For as long they’d been chilling down under, Australia’s cinematic efforts went primarily unnoticed until the 1970s. That’s because in the late 60s and early 70s an effort was put forth by the Australian government to support and assist Australian cinema, which in in turn gave birth to a movement called “Australian New Wave.” Director’s like Peter Weir, Bruce Beresford and George Miller emerged with film’s depicting the outback as both a thing of unmatched beauty and unbridled savagery. Though no genre captured the latter as significantly as the popular “Ozploitation” movement. Just like American exploitation films, many Oz films were violent, perverse, and cheap. One film that stands apart from the pack is Long Weekend.
Long Weekend is the story of a struggling couple Peter (John Hargreaves) and Marcia (Brony Behets) breaking away from their hectic city lives to enjoy a weekend camping by the beach. While the self-absorbed Marcia doesn’t much care for nature, Peter takes it by the horns. The ever arrogant Peter shoots guns, chops down trees, and basically makes nature his bitch with every opportunity he gets. If I learned anything from An Inconvienent Truth it’s, “Don’t piss nature off!” Peter and Marcia’s weekend quickly, takes a turn when the surrounding flora and fauna rebel in a series of random attacks. In fact, these attacks are so random that neither couple nor the audience really knows if these incidents are on purpose or coincidental. Bad things simply happen to Peter and Marcia with no explanation other than what we choose to believe is happening. Long Weekend takes a bold approach and for the most part it succeeds.
Long Weekend began life interestingly enough as a script by an American. In the late 60s Everett De Roche immigrated to Australia in his early twenties and got a job in Australian TV. After working on a series of soulless cop dramas, De Roche set out to write his first feature script, despite the fact that he had no experience writing real screenplays. Not only that, but De Roche had no idea where the story was going when he wrote it. Finishing in an astounding ten days, De Roche then presented the script to Australian TV director Colin Eggleston, funds were raised and filming began immediately. Here’s how De Roche described his initial idea: “My premise was that Mother Earth has her own auto-immune system, so when humans start behaving like cancer cells, She attacks. I also wanted to avoid a Jaws-like critter film. I wanted the Long Weekend beasties to all be benign-looking and not overtly aggressive.” Smart decisions for a man who admiringly “winged” the whole thing.
Of course the film wouldn’t be as nearly effective if it wasn’t for its beautiful cinematography by Vincent Monton and chilling score by Michael Carlos. I’d love to give you more background on these folks, but as far as I know their careers never extended far from a handful of independent Australian films. The film’s two leads, who both had relatively successful careers, give very convincing performances as the film’s bickering couple. What’s funny is they’re the only real characters in this movie, but they’re also kind of the bad guys, unless you hate nature. Really the only element in play that didn’t work for me was the pacing. I appreciate that the film is slow considering it gives the audience the time to question whether the events happening are random or chosen by nature, but it did drag from time to time. There are long stretches where not much happens, and though I’m sure many would appreciate that my attention did occasionally wander.
What I did love about Long Weekend was the end. SPOILERS IN THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH! Marcia gets fed up with Peter’s abrasive attitude and their surroundings and decides to leave. Later that night Peter, who thinks he’s alone, fires his harpoon gun after hearing a scary noise. It is only after the next day that Peter realizes he has shot Marcia after she got lost in the woods. Peter becomes panicked by both the trauma of the event and by the increasing animosity of his environment and tries to escape. Eventually, Peter makes it to a road and what happens? He’s hit by a truck. Just like common roadkill. I love the irony of Peter dying just like one of the very animals he would mistreat. I don’t usually care for the kinds of movies where everyone dies but these people deserved it.
I would definitely recommend Long Weekend. It’s different, it’s intelligent and most importantly, it’s disturbing. The whole vibe of the film feels incredibly real and the end results leave you disturbed in the best way. So check it out, even if it takes you all weekend.
Sadly, most of the pictures of this movie online are barely even VHS quality. Of course, this makes sense considering Australia doesn’t have DVD players yet.