Long Weekend (1978) Review
Peter (John Hargreaves – Country Life) and Marcia’s (Briony Behets – Prisoner Cell Block H), relationship is on the rocks, so they head to the wilderness for an away from it all, make or break long weekend. But in their wake, they leave a trail of destruction – animals run over and tormented, their dog uncared for at home and fires started by their carelessness. They destroy both the countryside around them and any animal or creature that crosses their path…so Mother Nature strikes back as the creatures and weather take vengeance against the thoughtless, unpleasant pair.
Filmed in 1977 and first shown in 1978 Long Weekend arrived in cinemas at the tail-end of the nature-turning-on-humans cycle that was prevalent in the late Seventies. Upon its release Long Weekend was a commercial disappointment in Australia but won awards at the various film festivals it played, tying with the Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival as winner of their Antennae II Award, and winning the Special Jury Award at 1978’s Paris Film Festival.
Colin Eggleston’s Ozploitation classic Long Weekend is expertly directed, well-acted and makes salient points about how mankind disregards nature – points that are still as relevant now unfortunately. It’s also initially subtle and creepy; however the constant symbolism, hammering the same point home again and again, starts to wear thin around the halfway point. It’s also blatantly obvious that it’s not going end well for our two protagonists, so is there really any point in sitting through it all to the end?
Anyone approaching this Nature vs. Man showdown with the likes of Jaws, Razorback or The Birds in mind will be in for a huge disappointment. There is no single species that turns against them and, by-and-large, those that are seen attacking the married couple are ones that are usually seen as benign. This was a deliberate choice by writer Everett De Roche (Patrick, Road Games) – this being his first feature film script – as he wanted to steer away from a Jaws-styled scenario and hammer home on the real monsters being the human protagonists.
De Roche expressed his disappointment that the threat from nature is pushed too early in the film. He definitely has a point. Playing down the film’s main thrust for the first half before revealing to viewers what is actually going down would have given proceedings more legs, instead it simply drags out its point beyond interest. Instead the viewer is tipped off from the very start – there’s the background TV news report on TV about white cockatoos attacking their owners, the wife’s dismissal of whether their dog will have enough food whilst they are away, knocking down a kangaroo during their drive, throwing a cigarette out of the vehicle’s window and starting a fire.
Those are just a few of the examples that tip the hat too early. It soon becomes wearing, eating into the controlled dread and eerie atmosphere that the director does so well to try and maintain. Whilst their toxic nature suits the story, it’s still rather unpleasant having to spend time with such a ghastly couple of people and there’s nothing here that couldn’t have been said more effectively in a half-hour short.