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Christopher Webster [DVD News 08.01.09] movie review dvd horror thriller

Year: 2009
Directors: Jamie Blanks
Writers: Everett De Roche
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Amazon: link
Review by: agentorange
Rating: 6.2 out of 10

For his fifth foray into the horror genre, acclaimed Storm Warning director Jamie Blanks has taken on a remake of one of the most beloved Australian cult films of all time, Long Weekend. Big shoes right? Not only is Colin Eggleston‘s original ecological thriller considered a hidden gem of Australian 70s cinema, but when your story requires the only two human characters you’ve got to be so despicable that they are actually the antagonists you’ve really got to have some finesse as a filmmaker.

For the most part, Blanks succeeds in making a passable mid-budget man vs. nature film with two great performances by Jim Caviezel and Claudia Karvan. But, as a modern Long Weekend redux I can’t help but be disappointed in some technical corners that were obviously cut, a lack of real menace throughout and an uneven climax that refuses to answer some of the film’s fundamental mysteries.

Long Weekend is the story of a selfish, bickering couple who try to save their drifting relationship by heading out to the Australian wilderness for a long weekend camping getaway. Peter is a man-child, obsessed with his man-toys and his dog while Carla is a pampered princess who has it all but still can’t be happy and certainly doesn’t want to be out roughing it. Together they litter, kill and argue their way through a horrible camping trip only to find out that mother nature has a terrible temper. Mysterious arrows that lead them in circles, Eagle attacks, floods and a mysteriously animated dead Manatee are some of the horrors that terrorize the two travelers.

On one level, Long Weekend is a cautionary tale about treating Mother Nature with respect and after watching the film you'll definitely think twice before spraying an ant hill next time you're out on a picnic. On another, perhaps more practical level, I’m sure Long weekend was designed to show off the splendor of the Aussie wilderness thus making it an easy pitch for funding from the Australian Film Finance Corporation. Either way, this version of Long Weekend is full of some staggering images of Australian landscape and wildlife which is a definite bonus of the high def blu-ray version.

Lets talk about writing and performances. When Blanks approached Everett De Roche (the original writer of Long Weekend) about penning the remake he told him he wanted a verbatim version so every line of dialog is the same as the original. While I'm not always a fan of this approach, Blanks made the smart move of putting a lot of power in the actors hands, so both Caviezel and Karvan are given leeway to ad-lib and feed off each other. Considering the film is carried entirely by the plausibility of these two characters' relationship, Blanks made the right choice to let the actors do their work and not get bogged down with making a shot-for-shot remake.

My advice about this film is two-fold. First off, don't let the horrendous region 1 DVD cover, which looks like someone barfed spiders on Jim Caviezel's face, put you off. Secondly, don't read too much into what could be considered a low rating here. Nature's Grave has been made with much love and, despite the need to stretch the imagination a little, comes across like a classy thriller.

My only real problem with the film - granted it's big one - is it doesn't resolve the two fundamental mysteries in the film. Who made the arrows and how is the dead Manatee moving? And it's not that I need every film to be wrapped up in a nice little bow, but Blanks doesn't even give hints. It seems to me that there must be a human element at work here, but Blanks might also be insinuating that nature has some sort of magical quality beyond our comprehension. Either way, the film just leaves these behind in favor of a frenetic climax when I would have liked to know more.

Nature's Grave comes out on DVD August 4, 2009.

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Anonymous (12 years ago) Reply

the arrows came from Caviezel's speargun. he killed her by accident the previous night.


agentorange (12 years ago) Reply

Actually, I was refering to the arrows written on the trees.


Anonymous (12 years ago) Reply

I saw an opinion that the moving dead animal, and the dead people alike, could be imagined by Peter hallucinating from a snake's bite or some other poison taken in inadvertently.

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