Note: stills not from Blu-Ray release.
Colin Eggleston’s Long Weekend is about two campers alone in the wilderness, but there’s no masked killers to terrorize them on their trip. Instead, it’s only them and nature and their own misfortunes together, what at first seems like peace and quiet turning into a horrifying and miserable stay in the wild. Screenwriter Everett De Roche tackles Australian wildlife in Long Weekend before his better known animal horror flick Razorback, but here it’s not centered on one creature; the film encompasses much more, from the awful event in the couple’s relationship to the nearly supernatural moments that plague them as they stay in the isolated camp. It’s a film about when animals attack, but the most dangerous creature of all is humanity.
Eggleston sets things in motion with a one-sided phone conversation between Marcia (Briony Behets) and an unseen caller, prompting early hints that her relationship with Peter (John Hargreaves) isn’t working out so well. They’re going on a trip to the country, an outing that she’s not too excited about because she claims she’s not an outdoor girl. But Peter, in his zest to attempt to get things back to normal, thinks a getaway away from everyone is a good thing, both to keep Marcia’s mind off of something traumatic and to, perhaps, get the sex life back to normal.
So they set out to the Australian coast, heading to a vaguely marked camp by the ocean that leads them to get a flat tire, then get lost, and eventually they’re forced to spend the night in the Jeep instead of making camp. These are ill omens already, and Eggleston plays around with the supernatural aspect of Long Weekend on the first day of the couple’s trip. Staying in the Jeep, they hear the eerie sound of an animal wailing like a baby out in the darkness, and it’s particularly frightening to Marcia.
Eggleston keeps hinting at something plaguing Marcia, and as the film continues, she and Peter continue to fight about whatever’s bothering them. There are clues dropped, things about how she could have died or about how the doctor says she’ll slowly regain her libido, and then finally a fight reveals the true nature of the discussion: Marcia had an abortion without telling Peter. Since De Roche’s script keeps subtly fingering that subject, it’s not a huge shock; but it also explains Peter’s prickish attitude and Marcia’s distance.
At the same time, it doesn’t fully excuse Long Weekend‘s unlikable characters. Peter can be a complete douche sometimes, nearly threatening Marcia both physically and mentally. He’s not the greatest of husbands, but he is trying to be there for Marcia even when she went behind his back to do something that at least should have been discussed. It’s difficult to like Marcia, too, because all of Peter’s attempts to make the weekend a fun one end in her complaints.
This is intentional, though, and it’s up to the viewer to overcome their dislike for both characters because it’s imperative for the plot. Throughout Long Weekend, both Peter and Marcia – suburban home owners more suited to city life than anything else – disrespect the beautiful nature around them. Peter throws his cigarettes out the window, starting a small fire, and he throws his glass bottles into the ocean where he can shoot at them with his gun. Marcia sprays insecticide on ants and throws an eagle egg at a tree. It’s only fitting that nature then fights back.
While it seems like Long Weekend should be fairly straightforward, Eggleston’s direction makes the film so much better than expected. Throughout, there’s an uneasy feeling to the atmosphere, aided by the orchestral score and the terrifying shriek of the animal out at sea. Multiple times, there’s a close encounter with some sort of aquatic beast dipping below the surface of the surf, a dark mass that follows Peter when he’s swimming. It’s more than just animalistic, though – it’s spooky and supernatural, too, that this place in the woods is specifically targeting people who go there.
Though its conclusion is a tad elongated, Long Weekend offers a satisfyingly creepy ending. The two are not killed by beasts, though that’s a major reason for their demise; instead, they’re both murdered by humans in freak accidents that serve as a fateful reminder not to mess with nature.
The theme is heavy-handed, but it’s also expertly crafted into a suspenseful film that renders its characters unlikable but real. Both of them are awful people in some way, and Long Weekend realizes that. But it still asks you to root for them as they run from something unseen and enveloping at the same time. Eggleston and De Roche draw on base human fears of loneliness and survivalism to great effect, along with a fable-like moral that urges viewers to treat nature with the respect it deserves. Otherwise, it’ll get you.
First off, I want to say that Synapse Films have done a great job restoring the film for widescreen 2.35:1. There are a couple of shots that suffer from noise – some of the views of the skyline and the darker textures get some grain, but other than that, the film looks great. The colors of the ocean in particular are beautiful. Long Weekend sounds great as well with its DTS HD-MA 5.1 surround sound, although the option for 2.0 is also there.
As for features, Long Weekend boasts audio commentary from producer Richard Brennan and cinematographer Vincent Monton, which isn’t a necessary viewing but does add some nice information about the film. It also contains a still gallery with audio commentary from actor John Hargreaves – the audio doesn’t really match with the stills, but it’s a good addition and something I’d like to see more of from discs that have stand-alone still galleries. We also get the original theatrical trailer.
This is definitely worth the price, especially since Long Weekend is a great film.