Director – Colin Eggleston
Cast – John Hargreaves, Briony Behets, Mike McEwen
Release Year – 1979
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I didn’t hear of this late 70s Australian horror film until recently, but the hype around it stated it to be one the best horror films to come from down under. It was also remade in 2008, starring Jim Caviezel. As a wildlife enthusiast I found the subject matter to be right up my alley. Screenwriter Everett De Roache, an established TV writer, set out to write an environmental horror film that didn’t follow the Jaws killer-critter theme. He succeeded and gave us a story about man treating nature like a lesser being and nature deciding enough is enough. It’s a bit tame in comparison to the gritty and often brutal films we associate with Australia, like Dust Devil and Wolf Creek 2, but Long Weekend is a well-executed flick that delivers a strong message.
Suburban couple Peter and Marcia embark on a weekend trip to a secluded beach where their presence results in pollution, negligence of their surroundings, and the death of a native animal. What was supposed to be a fun weekend of relaxation turns into chaos when nature decides not to accommodate the ungrateful duo and unleashes its karmic revenge.
Everett De Roache succeeded in giving us a story that was unlike the Jaws kilter-critter craze that was going on at the time (Grizzly, Orca). The other films didn’t have much commentary on man’s violation of nature’s balance. They played on our fear of large animals. In Long Weekend the punishment of our protagonists is much more deserving. On top of this, the animals that attack the couple are not species we would consider violent, nor are they of gargantuan size. This makes the story more realistic and therefore relatable, and that leaves a lasting effect.
We follow Peter and Marcia as they excitedly prepare themselves for an environment they are unfamiliar with. Before leaving Peter buys a lever-action rifle – something you may need to have on you if you plan to hunt for food or protect yourself against dangerous game – but he only buys it so he can feel cool. His ineptitude on proper weapon safety shows as he uses the scoped rifle to spy on Marcia at times. They really are in for a long weekend. It takes a while for the film to move and the horror to hit, with most of the development consisting of their transgressions against nature and themselves. Peter discards of lit cigarettes in the brush, shoots his rifle for the sake of shooting it, and Marcia destroys rare eagle eggs. On top of such antics the couple is increasingly falling apart themselves, with Marcia wanting to leave the wilderness and Peter wanting to tough it out a little longer. When Peter shoots a native (and innocent) sea animal after Marcia mistakes it for a shark, nature begins to fight back and the breakdown begins. It takes about 45 minutes for this to occur, and the remainder of the film follows the couple’s insidiously unfortunate events. Non-violent species begin to attack them, and someone is torturing them over the death of the sea mammal. With no other human within their immediate vicinity, it seems nature is retaliating in more ways than one. Aside from a few early scenes we are only treated to two main characters and both of them are unlikable. Some may argue that because of the lack of sympathy you have for them you won’t find yourself enveloped over what is going to happen to them. I did not feel this way but I can see how those wanting developed characters would have preferred a more emotional dynamic. Caring about them would have probably made their suffering more gripping, but to me their suffering was satisfying. I loved seeing the physical and mental onslaught the couple was forced to endure, leading up to a satisfying climax that reminds us not to overstep our boundaries.
Director Colin Eggleston does a good job of bringing this story to life. To start, he portrays our leads exactly as they are intended to be – reckless and unwilling to conform to anything other than their personal narcissism. Because of this you will probably find more joy in the horror rather than feeling fear, and for me that was not an issue. With half the film consisting of development Eggleston really needed to execute the flick to full potential in order to keep the viewer’s interest and he did just that. While some of the acts against nature won’t be considered too trivial in today’s times, he makes us feel punched in the gut. When the horror kicks in at the halfway point the shock value was much greater than I anticipated. It isn’t anything overly special either. His execution is what sells the scenes, showing that you can turn a simple sequence into a haunting one.
Overall, Long Weekend a great late 70s environmental horror flick worthy of the praise surrounding it. It may not shock by today’s measures (thanks Saw), but it stands the test of time as a memorable watch thanks to great execution.