Released during the height of Ozploitation (low-budget Australian exploitation films) era, Colin Eggleston’s nature-runs-amok horror drama Long Weekend was a multiple-award darling at various film festivals. But even with all the accolades, the movie failed to find an audience at the box office in Australia and pretty much slipped into obscurity.
Frankly, Long Weekend deserved a second chance because this is a great example on how to craft a horror film within the nature-runs-amok subgenre. The movie follows a married couple (John Hargreaves’ Peter and Briony Behets’ Marcia) taking a weekend camping trip to an isolated beach while trying to work out their marital problem.
Over the course of their journey, they treat nature with little-to-no respect ranging from running over a poor kangaroo to chopping up a tree and even mistreated a dugong. What follows next is an act of nature in getting back at them as the couple’s increasingly erratic behaviour towards each other as well as their surrounding environment.
Such a premise would come across as silly and unintentionally laughable, particularly if it falls on the hands of a lesser director. But Eggleston’s direction is surprisingly tense and engaging while the late great Ozploitation writer Everett De Roche’s (1981’s Roadgames, 1984’s Razorback) minimalist screenplay speaks volumes in term of its psychological and environmental subtexts.
Kudos also go to Eggleston for not relying on gore or violence to prove his point but instead making excellent use of psychological tension with the help of Michael Carlos’ eerie score and Vincent Monton’s perfectly atmospheric cinematography. This, in turn, helps to create a foreboding sense of dread throughout the movie right down to a shockingly pessimistic third-act that you have to see it for yourself.
But what’s even more surprising is that the two leads are depicted more as unlikable protagonists. The kind where you don’t feel sympathy for them since they are selfish and disregard of everything except themselves.
Now, a movie where it is difficult to care or relate with the main characters typically spells disaster (never mind with the initial box-office disappointment). And yet, both Eggleston and his screenwriter De Roche manage to find something about them to root for, despite their overall toxic relationship and behaviours. Of course, it also helps that both John Hargreaves and Briony Behets perform their roles well enough as the bickering couple.
Long Weekend proves to be a great find and if you ever wanted to check out a worthy Ozploitation flick or simply a minimalist horror film, this underrated masterpiece is certainly one of them worth adding into your watchlist.