Sunday, December 6, 2009
I made mention of an eco-horror double feature comprised of Larry Fessenden’s The Last Winter and Davis Guggenheim’s An Inconvenient Truth in my review of Fessenden’s film (which slumbers in the Archive).
Now, I’ve found a film I can wholeheartedly place alongside that pair for a chilling eco-horror troika.
That would be Jamie Blanks’ remake of Long Weekend.*
Though I’ve yet to have the opportunity to see Colin Eggleston’s 1978 original, Blanks’ redo sticks to the premise of a couple on a weekend getaway, who find themselves at the cruel mercies of nature. (The remake is still written by Everett De Roche, who penned the original and who had worked with Blanks previously on Storm Warning.)
This time out, it’s Jim Caviezel and Claudia Karvan (soon to be seen in the upcoming Spierig Brothers’ Daybreakers) as Peter and Carla, a married couple whose relationship is clearly in dire straits when we join them as they prepare for the eponymous getaway.
The bitterness and recrimination is so palpable, even when it’s submerged, you can’t help but wonder what they saw in each other in the first place. There must have been love at some point; they’ve got the wedding bands to prove it, after all. You just can’t really see it these days.
And by the time the reasons for their estrangement are revealed to us, not only is it too late for their marriage, it’s quite possibly also too late for their lives as well.
Even as it chronicles the final death throes of a relationship gone horribly toxic, the film also shows in no uncertain terms, the callousness and presumption with which we, as a species, treat our planet.
The fact that Peter is a “self-centred prick” (as Carla calls him at one point in the film)—or, as I prefer to think of it, just a plain old flaming a$hole—is cold comfort when his actions (and Carla’s as well, for that matter) probably happen every single day, in some part of the world.
It’s interesting to note that these actions come from two different places. In Peter’s case, they’re done out of complete disregard for anything else other than himself. In Carla’s case, it’s out of an innate dislike and distrust of the outdoors.
It’s always a telling point to observe a person once they’re taken out of the confines and comfort of civilization and made to rough it. That’s when you can tell the stuff a person’s really made of.
I should stress at this point that this is not an “animals attack” sort of film (though there is that in the mix; and one must never forget that De Roche also scripted the “giant pig in the Outback” extravaganza that was Russell Mulcahy’s Razorback); Blanks’ Long Weekend is more about mood and atmosphere and good old fashioned creepiness.
In fact, aside from that eco-horror troika, I will also place Long Weekend squarely beside such venerable titles in the Creepy-a$$ Aussie Film Library as Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Last Wave. If anything, Blanks’ remake has made me even more curious to see Eggleston’s original.
Here, Blanks and De Roche focus on the fear of the unknown, of what’s out there, beyond the campfire’s glow and the headlights stabbing off into the deep, primeval night.
It’s about how so many things in our world are plainly beyond our understanding and our control.
At one point in the film, Peter points out to Carla that not everyone is afraid of nature.
Well, if Long Weekend is anything to go by, maybe we should be.
And if “fear” is too strong a word and emotion, then perhaps a healthy sense of respect will do.
Given the current state of our planet, it’s long overdue.
* In the U.S., Long Weekend has been retitled Nature’s Grave, as evidenced by the rather horrid DVD cover art below.
Parting shot: In the interests of full disclosure, there are a couple of skeletons in Blanks’ cinematic closet.
Primarily, there’s Valentine, and to a lesser extent, Urban Legend.
Urban Legend had a couple of passably effective sequences, but as a whole, wasn’t really that distinguished a title. Valentine, on the other hand, was just plain dreadful.
Though I’ve yet to see Storm Warning (which I understand may well be worth a look), I can safely say Long Weekend clears Blanks’ slate of its past blemishes.
(Long Weekend OS courtesy of impawards.com; Nature’s Grave DVD cover art courtesy of shocktillyoudrop.com; some images courtesy of outnow.ch.)