Long Weekend was a hit (of sorts) for Australian director Colin Eggleston who more or less coined the term 'eco-horror' with his tale of a couple from the city who go camping at a remote beach only to find that nature isn't at all accommodating. Predictably enough, it has been remade with Urban Legend helmer Jamie Blanks chosen to direct and Everett De Roche who penned the original film.
The story is very faithful to Eggleston's film though some aspects have been given an updating to accommodate the technological advances in the 30 years since. Peter and Carla, an estranged couple, head to the supposed beauty of a little known beach to meet up with some friends and spend some quality time together and try and patch up their relationship.
Peter's distain for the environment is made clear on the way there as he hits a kangaroo but and doesn't stop then throws a cigarette butt out of the window which starts a small fire. It's also notable that their car is a big 4x4 which probably isn't the most eco-friendly vehicle around. Once at the beach and having left instructions for their friends with a barman, it's clear that the area is beautiful but Peter and Carla have very different ideas of what constitutes a relaxing weekend away - he's brought a harpoon gun and his dad's old rifle and wants to catch what they eat, surf and get back to nature whereas Carla is extremely uncomfortable in the wilderness and isn't content to swim, sunbathe and read. She doesn't like the place and would rather stay in a hotel than sleep in a tent.
Long Weekend is a film where very little in the way of horror happens until events escalate in the last twenty minutes as the proceeding seventy are entirely geared to creating tension between the two protagonists, showing Peter's cavalier attitude to the environment and introducing a couple of plot points that pay off towards the finale. As you'd expect, the friends don't appear so the entire film is Peter and Carla almost at each other's throats, arguing and bickering with the expanse of sand proving extremely claustrophobic and her feelings for her husband only surface when she sees a threatening black shape in the sea near to where Peter is surfing.
This is very much a character driven piece which requires strong performances from the two leads - the only other character is their dog Cricket - and James Caviezel and Claudia Karvan prove up to the task, with Caviezel's Australian accent more or less convincing and consistent. As not much happens for long stretches, the film does ask for a great deal of patience from the viewer, hinting at some horror but never really delivering until the very end. I found it too slow and Carla almost impossible to like - if she doesn't like camping, why did she agree to go to a remote beach and rough it for the weekend? If it was a case of 'grin and bear it', why spend the whole time complaining? Peter isn't much easier to empathise with, starting arguments with Carla and seemingly acting a way that will deliberately antagonise her.
The payoff is fairly good with some very bizarre scenes that stretch logic and almost verge on black comedy so, rather than being scary or shocking; one particular incident is just amusing!
This isn't an easy film to sell as there is so little action and horror until the final reel so it's one you have to appreciate for what it is rather than what it isn't. There is clearly an environmental message but this isn't one of 'be good to nature', rather 'you reap what you sow'. The acting is solid and the characters very easy to dislike so it comes as a surprise when you actually root for them at the end.
The first disc contains only the film and a trailer, the rest of the extras are housed on the second disc. Kicking off proceedings is the 40 minutes Director's Production Diary which is a compilation of behind the scenes footage with Jamie Blanks narrating and contextualising the footage. This is very revealing and imparts probably as much information as a commentary would.
The Interview Gallery features conversations with Claudia Karvan, Everett De Roche and Tobey Eggleston who give different viewpoints on the film, the original and the wider context of remakes and the Australian new wave. They all speak well and at length and it helps that they are asked the right questions.
There is one deleted scene in which Jim Caviezel does his best Christopher Walken impression and talks threateningly at the wild ducks whilst brandishing the rifle - justifiably admitted but slightly amusing.
The Making of Long Weekend is a pretty comprehensive look at the shoot with more interviews and b-roll footage showing how the SFX make-up was done, how the cast and crew coped with the more inclement weather and Caviezel's interactions with an eagle.
Taming the Wild is a lengthy look at the wild creatures in the film and how they were wrangled and used.
There is a featurette that looks in detail at how a particular scene was made but to name it would be to give away a massive spoiler. It's worth a watch though, after you've seen the film of course!
Long Weekend looks fantastic and the location is absolutely beautiful with the film showcasing the North Coast of Australia with its blue seas, cloudless skies and huge deserted beaches. Many scenes take place when the sun is low or has set and these are clear despite the lack of light.
A very clear and well balanced Dolby Digital 5.1 track is the order of the day which presents the score and atmospherics very well through the surround speakers and the dialogue crisply through the centre. The film is all about the interaction between the characters and the slight noises and eerie sounds from the woods and beach and the soundtrack does an excellent job with this.
At least the UK kept the title Long Weekend for the DVD and not the rather bizarre and misleading Nature's Grave that adorns cover art in the US. Whether that was an attempt to distance this from the original or because someone thought Nature's Grave was more marketable is up for debate but, as this sticks so closely to the 1979 film, it makes sense to give it the same title. The DVD has very good AV quality and a better than average extras package that doesn't suffer from the absence of a commentary due to the length and depth of the featurettes.
Fans of the original will no doubt be horrified that a remake exists and will probably hate every minute of this on principle rather than merit. It is a slow burner that you need to stick with to take anything away but it is not a masterpiece of suspense though is perfectly watchable. Don't get your hopes up for action and violence though.