Synapse // 1978 // 95 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 27th, 2005
Their crime was against nature...and nature found them guilty!
This Australian horror yarn from the late '70s details the exploits of an annoying married couple, desperate to salvage their crappy relationship, whose solution is heading out to the beach to camp out and surf and litter and randomly chop down trees.
Peter (John Hargreaves) and Marcia (Briony Behets) are in the middle of a rocky phase in their marriage, which stems from a traumatic past event. To try to keep their relationship from completely disintegrating, the two decide to spend a long weekend camping out on the beach, despite Marcia's abhorrence of roughing it.
From the get-go, the trip is counterproductive. The two constantly bicker and put each other down, while getting lost en route and running over kangaroos. When they finally make it to their campsite, things don't get better. Marcia is bored and Peter would rather hang out on the beach and open fire with his cool new rifle.
While they sulk, however, they also wreak havoc on their surroundings, throwing their garbage all over the place, wantonly cutting down foliage, and harassing the local wildlife. Their ecosystem rampage peaks when, thanks to his botched identification of a mysterious brown shape in the water, Peter opens fire and kills a benevolent "sea cow."
Stretched thin from their arguing, Marcia demands that they leave. Peter is unwilling, and the verbal sparring takes an ugly, physical turn. And to make matters worse, Mother Nature has entered the fray, and she ain't no pushover...
Positioning itself in the "Humans vs. Nature" genre, Long Weekend offers a commendable stab at animals-going-crazy horror. However, I think the film is less a straight-out screamer and more an exercise in examining the dissolution of the relationship between two enormously unlikable people.
The film rests on the shoulders of its two lead actors, Hargreaves and Behets. They are skilled and up to the demands of carrying the film, but, unfortunately, their characters are hugely irritating. Now, annoying people are hallmarks of horror films -- you gotta have some idiots who deserve to be offed -- but like I said, Long Weekend plays less like a horror film and more like a piece of character work. That being the case, I couldn't invest myself in the lives of these people, since I cared not one molecule about them. They were abusive and obnoxious and oblivious. On that level, Long Weekend flopped for me.
However, the last fifteen minutes of the film offer some respite from the tedious back-and-forth of the failing marriage. This is when Long Weekend finally shifts into a higher gear, some great tension is manufactured, and the promised vengeance of nature plays out.
Director Colin Eggleston puts together a nice parade of ominous moments, culminating in satisfactory mayhem. The resulting retribution is not gory -- though there are a few nice shock moments -- and the role that the animals play in meting out said retribution is more subtle than what you'll find in The Birds or Lake Placid or Frog-g-g!, but it works. Thanks to some great camera work (particularly in the sequence tracking Peter's desperate escape through the woods and Marcia's midnight off-road adventure) and a menacing score, the culminating events unfold in a thrilling fashion. Also, this climax owes its success to the slow buildup preceding it; we knew something was going to befall these twerps, and the eventual realization of their comeuppance is a release.
Is this enough to redeem the movie as a whole? Not for me. It was too much of a haul to get to the good stuff, and the relationship dynamics of our two...antagonists? protagonists?...though well acted, were not enough to compel your humble correspondent.
Synapse has done a remarkable job with this DVD. The totally redone 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen is excellent. Despite a few rough, grainy dark sequences, the overall presentation is top-notch; the beach scenes in particular are stunning, packed with vibrant colors and sharp detailing. The 5.1 mix was fairly laid-back throughout, save for the final segment, when the music played a pivotal, and effective, part in projecting tension.
Extras are limited but interesting. Producer Richard Brennan and cinematographer Vincent Monton provide an interesting commentary track, and a behind-the-scenes still gallery/slideshow sports a simultaneous interview with John Hargreaves. Some witty, detailed liner notes offer even more information on the film.
Long Weekend is not really a horror movie, though there are some horror-like elements embedded in the story. The acting is very good, the scenery is lush, and the final 15 minutes are pretty great; but the bulk of the film, dealing with Peter and Marcia's extensive marital difficulties, did nothing for me.
The accused is sentenced to three years of collecting wallaby stool samples at the nearest Australian wildlife preserve.
Review content copyright © 2005 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 1978
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Commentary by Producer and Cinematographer
* Still Gallery with John Hargreaves Interview
* Liner Notes