Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Starring Jim Caviezel, Claudia Karvan
Directed by Jamie Blanks
Distributed by Showbox Home Entertainment
Oh, the huge manatee! I know, I know…and I’m sorry; but for a long time I’ve wished for a legitimate reason to use that phrase. Like a gift from the gods of silly plays on words, that reason recently graced my desk – Jamie Blanks’ remake of the 1978 eco-horror Long Weekend, hitting UK shelves courtesy of Showbox Home Entertainment on February 8th.
Blanks’ film stars Jim Caviezel and Claudia Karvan as the incessantly bickering couple Peter and Carla. In an effort to patch up their tattered marriage, the two take off for a weekend camping along the picturesque Australian coast with another couple of friends. Finding themselves lost, they spend the night in the car only to awaken right next to the campsite. With the non-arrival of their friends forgotten about quite early on, the couple almost immediately set about to taking verbal pot shots at each other and treating their beautiful surroundings with what could only be interpreted as a concerted effort to place in the Guinness Book of World Records for douchebaggery.
They chuck their trash around; needlessly chop down living trees for firewood; smash eagle eggs and Peter starts taking recreational shots at the nearby wildlife with his trusty rifle while impersonating Christopher Walken. Events reach a head when Peter shoots at something in the water, and a dead Sea Cow is found halfway up the beach the next day – apparently attempting to reach the plastic-bag coated body of her washed-up offspring.
Of course, Mother Nature isn’t gonna take this shit lying down and soon the pair find themselves the target of almost supernatural coincidences and pissed-off animals, with the seemingly deceased mother manatee slowly making its way further and further into land. Even if you haven’t seen the original, I’m sure you can guess that our pair of big city idiots will not come out of this unscathed.
The biggest problem with Long Weekend is that it simply isn’t scary. In fact, it’s so preoccupied with ramming its message down your throat that no effort is made to round out the inherent silliness of it all with some much-needed threat. Instead, you’ll just get pissed off listening to these two exceptionally unlikeable characters shout at each other endlessly and treat their surroundings with the type of disregard that would see you slap them senseless should you ever end up camping with them. You want them dead. You want to see what nature is going to dish out for them…but you want it quickly. Much, much more quickly than the film offers. Long Weekend is a slow-burn affair, but when the runtime is spent listening to these two go off on one another instead of building genuine fear it’s all for nought. One thing the film does do well, is the crying sounds the couple hear at night – they are genuinely freaky and had the film kept this creep factor more sustained, we may have had somewhat of a success here.
After putting up with the slow pace and hateful characters, having the horrific climax being Caviezel’s character waking up face to face with the dead manatee, quite possibly the least threatening looking creature ever put to film, and run screaming into the forest is a masterpiece of unintentional humour and missed opportunity. At least shortly afterwards we get an impressively spectacular man vs. truck moment.
I’ll admit to not having seen the original 1978 version (which writer Everett De Roche also penned), so cannot comment exactly on the similarities however I am led to believe that much of this is almost a shot for shot remake. Visually, that’s certainly not a bad thing as Blanks really knows how to shoot the Australian scenery to maximise the effect of its beauty. The locations used in Long Weekend are exceptionally gorgeous, and beyond that Blanks definitely knows what to do with a camera and how to frame some truly great shots. The cast can’t be faulted for their performances either, rather the failure mainly lies with the script. It simply isn’t shocking, isn’t frightening, isn’t revelatory or anything in between. One would assume that the modern attitudes toward climate change and going “green” made the project seem like it would be deservedly relevant, but the overall truth is that manatees just aren’t scary. Long Weekend is competently made, but heavy handed and inherently flawed. If you can put up with the characters you might get a few chills out of it (as mentioned, the night scenes/crying amp up the shivers somewhat), but don’t expect anything impressive beyond the scenery.
Now, if all of the above sounds familiar that would be due to the fact that Long Weekend is already available on bare bones DVD in the US under the horrible moniker Nature’s Grave. In the UK though, Showbox have given the flick much more love than it rightfully deserves and released it in a 2-Disc Special Edition. The first disc houses the film itself, along with the trailer and those for a selection of other titles. The picture is sharp, clean and solid with nothing much to complain about at all. Audio is presented in standard Dolby 2.0 Stereo, or an impressive 5.1 Surround mix which keeps your tweeters alive with that ever-so-threatening chirping of wildlife.
Disc two is where the Special Features action is at, with a huge amount of behind the scenes action available for viewing. Largely eschewing the standard interview-driven format in favour of a first-person on-set experience, these extras are involving and interesting. Caviezel provides a few standout moments including a hilarious impromptu Jackson Five dance routine that must be seen. The Director’s Production Diary featurette is more of the same but features a running commentary by director Jamie Blanks offering even further insight into what goes into making a movie.
Alongside this we have an extended scene of Caviezel’s duck-taunting Christopher Walken impersonation, interviews with Claudia Karvan, Everett De Roche and Toby Eggleston and, my personal favourite, a featurette named “Taming the Wild”. This is an endearing, albeit short, look at the animals involved in the film and the shooting of their scenes.
All in all, the Special Features clock in at almost two hours of viewing and are, in fact, a much more interesting and rewarding watch than the film itself. The inclusion of a commentary to go along with the movie would have made this a top-class package are far as extras are concerned, but if you’re fascinated by what goes on behind the scenes you’ll find here that even an unimpressive final product like Long Weekend can offer plenty of worthy insight.
- Director’s Production Diary
- Interview Gallery
- Deleted Scene – Jim & The Ducks
- Making Of
- Taming the Wild
- Peter’s Death – Behind the Scenes with Grant Page & Roger Ward
2 out of 5
3 1/2 out of 5
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