The 1978 Australian film, Long Weekend, is about what happens when two unlikable humans decide to spend the weekend with nature. Nature, it turns out, doesn’t really like the company and decides to kill them.
Or does it? From what I’ve read, the screenwriter for Long Weekend, Everett De Roche, did intend this to be a nature’s revenge type of film. The idea behind the film is that these two city dwellers aren’t respectful of nature when they go camping and, as a result, all of the plants and the animals decide to get revenge. But the film is shot in such a way that your interpretation may vary. Are the humans really being targeted by nature? Or are the humans themselves just so paranoid and craven that they don’t even realize that they’re destroying themselves? For instance, when one of them gets attacked by a possum, is it because the possum has been sent on a search-and-destroy mission or was it just because someone was stupid enough to stick their hand in a possum’s face? I mean, you can really only expect any animal to put up with so much, regardless of whether they’re a member of an organized army or not. Whether or not it was intentional on the part of the filmmakers or just the result of having to adjust to working with a low budget, Long Weekend is actually a rather ambiguous film and it’s all the more effective for it.
Long Weekend opens with Peter (John Hargreaves) and Marcia (Briony Behets) driving through the rain. They’re heading off to an isolated beach camping spot that Peter has discovered. Peter considers himself to be a great outdoorsman and is very proud of the hunting rifle that he’s bringing with him. Marcia is a self-described “city girl” and is considerably less enthused about the prospect about spending the weekend in the rough. (I immediately identified with Marcia because I have always hated the idea of camping.) Marcia and Peter spend half of their time talking about how much they love each other and the other half talking about how much they hate each other. Marcia’s also having an affair and Peter might know about it. (When Peter first brings his new rifle home, he points it directly at Marcia. Is he just testing the sight or is he fantasizing about murdering his wife? The film leaves it up to us to decide.) Along the way, Peter runs over a kangaroo while driving to the campsite but neither he nor Marcia seem to notice.
Once they’re camping, Peter and Marcia only get more obnoxious. Marcia complains about nature. Peter litters the ground with cigarette butts and he kills a manatee. He also shoots a tree with a spear gun. He claims it was an accident, though it’s hard not to notice how close the spear comes to hitting Marcia.
The surroundings start to grow more ominous. The wind howls. The skies grow dark. Eagles attack. Possums attack. A dog attacks. Marcia wants to leave and eventually, even stubborn old Peter agrees but it turns out that leaving is not going to be as easy as they think….
Long Weekend takes a while to really get going but, if you stick with it, your patience will be rewarded. The time taken to reveal who Peter and Marcia are and to show us how their relationship works definitely pays off in the end. Shot on location in the Australian bush, this is one of those horror films that creates a perfectly ominous atmosphere and then doesn’t let up until the end credits roll. Peter and Marcia are so unlikable that you don’t really mind seeing them being tormented but, by the end of the film, it’s impossible not to share their desperation as they try to figure out how to escape the wrath of a seriously pissed off planet. The film ends on a rather abrupt yet totally perfect note.
As I mentioned at the start of this review, one of the things that makes Long Weekend so effective is that it does maintain a certain ambiguity as to what’s happening. There are hints throughout that whats happening might not just be isolated to that campsite and that Peter and Marcia aren’t the only ones who have gotten on the bad side of nature this weekend. At the same time, it’s also possible to interpret the film as being less about nature’s revenge and more about an unhappy couple who lets their own paranoia get the better of them. Are they really victims of nature or are they just two people being driven mad by their own dysfunctional relationship? While the filmmakers are on record as saying that they meant for it to be the former, the film itself leaves it up to you decide.
Long Weekend is an intense and effective horror film. If you’re tempted to go camping this Spring Break, be sure to watch this film first.