Peter (John Hargreaves) and his wife Marcia (Briony Behets) are going through a rough patch in their marriage and may well be headed for a messy divorce. In an attempt to make up, Peter suggests that they go on a camping trip to an isolated beach, although he's more keen on trying out his camping equipment and guns. Marcia would rather stay in a hotel, but decides to make the effort, and after yet another argument, this time about whether to take Peter's pet dog Cricket, they set off for a long weekend. Driving through the night, Marcia sleeps through Peter running over a kangaroo, and he doesn't stop, either. This awakens a strange presence which will be keeping a close eye on the couple over the next three days...
Scripted by Everett De Roche, previously (and latterly) a television author, this was in effect the first of the writer's horrors set in the Australian Outback, along with the likes of Road Games and Razorback, only this one was the grimmest by far with little in the way of humour. One of the many enviromentally conscious, revenge of nature films of the nineteen-seventies probably ushered in by Alfred Hitchcock's shocker The Birds, Long Weekend didn't receive much cinema distribution inside of its native land, but it gained a cult reputation throughout the wider Western world after unwary viewers would catch it on late night television and wonder what exactly it was they'd just seen.
They undoubtedly went to bed feeling unsettled too, as the film carefully builds up a pervasive atmosphere of unease without featuring an incarnation of malevolence for the couple to battle against - their antagonist is the countryside around them and cannot be pinned down. When Peter stops off at a bar to stock up on beer, nobody there has heard of the beach they're headed for, which should have set the alarm bells ringing, but being in the middle of nowhere with a woman who is making less and less effort to disguise the fact she despises him doesn't bother him too much. And so it is they drive through the thick forest along a winding trail, but can't seem to find the beach in the darkness.
When Marcia wakes up in the morning, they have arrived, and she just about manages to shrug off the feeling they were driving around in circles the other night. Here the beauty of the landscape, vividly photographed, is contrasted not only with the ugliness of the couple's relationship but also the oppressiveness of the flora and fauna, which seems to be very judgemental about these invaders at no time do they make any welcome, and this sense of being where you shouldn't be pervaded every shot, affecting the audience as well. And no wonder, when Pete produces a rifle and starts taking potshots or hacks away with an axe at a tree for no good reason; neither of the two of them are particularly sympathetic, which is brave of the filmmakers considering that they are the only characters onscreen for about ninety-seven per cent of the time.
Not that we take much pleasure in their downfall, as the audience instinctively takes the side of the humans against the natural world. Cleverly, the strange events can be easily explained away, it's just the number of incidents mounting that brings the eerie ambience. There's a tit for tat arrangement to the plotting: Marcia will use insecticide on ants then almost be speared by a small harpoon when it is mysteriously set off, Peter will shoot indiscriminately and kill a duck leaving its orphaned young alone, then later be attacked by an eagle. And we discover that Marcia has recently aborted the baby of her next door neighbour, lending a puritanical aspect to the persecution. With the dread of the situation memorably summed up by a dugong carcass also shot by Peter on Marcia's insistence advancing unseen up the beach, the wailing cries of its offspring (the sound design was superb) and another camp found apparently deserted, Long Weekend has all the accoutrements of a seriously creepy chiller, and for the most part it's very effective. Only at the end does it seem like a sick joke. Music by Michael Carlos.