During the the last half of the ’90s, I devoted the bulk of my meager existence to the video store I worked at. One day, the owner’s wife brought in a lovely terrarium to sit on the large spacious corner of the checkout counter. It sat there for a long time, being admired by the occasional customer, such as an instance when a gentleman commented on its beauty and simplicity. “Yeah,” I said, “now throw in a bunch of little humans and watch it go to shit.” He nodded in agreement, and for good reason: we’re bastards like that. No, I’m not preaching the eco-friendly route, kids. Instead, I’m setting up the premise of the 1978 Australian horror film, Long Weekend.
While it may surprise those of you who plan to support 2016 presidential candidates such as Ted Cruz, as well as those other misguided souls in power who believe wind is a finite source and should therefore not be used as a source of energy, the notion of man being a putz to Mother Nature is nothing new. Back in the ’50s, filmmakers from all corners of the globe were commenting on the state of the ever-changing world following the end World War II and the beginning of the Nuclear Age, but their terrors largely consisted of giant atomic mutations hailing from the depths of the sea, the far-off reaches of space, or from some madman’s laboratory somewhere out in the desert.
It wasn’t until the 1970s that the true concept of eco-horror was born, beginning with movies like Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, wherein the living dead premise created at the end of the previous decade in George A. Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead was infused with a stern ecological warning. Such films began multiplying once the massive box office waves of Jaws demanded for additional tales of nature gone amok. On the whole, audiences have dismissed the eco-horror films of the ’70s for being what they usually are: rip-offs and extremely self-conscious chunks of cinematic cheese (see: Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster).
And then there’s Long Weekend, which not only unleashes nature’s fury, but does so in Australia – wherein there are millions upon millions of vicious, mindless creatures just waiting to kill you, to say nothing of the vast animal and insect populations thereabout.
Here, a young and extremely unhappy urban couple (as played by Briony Behets and the late John Hargreaves) – two people who already hate each other as it stands, presumably because there’s nothing just boring news to listen to on the radio, but largely on account that they’re Australian – head out of town for the weekend to enjoy the country. While the film initially sets its audience up for something along the sadistic lines of I Spit on Your Grave (which is the kind of exploitation film Americans – who were just as unaware of climate change then as they pretend to be now – were going for at the time), it soon ditches our two bickering leads out on the beach, wherein they promptly abuse and exploit their surroundings.
Most of these crimes against nature are committed by Peter (Mr. Hargreaves), who is mostly suffering from a severe case of blue balls – another mortal sin as perpetually conducted by his insignificant other, Marcia (Ms. Behets). Insects are sprayed with insecticide, an otherwise harmless dugong is shot when they mistake it for a man-eating shark, and litter is strewn about like it was a reservation during softball season. It isn’t long before Mother Earth decides enough is enough, to wit the already uneasy situation grows much more tense. Just as every dog has his day (and what exactly does happen to the poor dogs in this film?), so can every other creature – alive or aborted – under the sun.
Plus, there are boobies in the movie, so there’s that.
While a failure in its own native land upon its initial release (because “Australia”) Long Weekend enjoyed a more successful run of things abroad, though its one and only official home video release in the US was from the somewhat nefarious Canadian company, InterGlobal Home Video, and was not only released in LP Mode, but was said to have been missing the entire end of the feature entirely. Fortunately, the folks at Synapse Films weren’t about to let that dreadful bit of history repeat itself, and have instead brought us the first truerelease of this creepy, low-budget cult classic from the same land that brought us such great music groups as The Hitmen and Dear Enemy.
Whereas the characters of the film in question were beyond salvation, the movie itself was not. As a result, we get a beautiful new transfer here, which presents the movie in its intended 2.35:1 aspect ratio for the first time. While there may be more natural grain present during the opening credits (which is to be expected), the movie looks marvelously clear and crisp for the most part, and the color/black balance is a treasure to behold. Accompanying the feature is a newer DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix – which will give those of you with surround sound a more “intimate” feeling of doom as the film progresses – and a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix, which will satisfy those of you who prefer their older movies to be more “traditional”. No subtitles are provided with this release.
Special features for this long-awaited release include an audio commentary by producer Richard Brennan and cinematographer Vincent Monton, who – though they themselves are a bit dry – have positively wet themselves with joy over seeing the film in such a beautiful new presentation. A still gallery is also included, which has an audio interview with the late John Hargreaves (who left this world in 1996), who discusses his career. Lastly, the movie’s original theatrical trailer is included. Fortunately, the god-awful 2008 remake starring Jim Caviezel, which was alternately released as Nature’s Grave, is not included with this, yet another awesome offering from the Synapse Films.