Long Weekend (2009)
Director: Jamie Blanks
review by Paul Higson
Jamie Blanks' Long Weekend is just asking for trouble. Colin Eggleston's classic eco-terror original boasted a cloying atmosphere of dread
but all that Jamie Blank's 2009 remake can muster is a pale pointlessness. Not since Gus Van Sant's Psycho has there been a 'tracing paper'
flick that has so obstinately aped original. The fact that a movie is three decades old is not reason enough that it should be remade. Eggleston's
Long Weekend stands the test of time and on its DVD
release a few short years back the film could easily have been mistaken for new. The remake is not an outright failure but it is little more than
Jim Cavaziel and Claudia Karvan play Peter and Carla a couple with a relationship in a razor edged downward spiral. They use the bank holiday weekend
to get away from it all with friends though any love seems to have been ripped from the relationship. He is one obnoxious asshole and she has cheated
on him. The marriage is on the brink going over, its rescue irretrievable. She likes all the modern comforts and is none too enamoured by the idea of
a 'secret' cove away from it all with only the flora and fauna. Insults and barbed comments pass back and forward and a wallaby is run over by their
SUV. In the 1979 film, the marsupial's cry carves into the viewer and sets an eerie tone, here the episode barely registers. They drive through a
labyrinth of trees which seem to lead them in circles but again the supernatural is not as apparent and the couple can merely be seen as bunglers.
Unfortunately, it looks like Blanks has taken the production to the same remote location (he has not) and lined up many of the shots which repeatedly
mimic but also draw unflattering comparison. The couple continue to bicker, and in the first real change there is a tempting respite in the dunes
though his arrogance comes through and she is reminded how much she loathes him. He has smuggled the dog and a small armoury in the vehicle, including
a spear-gun and a rifle, which only serves to incense her more. Contrary to this hatred, she is still frightfully concerned for him when observing
him swimming she spots a large shadow in the water. He hurries out of the water and taking up the gun fires on the shape until the waters turn blood
red. The next morning a dead dugong washes up on the beach.
Their friends are a no show and the two infuriate each other. Strolling Peter finds that they are not alone and that a family camper van is at rest
further down the beach. They interfere with nature. She collects an egg from the floor and the mother eagle attacks Peter. She dashes the egg against
a tree, and again there is something removed that made the original version of the scene stronger. She wants to leave but he prevents it by disconnecting
the car battery. The cries of the dugong are heard in the night and the rotting carcass inches its way up the beach towards their campsite.
Finally, they both agree that all is not as it seems and nature is behaving badly. They find the camper van submerged in water and a dead girl
trapped in it. The couple return to the camping ground to discover the fate of the family and find more horrors in the bloating bodies of the mother
and father. This is the only real departure from the scenes and frames of the original and screams of an insecure producer demanding more corpses
before they lose the viewer.
Not all of this 'brass rubbing' remake is below par. Blanks, not best known for character development but an otherwise efficient director, has only
the husband and wife to focus on and it would have been pitiful had he been unable to infuse them with some life though the details are largely
obnoxious. In the original, Briony Behets and John Hargreaves played the quarrelsome couple and there was a rugged realism to them and their relationship.
Over-familiar with one another to the point of no return, their earthiness was also familiar if not identifiably close to home for viewers.
Karvan and Cavaziel are too handsome and never likeable and the observer is left with no-one to care about. Their performances are good, though if
the behind-the-scenes are anything to go by Cavaziel comes across as a bit much on set and the crew chip in amusedly rather than admit to Cavaziel
how un-cool and unfunny he is. Karvan is frighteningly bright but is perhaps put in a bad light when cradling a cute mammal she jokes about splatting
it under the wheels of a car for the film. Karvan reads the film as the original long has been as a metaphor for their hatred of one another projecting
into the natural surroundings and angrily back on to them.
Coming from the original's scriptwriter, Everett de Roche, the man behind many of the most animated and entertaining thrillers of the Australian
new wave, the dialogue is the one thing 'improved' upon but only to the extent of its animosity. Initially, it is remarkable that de Roche is
involved given the duplicative nature of the remake, but he reveals in accompanying material that he nagged for more changes but that Blanks refused
and was adamant on a close remake.
Some of the exchanges are blisteringly nasty. "Well... you know all about hotel rooms!" ... "Get fucked!" ... "Well, there won't be much of that
this weekend!" Cattiness, however, can't save the film. The arguments are personal but the camerawork lacks the intimacy and most of the redundancy
comes in the relaxed camerawork, prim editing and the absence of that ominous soundtrack (Blanks doubled scoring duties). Eco-horrors have always
relied on, at least, an intimation of the supernatural but here the unheimlich barely registers until the very end of the film and by then it is
too late. Long Weekend is an unnecessary remake made all the more so because it wavers too little from its predecessor without so much as
even matching the original in its strange thrills.
The supporting features are extensive with a director's production diary, several interviews, a 'making of' and a focus on the wildlife wrangled
for the film, including an amazing owl (which looked cross-bred with a kookabura) which brought a winningly gleeful response from the director.
A single deleted scene (in such a carbon copy there were unlikely to be more) is rightfully removed, as Cavaziel overacts horribly. The actor's
voice is very different and it sounds like he is doing a Christopher Walken impersonation and he has clearly been looped to fuck in the finished
film. The 'making of' includes contributions by two Ozploitation legends (Blank edited
Not Quite Hollywood) in the stunt man Grant Page, and
Turkey Shoot star Roger Ward. The camaraderie behind the scenes is pleasing to note and there is something of the recklessless of old Oz
cinema on set, though with added guilt, as a disembowelled effects' corpse on the roadside traumatises a boy in a passing vehicle and the production
team get a serious ticking off for their thoughtlessness.