Arts

Cult Movie: Outback camping chiller Long Weekend an apology to Mother Nature

John Hargreaves and Briony Behets in Long Weekend (1978)
Ralph McLean

YOU know what they say, accidentally catch a terrifying movie at an impressionable age and it will stick with you for life. I have no idea who “they” are but I tell you what – they're right.

I first stumbled across the Aussie eco thriller Long Weekend one drab Saturday in the mid-80s while scanning through the late-night offerings on BBC Two. Let's be honest, most Saturdays back then were pretty dismal for a pasty-faced teenager with an unrelenting craving for all things cult and I spent most of them trawling through TV listings for films that might throw a little light into the general gloom.

On paper Lost Weekend looked interesting. A bickering couple head off in their van for a weekend in the country, casually chucking their rubbish behind them at every turn and generally behaving like the biggest nature-baiting nits you've ever seen. They swiftly wish they'd used those litter bins, though, when the wildlife and elements all around them bite back with bloody consequences.

Slow burning and quite moody in its own way, I liked it then and I'm happy to say I still get an involuntary shiver down my spine at the very thought of it to this day.

Originally released in 1977 it is ostensibly a love letter to Mother Nature and an elongated apology for all the inconsiderate, clueless and stupid things mankind has done to her down the years. It's sad to think that it still has a lot to say to audiences about our attitudes to the world around us all these years later, but then a lot of the best cult movies do, don't they?

Freshly re-released on Blu-ray by Second Sight,it remains a strangely satisfying little curio that still manages to weave its minor-key magic despite the passing years and the hilarity of the mid-70s clobber. The moodiness is still there although the jet black humour, which pretty much passed me by on first viewing, does render it a little cheesy at times.

The sniping couple at the film's heart (John Hargreaves and Briony Behets) are impressive in their mutual loathing and believable in their utter disregard for the beautiful countryside through which they are travelling. Director Colin Eggleston oversees the slow, relentless build of tension as our lone couple, and their faithful dog Cricket, head off into the wild for a weekend camping trip at the beach and he does a great job.

As minor misdemeanors turn more serious and the unease grows, you'll come to genuinely detest the tedious Peter and Marcia. Trust me, by the time nature returns the nastiness against them with interest you'll be hoping they don't make it to morning at all.

Really a study in full-blown mental collapse, Long Weekend is hardly a laugh a minute but it looks amazing. The Australian outback is captured beautifully throughout, and it has some serious environmental points to make in its own slightly ham-fisted 70s way.

Now if they'd only show it after midnight some Saturday night on BBC Two we'd really be talking.

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