Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Hell's Gates: Long Weekend

In a concerted effort to finish something I start, here is the promised second installment of what I hope to become a regular column on Australian genre cinema, remembered through ephemera and promo materials. Find the first Hell's Gates post HERE.

1978's Long Weekend, directed by the late Colin Eggleston, was probably my first real exposure to a locally produced genre film. As a child, a viewing of Long Weekend on the big screen made an indelible impression on me, the legacy of which lingers to this day. This film was almost certainly my first experience of being made explicitly aware of the callousness and destructive myopia with which we humans treat our environment.

I can remember the events of this film disturbing me for weeks, the relentlessly advancing dugong carcass in particular, which creeped me out in much the same way that King's insidious topiary animals did in The Shining. But Long Weekend has more significance to me than as just an early horror experience - it was instrumental in steering me down a path that would eventually lead me to become actively concerned about our mistreatment of animals and the environment (the other catalyst being the Dead Kennedys' song "Moon Over Marin").

Penned by legendary aussie genre writer Everett De Roche (Patrick, Roadgames, Razorback, Storm Warning and the recent Long Weekend remake), the film garnered quite a lot of well deserved acclaim on the European festival circuit, picking up a number of awards in France and Spain (including Best Film and Actor at Sitges '78). As a serious ecological horror film it was well ahead of it's time, leaving it's contemporaries - such as John Frankenheimer's Prophecy, released the following year - flailing in their respective toxic sludge pits. I believe it paved the way for the more mature eco-horrors of the future, such as Larry Fessenden's excellent The Last Winter.

In broader terms, it's a good little movie however you slice it, and I was pleased to discover upon a recent viewing that it hasn't been hamstrung by the passage of time and it's modest budget. Over three decades on, Long Weekend is still an effective, chilling and thought provoking little thriller, well worth your time.

As mentioned above, a couple of years ago De Roche returned to write an aussie remake of
Weekend which was competently directed by Jamie Blanks (Urban Legend, Storm Warning), but seemed to get almost no attention whatsoever. As a remake it's quite slavishly faithful to the original, differing only in it's improved production values and the relative star power of James Caviezel. In the US the remake was saddled with the absolutely horrible title of Nature's Grave and a serious contender for ugliest DVD cover of all time, two factors that definitely didn't help the film's success stateside.

original Australian daybill

original Australian poster

beautiful French poster

Trans World Entertainment VHS cover

Interglobal Home Video VHS cover

an attractive one sheet for the remake

recent Synapse Films DVD release

1 comment:

  1. Great review Aylmer and a get film too. I love this film - its one of those cool, hidden treasures I like to recommend to people...

    Other Australian films I love are Road Games and the brilliant, brilliant Next of Kin. And Wake In Fright - the Madman Blu-Ray is one of my most loved discs...