Friday, October 16, 2009

15 Days: The Long Weekend (1978)

This is why I do it. This is why I wade through all the shit (see The Suckling). Every now and then a movie comes along and just hits you right where it counts. I'll try not to over sell this one too much (although, I think it's pretty brilliant). This is exactly the kind of picture I like. Long Weekend is a 1978 eco-horror picture from Australia. We're introduced to a bickering couple too hung up on their own lives to give a shit about their surroundings (in this case, a secluded campsite on the ocean). I kept thinking of Straw Dogs while watching this thing. Same kind of husband-wife dynamic. Instead of assault by crazy townsfolk, we got crazy wildlife (and maybe even some evil vegetation. Who can tell since the whole thing's pretty ambiguous.). Though, the wife isn't raped by a gator and his buddy or anything like that.

Anyway, Peter (John Hargreaves) and Marcia (Briony Behets) are a married couple who've had just about enough of each other. Hints of infidelity are thrown about, maybe an abortion, Marcia is jealous of Peter's dog, etc. "I know", Peter says, "let's go camping! Just the two of us, with no one else around. Just me, you, some trees, the ocean, lots of sand, etc. It'll do us some good" (I'm paraphrasing). Marcia would rather stay in a hotel but she eventually relents. They pack up the jeep, Peter sneaks the dog in the back and off they go....joyous hours spent together in the car, snapping at each other, smoking cigarettes. It gets dark. Peter stops for some beer while Marcia sleeps. They continue their journey. Peter nearly dozes, then strikes and kills a kangaroo. Fuck it, what's the big deal? Just one harmless, now dead, kangaroo. They turn off the highway, Peter starts to smell the ocean, they seemingly drive in circles through a forested road which suddenly doesn't look much like a road. Perfect place to set up camp.

Well, turns out that kangaroo maybe had some friends. Perhaps that eagle flying over head, the growling possum maybe, shit, the encroaching forest too? This one's a slow burn. Lots of development. Peter and Marcia fight. A lot. Still, there are moments when their relationship approaches something resembling sweetness. A little peck here. Some sweet nuthins, some cuddling. Unfortunately, Peter is one of those guys that considers himself an outdoorsman but really belongs nowhere near it. His lack of respect for his surrounding environment is evident from the start; littering, firing his rifle wildly into the ocean, the woods, not burying his shit (I made that one up, but kinda assumed that's what he would do). It's inexcusable on his part. Marcia just wants to lie down and read her romance novels. She's easily forgiveable, also slightly adoreable. Also, she bares her breasts.

This one's actually pretty terrifying at times. If you've ever been lost or had a nightmare of being lost or hate the fucking woods this one's not for you. Nature strikes back. The camera work is exquisite. We can never be sure where the danger is coming from. Up above (the eagle), the ocean (shark maybe?), the trees (possums or...the trees themselves?). I can't think of a more claustrophobic picture that's set in the great outdoors....not to mention on the shores of the largest body of water in the fucking world. Once the sun goes down in this world, the fear of the unknown becomes almost unbearable.

And then there's that god damned manatee. Yeah, a manatee washes up on shore. Peter and Marcia investigate. As time goes by, the (dead?) thing moves closer and closer to their campsite. Peter shoots it with his rifle. The thing keeps getting closer. I had a theory here (thankfully, not supported by the film). Animals from the forest would come out and drag the thing up the beach just to fuck with Peter and Marcia. Seriously, what else could it be? A fucking zombie manatee? Don't make me laugh. Seriously, that's what you think? Moron.

Tensions escalate. A spear gun goes off on it's own (yeah right, I'm looking at you Possum), footwear is dropped from the sky, a poor dog gets left behind in a mad dash. The score is great, the sound effects eerie, the performances by our two actors and the animals are believable. This is as good a horror movie in the "nature strikes back" category that's you're likely to ever find. On a side note, has there ever been an ugly picture made in Australia? Even if you half ass the shots, everything comes out looking so god damned amazing. I can't think of one. Mad Max, Rogue, Wolf Creek, Thunderdome? In the case of The Long Weekend, that natural beauty only adds to the horror. Could have used a killer kangaroo though. I think the lack of vengeance on behalf of their fallen brethren is an almost gaping plot hole.

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