Peter and Marcia, an Australian couple with a barbie-full of simmering marital issues; a kangaroo that can’t read roadsigns; none-too-pleased beached sea mammal of some sort; and an equally irked Mother Nature who’s itching for some payback.
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Peter and Marcia are city sophisticates stuck in a near-loveless marriage troubled by deceit, infidelity, and boredom. The cure for marital gloom? Why a weekend in the unforgiving outback of course! Just make sure to be kind and respect nature, which turns out to be advice unheeded by the couple venturing into the wilderness to rediscover that certain spark. Along the way, they litter, kill animals, and generally act like jerks towards the wilderness and each other. Nature responds in kind first by leading them down a dark sparsely traveled road, then surrounding them with the peculiar sounds from unknown threats, and then turning the tables on their bad-mannered ways. Although they find themselves lost, they set up camp. Peter goes for a swim and some hunting while Marcia suns herself and whines about the tedium. He mistakes a seacow for a shark and shoots it to death. Marcia kills animals with emotionless, remorseless wonder. From there on, the vacation takes a turn for the worst as the wilderness turns its vengeful eye towards the couple. The threat is unseen but ever present and Peter and Marcia's revved paranoid attempts to escape are useless. There is something far more sinister and complex at work than animals going on the warpath for vengeance against careless townies. Each eerie movement in the grass or shriek from the sky escalates the tension between them until the issue that brought them to the brink of divorce is brought to light and their fate is sealed.
Long Weekend is moody thriller that explores interpersonal relationships and middle class morality against an ecological agenda, and it works. It's a really good example of foreign horror, much like Canadian output during the same period. The two lead performances are consistent and masterful, and they never shy way from presenting the utter unpleasantness and awkwardness of trying to rebuild a marriage. The intensity and suspense is deftly crafted through sound design: the screeching of unseen birds, the distant howls of unknown creatures, and the constant threat of something creeping in the woods. Avoiding the vengeful gory spirit of other animal vengeance tales such as Day of the Animals, Devil Dog: Hound of Hell, and Grizzly, the movie instead relies on tension, the apprehensive interaction between the obnoxious characters, and a fine pace to set-up the unraveling of man's inhumanity to nature, and himself. From a country where the ferocity of the wilderness as is close as your own backyard, the film exemplifies the fragile balance between the wilderness and civilization, a consistent theme in 70s horror where the countryside is represented as unregulated fettered Hell. This movie and its unexpected ending will haunt your next camping trip.
Nature’s next victim? I can only hope it’s this guy.