Hell Down Under – Long Weekend (DVD Review)

Rating:

It’s a feature of many Ozploitation movies of the 1970’s that they feel indelibly tied to the landscape and the character of the land of Australia. Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout, Mad Max, Night of Fear and Ted Kotcheff’s absolutely peerless Wake In Fright feel, not only like distinct products of Australia, but movies that could only be products of Australia; in the way that Citizen Kane could only be American, À bout de souffle French or If…. British. They are movies that speak to and reflect upon the idea of national character and exploit the unique atmosphere of their Australian, predominantly rural, settings.

Long Weekend was released in 1978, perhaps at the tail end of the first burst of low-budget Australian shockers, before the genre drifted into the realms of more outright schlock. A waking nightmare vision of the Australian countryside, it’s a rape-revenge drama of sorts with the crime committed against the very landscape, and spirit of the land, itself.

Warring cosmopolitan couple Peter (John Hargreaves) and Marcia (Briony Behets) venture out to an isolated beach, following an initially-unspecified trauma, to camp and save a relationship that is plainly on rocky ground. The auguries are not positive from the get-go. Marcia makes her dislike of camping known and favours abandoning their pet dog to fend for itself over the weekend. On the way to their secluded destination they run into the requisite unfriendly country folk, but more worryingly, show a disgusting contempt for nature. The couple flattens a kangaroo on the highway and seemingly start a wildfire with a discarded cigarette butt, before polluting their campsite and bringing devastation to the local wildlife.

On the face of it, Long Weekend provides us with a recognisable psychological drama, spotlighting a warring, miserable couple dealing with grief and trauma. As the plot unfolds, the drama begins to excel with nightmarish aspects and suspicions of a supernatural, elemental force that begins to act upon the couple. The pair’s relationship has not just provoked destruction towards each other, it has prompted destruction of their surroundings which is, in turn, fighting back. As their sniping and callousness increase, there’s a sense that the landscape, the birds and the beasts are beginning to take revenge, both literally and psychologically as the two begin to lose their grip on reality.

A waking nightmare of mounting tension, Long Weekend plays upon the harsh, deadly reputation of much of Australia’s fauna, but also acts as a cautionary tale against environmental vandalism. It’s a movie that, in its nearly forty years, has not only retained its ability to creep, but has perhaps found itself becoming socially and politically more relevant than at any other time.

Dir: Colin Eggleston

Scr: Everett De Roche

Starring: John Hargreaves, Briony Behets

Prd: Colin Eggleston, Richard Brennan

DOP: Vincent Monton

Music: Michael Carlos

Country: Australia

Year: 1978

Runtime: 92 minutes

Long Weekend is available on DVD now.