Saturday, 30 January 2010

Long Weekend

2008
Dir. Jamie Blanks

Suburban couple Peter and Carla (Jim Caviezel and Claudia Karvan) take a weekend vacation in the hopes of repairing their crumbling relationship. The couple show an absolute lack of respect for their surroundings and amongst other things, drop litter, bicker with each other, constantly spray insecticides, bicker with each other, accidently kill a baby dugong, bicker with each other and are generally unable to conceal their utter contempt for one another, or nature. As the tension between the two escalates, nature itself seems to strike back against them. Is something supernatural afoot, or is the squabbling, insular couple losing their grip on reality?

Australian horror movies have been making quite an impact on the horror genre recently, though the country has a history of genre movies including classics such as Mad Max, Razorback and Picnic at Hanging Rock. More recently with films such as Wolf Creek, Rogue, Lake Mungo and Undead, filmmakers have begun to explore the darker recesses of the outback once more. The original Long Weekend was an eco-horror crossed with a distressing domestic drama in which an estranged couple attempt to salvage their marriage by escaping into the bush to get away from it all and rekindle old feelings. What they get though is far worse than either of them could have imagined as the very landscape seems to conspire against them due to their lack of care for it or each other…

Director Jamie Blanks – no stranger to horror having already helmed Aussie shocker Storm Warning and the old-school slasher flicks Urban Legend and Valentine – has teamed up with the writer of the original screenplay to revisit a story that is still as relevant as ever in its approach to contemporary relationships and mankind’s destruction of the earth. From the outset, Blanks conveys a sense of how vast and isolated the Australian outback is. Lush cinematography effortlessly captures the beauty – and potential danger – inherent in the vast expanse of untamed lands untouched by civilisation. The eerie otherworldliness of the outback at times seems to evoke an atmosphere simply dripping with an unnameable dread. The scenes at night fully utilise the weird noises and sounds that come from the surrounding bush – the results are often immensely creepy. Stunning wildlife photography captures all manner of weird and wonderful beasts that potentially harbour all kinds of threats to man.

Not a lot of ‘action’ occurs in the film – but Blanks keeps things suspenseful by creating a strangely menacing and creepy atmosphere that constantly suggests something bad is suddenly going to happen. Events are a little predictable, especially as they rush towards the inevitable climax – which is signposted obviously enough – but the ambiguity and the two central performances should keep viewers on their toes.

The couple themselves deliver fine performances, though their constant squabbling and picking at each other ensures we can never really fully side with either of them. Both are selfish and unsympathetic – though at times it seems they weren’t always this way as a couple of isolated intimate moments are shared. They have lost their way – both figuratively and actually. At various stages throughout the plot both characters seem to have become locked in a sort of existential loophole in which they become lost and appear to be going in circles, passing the same landmarks and situations again and again. They have become locked into the bitter cycle that their relationship has become, and the hate they project onto one another and the landscape around them is soon thrown right back at them.

A particularly tense scene features Peter going for a swim off the deserted beach. The camera follows him quite closely and at times all we can see is what he sees - water. Lots of water – and fuck knows what is gliding around under the surface, waiting to pounce… Wider shots give us the undeniable impression of his insignificance in relation to the ocean – he is but a speck. Carla, walking on the beach, notices a large dark shape under the water rapidly advancing towards her hubby, and as she tries to alert him, things become very taut indeed…

The couple’s obvious contempt for each other could be manifesting itself in paranoia, together with the new strange and potentially hostile surroundings they find themselves in. Are the couple projecting their anger and fear and paranoia into their surrounding space? Or is nature actually turning against them? The frenzied bird attack and the vengeful adult dugong – seemingly dead though still able to move up the beach when no one is watching – provide particularly memorable moments. As does Peter’s discovery of a family campervan and the fate of its inhabitants… Chilling stuff.

Long Weekend won’t be for everyone, although viewers with an open mind and a penchant for slow-burning, suggestive psychological horror may find much to enjoy. Blanks’ remake was interesting enough to make me very keen to check out the original.

The two disc LONG WEEKEND (cert. 15) will be released on DVD (£17.99) by Showbox Entertainment on 8th February 2010. Special Features include: Director’s Production Diary; Interview Gallery (Claudia Karvan; Everett De Roche; Tobey Eggleston); Deleted Scene (Jim and the Ducks); ‘Making of’ featurette; ‘Taming the Wild’ featurette; Peter’s Death – Behind the Scenes with Grant Page and Roger Ward; English 2.0 and 5.1 audio options; chapter selection; trailer.

8 comments:

Carl (ILHM) said...

I quite enjoyed this one, excellent build and enjoyably unlikable characters. I will definitely be checking out the original film whenever I can get my hands on it!

the jaded viewer said...

Gotta disagree Carl. This was a laughable horror film at best.

Dude that scene with the sea cow was hahahahaha unbelievably stupid.

In America, its called Nature's Grave. They probably didn't want it associated with the original

James said...

I thought it was quite atmospheric - though it just really made me want to check out the original.

I quite liked that scene, Jaded. I like sea cows. They're cute. Anyway, it was a dugong - totally different species. Thanks for that link! I liked your description of this as an 'anti-Discovery Channel documentary'. And I agree that Star as Cricket was just awesome. She's one to keep an eye out for in future. ;o)

Emily said...

I've yet to see the original, but I'm really intrigued by what I've heard of both these films. It's a tricky type of story to tell--nobody really wants to see a couple squabbling for two hours (ah, how I wanted to kill the new stars of the Children of the Corn remake myself!) but if you're in the right mood to be open to it, it can add a whole lot to the narrative.

Big question: should I start with the original or remake?

James said...

Hey Emily - I've read lots of mixed reviews of this one - but I quite enjoyed it. Its atmospheric and tense and Blanks really goes all out to create a mood of foreboding.
There's a remake of Children of the Corn!?

I've not seen the original - and I usually like to see the original first - so I reckon I'd start with that. If I could. But its too late for me. But not for you!

Hope you're well.

Emily said...

Oh yes James, there's a remake of Children of the Corn: http://deadlydollshouse.blogspot.com/2009/10/kid-nation.html

Technically, it's just another adaptation of Stephen King's short story. It has its moments, but it's also cursed with the two of the most obnoxious and hatable leads I've ever seen in a movie. I've never wanted to punch a woman in the face more. Produced by the Sci-Fi--wait, I'm sorry, SyFy channel in 2009, but there's an unrated DVD floating out in the world also.

And yes, I'll probably give the original Long Weekend a shot fairly soon. It's been creeping up the queue.

James said...

Oh dear, Emily. That remake doesn't sound too good. Which brings me to my next question - WHY has the Sci-Fi channel changed its name to syfy? It just doesn't make sense... :/

Emily said...

It was some sort of marketing ploy which amazingly enough, somewhat worked. I guess they wanted to try to attract some viewers naturally adverse to 'science fiction' by going more techno (or something?) but it was pretty much mocked by the world...then somehow got them more ratings. I don't mind a networking renaming itself to signify a major change (and I do think SyFy brought in a few new shows and programming choices) but changing the mere spelling is just plain stupid.

Or plane stupid. Make a network out of that!