Long Weekend (2008) Review
In the next instalment of that ongoing saga - unnecessary remakes of classic films - we have Long Weekend, an attempt by Jamie Blank to re-envision Colin Eggleston's 1978 film about the revenge of nature upon those who abuse it. There are certainly some facets of the original which have dated, as you'd expect in a movie which is thirty years old, but the central concept and the mechanics of suspense which Eggleston so expertly operates haven't dated a jot. Indeed, the film is probably more effective than ever now that we have more awareness of environmental issues. The only reason to remake it would be if there was something new to add to it or another approach to take to the material. Needless to say, Jamie Blanks hasn't found one and this new version is so close to the original that one is left thinking that a lot of time and money has been wasted for no particular purpose.
The two films share the same screenwriter, Everett De Roche, who is the grand old man of Ozploitation responsible for such minor classics as Patrick and Road Games. What he seems to have done here is simply take his original screenplay and make some minor adjustments to update it. The details remain identical - a couple on the brink of divorce take a trip into the wilds, much to the wife's disgruntlement, and generally behave very badly towards nature. The husband Peter becomes obsessed with the idea of killing something with his dad's rifle and his wife Carla sprays poison at anything that moves. Gradually, nature starts to get its own back in a variety of increasingly sinister ways and attempts to leave are scuppered by the fact that all roads seem to lead back to the same place.
It's a great idea and it should be impossible to spoil. But Jamie Blanks seems to manage it by a peculiar failure to build up any suspense. It's not as if he's a new hand at this - he made the excellent Storm Warning a couple of years back from another De Roche screenplay - so the plodding obviousness of his direction is slightly baffling. The budget for this remake was clearly more generous than that allotted to Colin Eggleston but the luxuriant shots of Australian landscapes tend to diminish the sense of claustrophobia which is essential to the story. The special effects are better than we got in 1978, unsurprisingly, but a decent model of a sea-cow isn't necessarily better than a bad one when it's as over-lit as it is here. Blanks also muffs the final scenes badly, as if terrified of the ambiguity which suffused the original.
That said, if you haven't seen the 1978 film - and if you haven't, please make the effort - you may well find this more effective than I did. The performances aren't bad at all - Claudia Karvan is extremely good as Carla and Jim Calvaziel makes a decent fist of not being as good as John Hargreaves - and the cinematography is sometimes gorgeous to behold. On the whole, however, I can't see much reason for this to exist beyond perhaps pointing viewers to the still underrated original.
The Region 2 DVD release by Showbox offers an excellent presentation of the film with a very strong anamorphic 2.35:1 image and a very atmospheric Dolby Digital 5.1 mix which uses the surrounds to creepy effect. There is a whole second disc's worth of extra features but, unfortunately, these are rather unstructured and consist of a lot of production footage which might strain the most accomodating of attention spans. The Production Diary by Jamie Blanks is interesting, although only because the voiceover gives some structure to otherwise unrelated footage, and the interview gallery is interesting for giving space to lengthy contributions from Claudia Karvan, Everett De Roche and Tobey Eggleston, son of the director of the original. I also enjoyed the chance to hear from stunt co-ordinator Grant Page who has been working in Australian cinema since the days of George Miller's original Mad Max.