LONG WEEKEND (1978) Review

Directed by: Colin Eggleston
Starring: John Hargreaves, Briony Behets

The last three reviews I've done have all been recent films, so I thought I'd write about a few older ones for a change. I'm starting off with this wilderness horror film from 1978. Long Weekend follows the theme of killer animals but in a much different way than movies like Rogue or Black Water. As the tagline reads "Their crime was against nature. Nature found them guilty"

Peter (Hargreaves) and Marcia (Behets) are a couple with a problematic relationship. They decide to have a relaxing weekend vacation at a remote beach. But of course, they have no idea what is in store for them. The tension between the pair only gets worse as they finally reach their destination and when they finally do arrive, they realize that something isn't quite right. The sounds of angry animals from within the trees, spear guns firing by their own volition etc.
I found the creepiest part of the film to be the dugong that just won't die. Peter shoots it with his rifle, thinking it to be a shark, but realises his mistake when its corpse washes up on the shore and he covers it with sand.
But even though full of bullet holes, it keeps showing up in different locales...
Before they know it, the couple seem to be under attack by animals both from the ground and the air. 

Even though they are the victims, Peter and Marcia's disregard for their environment (whether it be spraying ants with insecticide or chopping down trees) is what incurs the wrath of the wildlife, and is ultimately their downfall. It's pretty hard to feel any kind of sympathy for them, especially with their arrogant attitudes.

The dialogue is very minimal, fitting the role of the quarrelling couple and helping to add a sense of isolation. The spooky cries of animals in the distance adds to the feeling of uneasiness felt throughout the film. The acting is spot on and even the animal attack scenes are impressive for something made in the 70's. 

Filled with tension and with a few shocking moments, this original and frightening Australian horror/thriller will definitely stay with you for a while after viewing. And the ironic finale is the perfect ending to a fantastic film


BLACK WATER (2007) Review

Directed by: Andrew Traucki, David Nerlich
Starring: Diana Glenn, Maeve Dermody, Andy Rodoreda

I thought I'd do this review with the other crocodile thriller Rogue fresh in my mind, so I can compare the two. Although the two films are both about a group of people being trapped and hunted by a crocodile, they couldn't be more different. Where Rogue delivers a fairly large group with some well know talent (Radha Mitchell, Sam Worthington, Mia Wasikowska), Black Water is centered around a trio made up of pretty much unknowns. And while the former film obviously had a multimillion dollar budget, this one was made for much less.
Rogue is a fictional account of a massive 30 foot monster reptile while Black Water is supposedly based on real events, and features a more realistic sized beast. 
The tension in Black Water probably surpasses that of Rogue, with the water level camera work helping to add some chills. But overall it seems to lack something. 

The main characters Grace (Glenn), Lee (Dermody) and Adam (Rodoreda) decide to explore some of the Australian landscape and after visiting a crocodile farm, they take a fishing trip. Before long their boat has been upturned and their guide is killed and they are forced to take refuge in a tree in the vast mangrove swamp. With nobody knowing where they are, and no means of communication (mobile phones and water don't mix) they have to make the decision to stay and wait for help or try to right the boat and escape. But the crocodile has other ideas.

The acting is above average but not fantastic, and the writing is great. Unfortunately though, Black Water suffers from the same problem that other similar films do. There's only so much time you can watch a small group of people trapped in the same spot without it getting tired and repetitive. And with a cast of only three, you already know that one of them will survive which doesn't leave a lot of room for gory death scenes.

The fact that this film is based on real events is supposed to make it more frightening, but unfortunately it seems to fall short. The fact that everything in Rogue (the cast, the crocodile, the special effects) is bigger and better is what makes it such a superior film. Black Water tries hard, but in the end it seems to lack bite.


ROGUE (2008) Review

Directed by: Greg McLean
Starring: Radha Mitchell, Michael Vartan, Sam Worthington, Mia Wasikowska

Australia isn't very well known for producing great horror films. In fact if you look at Australian films in general, they're mostly average with perhaps a handful of greats. But one thing Australia is well known for is it's deadly wildlife. Snakes, spiders, baby-eating dingoes and of course crocodiles. 

From director Greg McLean (Wolf Creek) comes this classic killer animal movie set in the remote Australian outback. It follows a group of tourists on a sightseeing tour down a river in the Northern Territory. Among the group are the American travel writer Pete (Vartan), a couple with their young daughter Sherry (Wasikowska) and some other less important characters. Then of course there is the tour guide Kate (Mitchell)

After a seemingly normal tour down the river (apart from a run-in with a smartass Sam Worthington and his mate) the group is all set to turn around and head back. But of course something comes up. A distress flare is spotted by one of the tourists, and as the boat's captain it is Kate's responsibility to investigate.
Eventually they find an overturned, half-submerged boat and everybody is starting to get a little creeped out. This is of course, the moment when everything goes wrong.

The group end up marooned on a tiny island when their boat is wrecked by a monster crocodile. And (surprise, surprise) the radio doesn't work! Well damn, I sure didn't expect that...
They soon realise that the croc is hunting them and won't leave until everybody has been killed and eaten. In the ensuing panic, mistakes are made and people die, and I noticed a couple of moments where I had to stop myself from yelling at the stupidity of some people. Fortunately those moments were not frequent enough to put me off however.

The performances are great all-round, especially those from Radha Mitchell and Michael Vartan. And Sam Worthington does an impressive job of playing an asshole. Thank god he doesn't have to fake an american accent in this movie. The scenery is great and the special effects are top notch, with McLean showing very little of the beast until the end, thus forcing your imagination to fill in the blanks.
Unfortunately however, there is only so much you can do with a group of people stuck in the same location. Eventually it changes from survival horror to man vs beast, with Vartan's character taking on the monster head-on. 
Although Rogue follows a predictable formula, there were a few unexpected moments and I think that overall it is a great addition to the killer animal genre and an extremely fun film to watch.

VAN DIEMEN'S LAND (2009) Review

Directed by: Jonothan Auf Der Heide
Starring: Oscar Redding, Arthur Angel

I've decided to start this blog off with a week of Australian horror film reviews. I will be doing one each day starting off with this true tale of murder, cannibalism and the will to survive.

There have already been two films made about Alexander Pearce, neither of which I have seen. The first is a biographical film titled "The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce" and the second is a horror film titled "Dying Breed" which is about the descendants of cannibal Pearce still living in the wilderness of Tasmania. A short film called "Hell's Gates" was also filmed, and it was this film that eventually became "Van Diemen's Land"

While not exactly a straight up horror flick, the concept is pretty gruesome. This true story of cannibal convicts in Tasmania is a horrifying tale. Although there is minimal blood and gore, the fear and paranoia within this group of men is plenty.
Jonathan Auf Der Heide's film is based on the last confessions of Alexander Pearce before he was executed in 1824. Pearce and a group of seven other convicts escaped a penal colony and headed into the unexplored and unforgiving Tasmanian wilderness. Eventually Pearce was recaptured and told horrible tales of committing murder and cannibalism. This movie focuses on what happened in between the escape and recapture.

The escape provides a little excitement at the beginning of the movie, but afterwards it rolls along at a very slow pace. Going by the excellent quality of Ellery Ryan's cinematography, the first 40 minutes may as well be a tourist advertisement for Tasmania. Then things start to pick up. After running out of food, the men decide to kill off the weakest of the group so the rest of them have enough food to survive. After the first murder, tempers flare and  paranoia abounds, with everybody wondering which one of them will be next.

All of the performances are solid, but there isn't much insight into the characters and when they start dropping like flies, I found myself not really caring about them at all. Essentially they are just a bunch of hairy men running through a forest trying to kill each other and no matter who the final survivor had been, I felt like it wouldn't really have made much of a difference.

Although not a piece of groundbreaking cinema, Van Diemen's Land is an above average addition to the Australian film landscape. The acting is great and the cinematography is some of the best I've seen. I think a little more character development and a lot more gore could have helped though. I also think that the film would have been more effective if it concentrated more on man vs nature rather than man vs man.