When I think of all the places I would hate to get stuck alone overnight, the Australian outback is right at the top of my list. Think about it. Large tracks of it still haven’t been mapped, there are spiders the size of your head, and I haven’t even started on the dingoes. The outback has long represented the ultimate in man vs. nature, walkabouts a macho rite of passage and the general concept a symbol for what we do not yet know. Often this takes the form of an existential quest, traversing the desolate landscape a metaphor for navigating the wasteland of the lost soul. However, in the long considered lost “Long Weekend”, the horror of the outback is treated much literally, making it one of the first “environmental” horror films.
Seldom seen outside of Australia the film concerns a troubled married couple, Peter and Marcia who decide to go on a wilderness camping trip in an attempt to reconnect and possibly rekindle their crumbling marriage. Even before they leave, Marcia is unhappy. She wanted to go to a resort with their friends, but Peter is determined that some time with nature is all they need to set them right. But their constant bickering and arrogance pretty much some up their relationship with their surroundings.
A stop in town is the first indication that something isn’t right as no one in the bar has ever heard of where they’re going. Unable to accept that they may be lost, Peter decides instead to drive through the night heading towards a beach that may not even exist. On the way there Peter hits a kangaroo with his car and an eerie crying can be heard through the dark. He and Marcia argue again, Marcia pleading with him to take them back into the city but he drives ahead, further and further into the outback. Again, unable to accept that they’ve just been going in circles, following a tree that seems to be in a different place each time they pass it; Peter sets up camp close to the water and the next day sets off to go shoot things.
In these enlightened times, the way that Peter and Marcia behave in the wild is actually quite shocking. Why, if you wanted to “connect” to nature would you bring a refrigerator, bug spray, a shot gun and a spear gun? Their list of crimes against nature are numerous and slowly, as the tension between the couple becomes more and more heated, things start happening around them. Peter is attacked by an eagle and stalked by a black shape in the ocean. Mold starts to grow in the course of a few hours. Suddenly they’ve had enough and decide to go back to the city, but will the wilderness let them, or does it have other plans?
Owing more to “The Blair Witch Project” than to the similarly themed “Day of the Animals”, “Long Weekend” manages to be classy and unnerving despite being dated. The horror builds slowly and the emotional minefield that is Peter and Marcia’s relationship adds to the uneasiness. Peter is so awful, both to Marcia and everything else around him that the poetic justice served up at the end is both horrific and satisfying. Nothing is explained outright, only hinted at and nature’s slow revenge could just as easily be a coincidence. The terror is derived from the fact that you’re never 100% sure, left to ponder the possibilities of a world still largely unknown.