-Written by Greg B
In Les Blank’s legendary 1982 documentary Burden of Dreams, the director follows Werner Herzog during the disasterous production of his film Fitzcarraldo. Not only did he have to deal with a maniacal Klaus Kinski while trying to figure out how to pull a 320-tonne steamship over a hill without killing anybody, but to top it all off he had to do it within the bowels of the Peruvian jungle. As the production dragged along and the locals considered murdering Kinski, Blank caught Herzog on camera at a moment of sheer exhausted helplessness. But rather than getting all reflective and discussing how beautiful and sublime the jungle is despite all of the hardships it can throw your way, Herzog sees it as an unfinished and chaotic mess, a kind of evil playground. He muses: ‘taking a close look around us there is some sort of a harmony… the harmony of overwhelming and collective murder..’.
This is the side of nature that Long Weekend director Colin Eggleston is concerned with portraying (even though ironically enough, Vincent Monton the films director of photography, stated that during production, the climate and the landscape were always strangley conducive to shooting, as the sun shone or it poured with rain as the script called for it. The film’s plot concerns an alienated suburbanite couple, Marcia (Briony Behets) and Peter (John Hargreaves) as they venture to the coast for a weekend away from the hustle and bustle of urban living. However, rather than getting away from home, the couple just seem to want to get away from one another. From the very beginning of the flick they bicker and moan. Peter manages to smuggle the dog along on the trip and Marcia doesn’t find the idea of ‘crapping in the sunshine and singing around campfire’ a particulary relaxing way to spend the weekend. Over the course of their journey they accidently run over a kangaroo and almost inadvertently spark a bush fire with a cigarette butt, but this is only the start of their troubles. Once they arrive at the coast, Peter is eager to show off his manly surfing and shooting skills, but Marcia isn’t impressed by his attempts at Hemingway-esque machismo and would rather masturbate to a tacky mills and boon novel in a tent than copulate with her virile husband. As the couple’s encounters with one another beome increasingly more heated, the wild seems to encroach evermore into their personal space, as ants, possums, swooping eagles and a whiny half dead dugong all land on their doorstep. However all the while the couple seem to be too busy spitting bile at each other to notice the escalating chaos of their surroundings.
This movie is sort of like the anti-Deliverance (albeit minus the toothless, sodomite rednecks), in that rather than adapting and fighting back against the indifferent savagery of the wild, the bickering middle class couple just panic, split up and get themselves into even more of a mess. Over the course of the film, the layers of domestic life and social refinement that the couple bring with them (a frozen chicken, a jeep, a harpoon gun) slowly fall away until it is just them who remain alone against a barbaric, pissed off wilderness that doesn’t want them in its territory. At one point while strolling on the beach the couple find an ominous omen in the shape of a moss covered, naked barbie doll. Plastic people ain’t gonna make it out here in the wild (unless you happen to be Alec Baldwin or Anthony Hopkins and have big sticks for stabbin’ of course).
A clever aspect of Eggleston’s direction relates to how the audience is never really sure whether or not the ever escalating dread and progressively more frequent animal assaults are all just par for the course of being alone in the wild, or if the couples heightened emotional state makes everything seem more frenzied and disorderly than it actually is. In this vein, the soundtrack contains some demented teeth chattering music concrete moments that are somewhat akin to the blackboard scraping aural assault of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre that works really well in further heightening the escalating tension as we wait for something horrible to happen.
No doubt about it, Long Weekend is a bizzare, slow burner of a film. Having nature as the enemy must have branded it a tough sell but, like the decision to have death as the antagonist within the Final Destination franchise, the nature-as-enemy trope actually works very well.
The dugong that simply won’t die, gives the cackling crow from Antichrist and the howling baby from Eraserhead a run for their money in its sheer refusal to hit the bucket, no matter how many times Peter pumps rifle shells into its chubby torso. Speaking of Antichrist, Long Weekend actually shares a kind of ‘nature is hell’ thematic thread with that film, a feeling that gradually escalates as the bickering couple become more and more hysterical.
The film plays like an externalized version of one of Cronenberg’s body horrors, in that the control humans have over their bodies is always tenuous at best, as the flesh is ultimately an uncontrollable territory. From this perspective, Long Weekend suggests that our industrial and technical achievements may as well be built on foundations of sand, as all mother nature has to do is say the word and the highest skyscraper on the planet is reduced to dust.
With all that being said, there isn’t much to Long Weekend and on occasion it comes off as a rather slight film that feels like a sort of soap opera from hell that wears it symbolism on its sleeve. Coupled with this, it is guilty of a modicum of finger wagging (now, lets all look long and hard at what happens when you fuck with nature kids… sometimes it bites back!), but it is quite an original horror thriller with a great spiky 1970’s exploitation feel to it nonetheless