Long Weekend on DVD

Sunday, 24 January 2010 16:00

“Long Weekend” stars Jim Caviezel (The Prisoner mini-series, “Outlander”, “The Passion of the Christ”) in a thrilling remake of the original 1978 Aussie picture that was a cult classic. This new version, directed by Jamie Blanks (“Urban Legend”, “Valentine”) endeavours to match it whilst updating the concept to fit in with current concern over the environment. Peter and Carla (Claudia Karvan) are an emotionally distant couple embarking on a long weekend in a remote, picturesque spot on Australia’s North Coast along with some friends.

The friends who were supposed to be joining them never arrive and Peter, Carla and their dog “Cricket” (aka Star the Border Collie) get lost and isolated in the wilderness. Rather than respecting the flora and fauna, the embittered pair instead opt to trash it, taking pot shots at the wildlife.  As their relationship continues to disintegrate, strange and terrifying things start to happen to them, as though some unseen dark spirit is willing nature to turn against them.

Long Weekend comes to DVDTonally, this movie kept reminding me of “The Blair Witch Project”, albeit with tension between the characters from the very beginning. Peter and Karla cockily venture into the unspoilt wilds with no real understanding or respect for where they are going or what is already there. Once there, the relationship between the characters gradually erodes, though this time the situations they find themselves in are only a contributory factor to their irritability and animosity.

Here, their bad history is already needling them from within. Bad things keep happening to them, and although they initially appear to have a natural explanation, they eventually take on a far more sinister, bewildering and possibly supernatural character.

Caviezel and Karvan certainly succeed in driving the audience to dislike their personas, though thankfully there is more light and shade to their relationship than simple combativeness. They do show moments of affection for each other, especially when one or other of them is in danger, but it never takes much to sway them back into a more negative frame of mind.

Of the pair, Peter is the more unpleasant character, intent on ignoring the beautiful landscape and preferring to surf or swagger about with his rifle and harpoon gun. He wilfully despoils everything he touches. Carla has possibly done more to undermine their relationship beforehand, but Karvan makes her a warmer person though never one you would feel especially sorry for. She would rather be back in their normal suburban environment, surrounded by man-made creature comforts. They have a good “anti-chemistry”, if you will, feeling very much like two magnets of the same polarity trying to get closer to each other but never really standing a chance.

As the plot suggests, there are plenty of encounters with wildlife during the movie, and these are generally very convincing and actually quite disconcerting if not outright scary. It is a testament to the various animal wranglers (featured in one of the decent special features) that the creatures never appear to be merely going about their daily business, or comically lifted from stock footage. Rather, they all seem to conform to Mother Nature’s grand scheme to punish the couple for their escalating misdemeanours. Clever editing, coaxing by their handlers and the occasional use of very realistic puppets or models prevents the film losing credability.

The environmental message is clear but not clumsily thrust down the audience’s throats. In effect. everything the couple touches dies and rots, sometimes within a mysteriously rapid timeframe (which just about works within the slightly supernatural aspect of the piece). Creatures wash up on the beach strangled or suffocated by plastic bags. Other animals uncharacteristically strike out because they have been disturbed or threatened. Peter in particular drops smoking cigarette butts and litter, and tramples over the unspoilt habitat of animals without a flicker of guilt or understanding.

You do not have to be an eco warrior to see that what they are doing is wrong. However, because what happens to them is so unpleasant, and because the victim of their wrong-doings is quite nebulous, you end up feeling more like a detached spectator than a blood-thirsty judge.

“Long Weekend” is an efficient and impressively downbeat thriller/horror film. Its 82-minute running time helps to keep the pace and tension high, as do Blanks’ eerie soundtrack and intelligent editing. The former is especially noteworthy for its mixture of ominous bass notes, creepy piano tinkles, “Terminator”-esque sinking (dis)chords and haunting animal screeches, squawks and cries. It has certainly driven me to want to seek out the original to see how it compares.

The DVD is out now from Showbox Entertainment in a two-DVD “Ultimate Edition” (certificate '15'), priced £17.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

The special features (which are roughly two hours in total) include:

  • Director’s Production Diary (40 mins);
  • Interview Gallery (Claudia Karvan - star; Everett De Roche - screenwriter; Tobey Eggleston – son of the 1978 version’s director);
  • Deleted Scene “Jim and the Ducks” (featuring an amusingly accurate Christopher Walken impression by Caviezel);
  • ‘Making of’ featurette (30 mins);
  • ‘Taming the Wild’ featurette;
  • [plot spoiling scene title removed] - Behind the Scenes with Grant Page and Roger Ward;
  • English 2.0 and 5.1 audio options;
  • Chapter selection;
  • Trailer and some trailers from other films.

Whilst some of the features do not feature Hollywood-standard narration or production values, they are well put together and very entertaining. Sadly, the UK does not appear to be getting a Blu-ray version of the movie (unlike Germany!). This is a strange decision given that the stunning locations are begging for high-definition treatment.

The winners of three copies we had up for grabs in our prize competition were Joanne Roxburgh of Portsmouth, Hilary Pearce of Belper, and Geoff Hibbert of Paignton. Well done all of you, who entered in your hundreds!


Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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