Ozploitation cult classic, Long Weekend, has arrived on Blu-ray courtesy of Second Sight. The release features an audio commentary with Executive Producer Richard Brennan and Cinematographer Vincent Monton in addition to a fascinating panel discussion between film historians Lee Gambin, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Emma Westwood and Sally Christie.
“[Director Colin] Eggleston orchestrates an unforgettable downward spiral of sanity, with villainy agreeably dimensional and the great outdoors ruined forever,” says critic Brian Orndorf. Long Weekend, which was shot in 1977 and first screened to audiences in 1978, stars John Hargreaves and Briony Behets as a couple whose relationship is on the rocks. Trying to make one last effort to rekindle the spark, they head for a make or break weekend to an isolated beach somewhere along the New South Wales coast.
But they’re relentlessly careless to the natural environment around them. Animals are run over or tormented, their dog isn’t cared for properly, and their recklessness causes countryside fires. Nature has had enough and it rallies against the couple. The Guardian’s review of the film called it a hybrid horror and relationship drama that “sets man against nature in a kind of David Attenborough special gone heinously wrong.”
Indeed, in Top 10 Films’ world tour of horror cinema, Long Weekend appeared in our list of the top 10 Australian horror films in which Mark Fraser noted it remains a “low key, but competently made shocker, with some great moving camerawork towards the end as a desperate and exhausted Peter (Hargreaves) tries to escape the bush by foot.”
The film was conceived by prominent TV writer Everett De Roche. He was inspired to write it after spending a trip to a similar location as to one that appears in the film. He recalls: “Long Weekend was a unique project because I began with no outline, no notes or research, very little idea as to where the story was going, and absolutely zero knowledge of screenplays. I simply started at page 1, scene 1, and made it up as I went. I had only a vague plan to write a kind of environmental horror story. My premise was that Mother Earth has her own auto-immune system, so when humans start behaving like cancer cells, She attacks.”
He says he wanted to avoid a “Jaws-like critter film”, preferring to embody his antagonists as “benign-looking and not overtly aggressive”. Mark Fraser, in listing Long Weekend in his top 10 Australian horror films, notes the film’s “scenario is not dissimilar to that of George McCowan’s mild 1972 horror opus Frogs, in which the local fauna rebel against a destructive landowner (Ray Milland) and his just as wretched family somewhere in swampy Florida.”
Having shown his script to Eggleston, De Roche was excited to learn the director, who had worked with the writer previously, was eager to make it. Shooting took place in spring 1977 in Melbourne and near Bega in south-east New South Wales.
De Roche recalls the ending was slightly different at first. “I wrote an enormously complicated sequence for near the end where the animals give Peter a second chance. They want him to wise up, and he is at the point of doing so when he hears a truck in the distance. He dashes off to the highway, and the animals decide there is no hope. Poetically, they leave it to another man to kill him.” The complication of shooting this scene with animals meant it was changed to the ending we now see.
Also featured in our top 10 animal attack horror films, Laura Shearer writes: “These animals aren’t super-sized, they’re just evil. A long weekend away to a remote paradise soon unveils that there’s something out there that’s darker than the force of nature controlling the cute Aussie natives. Our soon daring couple try to make sense of the random attacks and solve the mysterious reasoning behind the animals’ bloodlust.”
Second Sight’s new Blu-ray allows audiences to relive the terror alongside an audio xommentary with Executive Producer Richard Brennan and Cinematographer Vincent Monton and a featurette titled Nature Found Them Guilty: Examining Long Weekend which sees film historians Lee Gambin, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Emma Westwood and Sally Christie examine the film. In addition, Uncut ‘Not Quite Hollywood’ includes interviews with Everett De Roche, Briony Behets and Vincent Monton. There’s also an extensive still gallery accompanied by an audio interview with actor John Hargreaves and the original theatrical trailer.
Undoubtedly one of the best Australian horror movies ever made, Long Weekend is an unsettling lesson in terror derived from a seemingly benign situation.
Long Weekend is on Blu-ray now courtesy of Second Sight in the UK.