Given the disappointment of not being able to catch Patrick (2013) during this terrifying fortnight, I thought I should check out a little classic Aussie horror action. Enter Long Weekend (1978).
I always try and keep expectations low when chucking a DVD on. But when the DVD in question has the tagline “their crime was against nature… nature found them guilty” it is quite hard to stop expectations from skyrocketing. Thankfully, Long Weekend more than lived up to the expectation created. The story focuses on Peter and Marcia who escape for a long weekend in the hope of repairing their relationship which has fallen on rocky times. The film begins by contrasting the urban and wilderness landscapes as the couple leaves the city for the weekend. Camping is in some way the intersection between those two worlds, a soft entry into the wild world, so it is notable that is what Peter and Marcia are doing. The fact they cannot leave their city slicker life behind and adjust to the wilderness leads them down some dark paths. Their mistreatment of the environment is an awesomely unsubtle allegory for the treatment of our world, one that still rings as true (truer) now as it did 30 years ago. This is a couple who think nothing of tossing cigarette butts out the window, littering, shooting animals for sport and chopping down trees simply because they have the power. They perpetrate wanton destruction as they focus on themselves and nothing else.
Much of this really fantastic film is not what you would call straight horror. One side of it is an intriguing psychological relationship drama full of secrets, hinted at deception and attempts at controlling behaviour. Then on the other side there are the creepy goings on, with animal attacks, spear guns firing seemingly of their own volition and so on. Both of these would make really taut and fun movies. But combine them, and you have something pretty special I think. The film looks really pretty. The cinematography is first class and the whole visual side of proceedings is helped no end by the fact that the action takes place in some pristine Australian wilderness. Long Weekend is also a delightfully Australian film. As well as looking real pretty, the location serves to create a whole lot of atmosphere. Forests that look stunning lit up in the daytime, take on a positively chilling air at night, lit only by headlights. Then there is the wildlife. Numerous birds, a tassie devil, kangaroos, even a fricking dugong make appearances. It says a lot about the quality of the film’s construction that all of these animals have a menacing presence, yet the film is not particularly over the top or camp. Topical and ahead of its time, this would be an ‘issues film’ if it was not so damn fun to watch.
Before checking it out, I had only ever heard Long Weekend hinted at. But I now consider it to be a bit of a minor Aussie classic. Do your best to track it down if you can (it is distributed on DVD by Umbrella here in Aus) and hopefully you will enjoy it as much as me. A film as atmospheric and taut as this, from a country that supposedly doesn’t make genre films, should be seen by plenty more people.
Verdict: Pint of Kilkenny
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