aka Nature’s Grave
Director/Music – Jamie Blanks, Screenplay – Everett DeRoche, Based on the 1978 Film, Producers – Gary Hamilton & Nigel Odell, Photography – Karl Von Möller, Creature & Makeup Effects Supervisor – Justin Dix, Production Design – Robert Perkins. Production Company – Screen Australia/Darclight Films/Screen Victoria/Southern Arc Films
Jim Caviezel (Peter), Claudia Karvan (Carla)
Husband and wife Peter and Carla leave the city over a long weekend. He is eager to go camping and surfing, while she dislikes being away from civilised comforts. They become lost but eventually find the beach and set up camp. Peter sets about enjoying himself with little regard for the environment. While there, things begin to go wrong, which causes tensions within the marriage to come to the fore. As they bicker, nature seems to crowd in around them with malevolent intent.
Long Weekend (1978) was a classic Australian film. It took a few leaves from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) in its story of a married couple (John Hargreaves and Briony Behets) on a holiday at a remote beach where Nature appears to be turning against them. The film’s effect lay not so much in animals attacking en masse but on the creepily paranoid undertow that the film had where everything was suggested. It was the single best film in the oeuvre of the late Colin Eggleston who never did anything as effective again. The film was not a major hit when it came out but gained a slow cult reputation in video release.
This is a probably pointless remake that joins a host of other remakes of 1970s/80s films that came out in the late 00s, including the likes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), Toolbox Murders (2003), Willard (2003), Dawn of the Dead (2004), The Amityville Horror (2005), Assault on Precinct 13 (2005), The Fog (2005), Black Christmas (2006), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), The Omen (2006), Sisters (2006), When a Stranger Calls (2006), The Wicker Man (2006), Halloween (2007), The Hitcher (2007), April Fool’s Day (2008), Day of the Dead (2008), It’s Alive (2008), Prom Night (2008), Friday the 13th (2009), The Last House on the Left (2009), My Bloody Valentine (2009), Night of the Demons (2009), Sorority Row (2009), The Stepfather (2009), And Soon the Darkness (2010), The Crazies (2010), I Spit on Your Grave (2010), Mother’s Day (2010), A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), Piranha (2010), Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2011), Fright Night (2011), Straw Dogs (2011), The Thing (2011), Maniac (2012), Carrie (2013), Evil Dead (2013), Patrick (2013) and Poltergeist (2015).
You could debate whether Long Weekend was a film that needed a remake. The original never had a wide profile outside of Australia and a few film festivals. Similarly, the remake failed to do anything more than achieve a handful of screenings at fantastic film festivals and even more ignominiously failed to achieve theatrical release and went directly to dvd in Australia. The remake certainly gets in a maximum amount of fanservice. Its premiere was held at the Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival exactly thirty years after the original premiered there. The screenplay comes from original writer Everett DeRoche, who also makes an appearance as one of the men at the end of the bar where Jim Caveizel enters to ask directions early in the film. There are namedroppings of an Eggleston Hotel (after the original’s director) and having Claudia Karvan refer to a Dr Hargreaves (after the original film’s male star John Hargreaves).
The remake comes from Jamie Blanks, an Australian director who gained a modest profile with a couple of Hollywood slasher films Urban Legend (1998) and Valentine (2001) then returned to Australia to shoot the Backwoods Brutality film Storm Warning (2007). None of these hold anything that particularly set the horror world afire. Blanks’s directorial career has been sporadic throughout the 00s and he has spent most of his time composing the scores for other films. He has directed no other films so far following this.
There seems something wrong about Long Weekend 2008 from the opening scenes as the credits play out against some gorgeously shot aerial photography of various locations in Victoria State. There is a certain irony to this – the original was a film about how nature was taking revenge on humanity for casually despoiling it, whereas these shots seem determined to pitch the countryside in its picture postcard perfection, which seems an appeal to the very same exploitation of nature that the original was criticising. The other change is that the lead male role is now cast with American actor Jim Caviezel. This is clearly marquee name casting designed to give Long Weekend legs in the US – and, while Caviezel gives a performance in the part that is as unlikeably cocky as John Hargreaves’ performance in the original, it also offsets the story in that it now makes it no longer an Australian film but one that is subtly about an American invader despoiling the Australian landscape. (Caviezel’s casting is odd – he speaks with his natural American accent yet spouts Australian colloquialisms such as ‘dickhead’ and ‘chook’ – yet there is nothing in the script that ever explains this).
The remake follows the original closely. There are all the familiar scenes – the shadow in the surf, the campervan found drowned, the animal carcass that creeps up the beach, the hero’s night abandoned alone, his becoming lost and going around in circles. There are all the throwaway background images of cigarettes carelessly being tossed out the window and starting fires, their running over kangaroos, Jim Caviezel chopping down trees and shooting his rifle randomly into the surf because he is bored. There have been a few minor additions – such as the introduction of cellphone and GPS technology, which never existed when the original was made, and a minor new theme about how things start to go wrong when they travel beyond the point when these work any longer – but the remake is faithful to the original on almost all points.
On the other hand, Long Weekend 2008 lacks the frisson and paranoia that Colin Eggleston generated. The original was a film about a couple being driven insane as the environment crept in around them. The remake simply feels like a film about marital conflict that takes place in a gorgeously pretty natural landscape with some occasionally sinister but not particularly interesting things going on around them. The marital bickering aspect plays out far more openly and as far less than the undertow it was in the original. This is because marital problems are issues that are far more out in the open and accepted than they were in the 1970s. Jim Caviezel and Claudia Karvan both give performances that make them seem as equally unlikeable as one another – he with his cocky macho assuredness and she equally cold and resentful at being away from the creature comforts of civilisation. On the other hand, the scenes as Nature starts gathering in, when the campervan is found and Jim Caveziel’s climactic scenes becoming lost have far less effect. They seem generic, partly because this is now far more familiar territory but mostly because Jamie Blanks fails to invest these scenes with the impact that Colin Eggleston did in the original.