Australia’s late ‘70s/early ‘80s boom of gen­re film­mak­ing is fas­ci­nat­ing because so many of the films take unique chances. Free of the estab­lished rules of a Hollywood-style film busi­ness, the Australian film­mak­ers had a lot of lee­way to take chances with off­beat sub­ject mat­ter and uncon­ven­tion­al approach­es to gen­re film­mak­ing. A great exam­ple of the­se qual­i­ties in action is Long Weekend. Though nom­i­nal­ly a hor­ror film with an eco­log­i­cal the­me, it is also an unflinch­ing­ly dark dra­ma about the foibles of human nature.

The premise of Long Weekend has a min­i­mal­ist sim­plic­i­ty to it: trou­bled cou­ple Peter (John Hargreaves) and Marcia (Briony Behets) take advan­tage of the tit­u­lar hol­i­day to go on a camp­ing vaca­tion at the beach. It’s his idea and she’s not hap­py about rough­ing it. Unspoken ten­sions reveal them­selves as the two try to get along: Marcia is deal­ing with a LongW-posper­son­al trau­ma that is caus­ing a lot of fric­tion between the two.

However, they are fac­ing a dan­ger to their lives that both are too self-absorbed to notice at first. They both have a habit of treat­ing their nat­u­ral sur­round­ings with aggres­sion or care­less­ness. The var­i­ous ani­mals of the beach ecosys­tem have noticed and they don’t like it. Soon, the cou­ple finds nature rebelling again­st in var­i­ous ways that esca­late to fright­en­ing lev­els.

The setup sounds ide­al for a roller­coast­er-style hor­ror flick but Long Weekend takes the road less trav­eled. Everett DeRoche’s script takes a very delib­er­ate, grad­u­al approach to the hor­ror aspects, instead focus­ing on the rela­tion­ship of the cou­ple. He dar­ing­ly avoids mak­ing one more like­able than the oth­er: instead, they both show a pen­chant for self-absorp­tion and casu­al cru­el­ty that comes back to haunt them. Indeed, the tart dia­logue exchanges between the two are often as bru­tal as the film’s hand­ful of shocks.

The revenge of nature ele­ment is slow­ly fold­ed in, cre­at­ing sim­mer­ing ten­sion in the audi­ence because they notice the dan­ger so much ear­lier than the char­ac­ters. The slow-paced approach works because the film­mak­ers invest in craft and atmos­phere. Director Colin Eggleston cre­ates a mood that is tan­gi­bly eerie from the start, using a creepy score by Michael Carlos and slow yet rest­less mobile cam­er­a­work from Vincent Monton to cre­ate a mood that bad things are around the cor­ner. He also peri­od­i­cal­ly perks up the dra­ma with the occa­sion­al tra­di­tion­al hor­ror moment, the best being a brief but total­ly unnerv­ing attack by an eagle.

Long Weekend’s approach relies upon its actors and thank­ful­ly the two leads deliv­er fear­less, total­ly com­mit­ted per­for­mances. Behets car­ries a lot of the film’s most intense emo­tions on her shoul­ders and she deliv­ers with­out fail, whether she is weep­ing from inter­nal­ized grief or lash­ing out vicious­ly at her sig­nif­i­cant oth­er. Hargreaves holds his own with her in their intense ver­bal duels and also shows a lot of grace under pres­sure in the film’s third act, where he under­takes some dif­fi­cult phys­i­cal chal­lenges to ful­fill the nerve-jan­gling finale.

In short, Long Weekend is a unique fusion of art­house and hor­ror con­cerns where the rela­tion­ship dra­ma is as grim­ly com­pelling as the hor­ror ele­ments. It’s kind of like Day Of The Animals as reimag­ined by Peter Weir — and if your tastes are wide enough to appre­ci­ate such a com­bi­na­tion, Long Weekend is a demand­ing but worth­while trip to take.