in the 1970s and 80s, including films like Razorback, Patrick and Mad Max. One of this tribe was Colin Eggleson’s 1978 shocker Long Weekend, which starred John Hargreaves and Briony Behets as the city dwellers who mistreat a rural paradise at their peril.
And here we have the obligatory remake, which casts The Passion of the Christ star Jim Caviezel as the thoroughly unpleasant Peter who hopes a camping trip in the outback with save his – very – troubled marriage to wife Carla (Claudia Karvan). Arriving in a paradise by the ocean, the pair show a total disregard for their environment; littering, destroying eagle eggs and using the local wildlife as target practice. Also disturbing the peace is their constant bickering which soon descends into open hostility; which may be why their don’t realise the bizarre events that are beginning to happen around them. As birds start attacking, sea creatures turn up dead and even the trees begin to show aggression, Peter and Carla are very soon getting a taste of their own medicine…
There have been a glut of such eco-horrors over recent months; films like 2012, The Road and even Avatar warning that humanity may soon have to pay the price for the ravages we have inflicted on our home planet. And although Long Weekend may have a far smaller scope than those apocalyptic behemoths, its message is still the same. Its a chilling premise that, in the right hands, could have been an intimate and powerful allegory about the tension between modern man and his environment. But here, thanks to overbearing direction, two-dimensional characters and haphazard pacing, and despite being penned by original screenwriter Everett De Roche, it’s laughable at best.
The main problem lies with Peter and Carla themselves. They are so inherently dislikeable, so utterly unsympathetic that it’s impossible to engage with their plight whether it be their disintegrating relationship or the fact that they are being terrorised by their surroundings. Of course, this is intentional – they are supposed to deserve what they get, we are supposed to side with the environment in this fight. But it’s also impossible to root for Mother Nature when that side of the fight is handled so badly; close ups of dead birds, the odd rustle of a bush, and the inexplicable movements of a dead sea cow are obvious cliches and just not menacing enough to ratchet up any tension. And as the couple run around screaming at each other, you just wish the outback would hurry up and take its revenge.
Not only is it badly made, Long Weekend is utterly pointless. A virtual shot for shot carbon copy of the original that seemingly serves no purpose other than to exploit Caviezel’s star power to wring some more cash out of a forgotten film. Do yourself a favour and rent the original; or, failing that, watch director Jamie Blanks’ far better Storm Warning instead. 1 star
Inexplicably released as a two-disc special edition, the features include the director’s production diary, interviews, one deleted scene, a making of and look behind the scenes. 2 stars
Stars Jim Caviezel, Claudia Karvan
Director Jamie Blanks
Distributor Showbox Media Group
Released February 8