I love watching a film I know nothing about beforehand. Admittedly they often turn out to be utter rubbish, but every now & then you come across an under-seen gems which makes any number of dismal movies worth wading through. All I knew about ‘Long Weekend’ before watching it was that it was an Australian film from the late 70s, & whilst it’s not quite a mini-classic, it is an oddly unnerving experience worth checking out.
Peter (John Hargreaves) & Marcia (Briony Behets) are having a troubled time in their marriage, so in an effort to try & work thing out they decide to have a long weekend away together, camping on the coast. They stop at a bar when they near their destination, although for some reason the locals have never heard of the beach they’re looking for – save that it might be out beyond the abattoir somewhere. Driving for hours down a bumpy track through woods in the middle of the night, thinking they’ve been driving round in circles, tensions become fraught & they elect to sleep in the car for the night. Next morning, they discover they are merely yards away from their destination & set about erecting the tents. But as picturesque as the location is, something is not quite right. The brittle Marcia would rather be in a swanky hotel for the weekend, & swiftly gets bored of lying down & reading books. Meanwhile Peter spends his days drinking beer, wandering around randomly shooting his rifle & hacking at a tree with his axe for no apparent reason. At night they are kept awake by strange noises in the wilderness, a weird dark shape menaces Peter whilst he’s swimming in the sea, their food is attacked by ants, & a frozen chicken unexpectedly turns out to be mouldy. Far from bringing them back together the weekend swiftly pushes the couple further apart, & it seems a force greater than both is slowly amassing against them.
‘Long Weekend’ falls into that quirky little sub-genre of man vs. nature films, almost like ‘The Birds’ meets ‘Walkabout’. Whilst it’s not nearly a good as either of those films – it’s too heavy-handed in its portrayal of the destructive effects of the couples behaviour for thing – it’s slow amassing of eerie details builds a claustrophobic sense of dread that is wonderfully impressive, & shows where recent film ‘Lost Things’ picked up its tricks from. This is certainly not a film for genre fans who like their horror swift, pacy & bloody – instead it takes its time to create an atmosphere with long lingering takes of wildlife & dislocated editing evoking a sense of something being totally amiss, even as we’re far from sure what’s going on. As this leads to the climax, there is a fine sequence involving Hargreaves alone in the middle of the night, with evocative sound effects & cunning camerawork bringing to mind all manner of terrors lurking in the darkness around his campfire. Some of the devices used may be rather hokey, but the confident handling makes them err more on the side of unnerving than comical.
The trouble with the film really lies in its central characters. This is essentially a two-hander, but unfortunately neither of the pair are particularly sympathetic. Both are so completely self-absorbed & completely without regard for anything or anyone around them, that it ultimately becomes hard to really care whether they live or die. This seems to be part of the point of the film though – essentially our two leads are the films villains, blithely trampling their way through anything in their path, uncaring of the things they unwittingly destroy. Whether they’re entirely deserving of the horrors nature throws against them is another matter, but it’s left ambiguous as to who we should be rooting for.
Overall, ‘Lost Weekend’ is not quite a mini-classic, but it’s slow, eerie style & care in building atmosphere should go down well with fans of 70s fare looking for something a little way off the beaten track. Just make sure you don’t run over any kangaroos whilst trying to track down a copy, whatever you do.
‘Long Weekend’ arrives on UK DVD courtesy of Optimum Home Entertainment. The R2/PAL disc comes with a pretty decent anamorphic picture. Early dark scenes show a worrying amount of grain, but thankfully this turns out to be not a problem after about 10 minutes or so. It’s not a perfect picture, but given the low budget 70s origins, this presentation is more than acceptable. The Dolby 2.0 audio is nice & clear, showcasing the oddly unnerving sound mix to good advantage. Sadly, the only extra is a trailer.