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Attacking eagles, kangaroo sentinels, and the manatee of DOOOOM! “Long Weekend” aka “Nature’s Grave”

January 7, 2011

If movies have taught me anything—actually, it’s more like 98% of my accumulated knowledge—it’s that Australia is a horrible, horrible place. I mean, let’s run it down here, shall we? You got Wolf Creek, in which some perfectly pleasant 20-somethings are hunted down across the wild landscape and brutally tortured to death. Then you have Rogue, which follows a massive, super-fuckingly-huge crocodile as it eats a bunch of perfectly nice people. Then you’ve got Envy, in which a perfectly nice family is terrorized by a bunch of petty thugs who eventually murder their dog. And son. So then you have the titular Australia, which is just a batshit crazy musical. Bottom line is, if you’re a halfway decent person and you go to Australia you will almost certainly be some combination of raped, brutalized, murdered, or eaten by a massive lizard. And if you manage to survive, well then you gotta deal with a singing, dancing Nicole Kidman. So when I loaded up the DVD Long Weekend (or Nature’s Grave as it was called in the U.S.) and saw that it was about a couple roughing it in the Australian wilderness, well, I pretty much knew they were totally fucked. I just didn’t realize how goofily fucked they might be.

Nature’s Grave begins with a couple named Peter and Carla (James Caviezel and Claudia Karvan) packing to spend a long weekend on a remote beach with some friend. Peter and Carla’s marriage seems to have pretty much hit the rocks as they exchange low-key digs at one another while Carla packs and Peter frolics with their dog and his new spear gun (gotta side with Claudia on this one). Well, they hit the road and we get some slight indications that baaad juju is afoot. There are some vague news reports about strange natural phenomena, and they can’t raise the other couple on their cell phone. When they stop off at a roadside bar, the locals have never heard of the beach they’re going to.  The GPS is no help, and Peter eventually blows past a sign that says NO TRESPASSING, instead following some arrows carved in trees. I’m not entirely sure the English language has an adjective for how stupid Peter is.

Well, they finally find the beach around midnight and decide to pack it in for the night. But during the night they hear a weird howling, almost like a baby crying. In the light of day they find that yes indeed they are at the beach. And it’s pretty beautiful. Peter’s totally stoked to do some surfing, and, um, spearing I guess. Carla still isn’t happy. She doesn’t want to camp and mocks Peter for having blown ten grand on camping equipment (not exactly roughing it, there). We also get some insight into the rift in their marriage.  Seems Carla had an abortion and the baby may not have been Peter’s. They fight, he storms off, she sulks. Rinse and repeat. They do this a lot.

Okay, so pretty soon things get hinky. Peter’s spear gun goes off on its own and damn near skewers Carla (this does not improve her mood).They’re harassed by ants (until they spray them with Raid). Peter gets scratched up by a pissed-off eagle after they break its egg. A massive shark-like shape seems to stalk Peter beneath the waves as he surfs. And dead things keep washing up on shore—first a seagull, then a baby manatee. Basically, these people are vacationing in the same patch of nature as the couple in Antichrist. All they’re missing is the talking fox.  They fight some more, during which we learn that Peter pretty much pushed Carla into the affair by being a douchebag. And Peter does douchebaggy things like stomp through the woods and shoot indiscriminately with his high-powered rifle (smart idea, that). A mauled, partially-eaten momma manatee washes up on shore. Which is sad, really. Poor manatee.

At this point things start to go pretty haywire. Peter starts losing his shit—not getting murderous, just lost in his own masculine reveries. He expounds on his half-baked Iron John notions, telling Carla she just hates Mother Nature (“Must be a female thing…different chemicals,” so it’s safe to say he’s not an OB-GYN in his nine-to-five job). Carla starts getting seriously freaked, especially when the manatee carcass keeps moving up the beach closer and closer to their campsite. Finally, Peter comes across a VW van he passed on the drive to beach, but finds the slackers in it dead in an apparent murder/suicide and their camp seeming to have been abandoned for weeks.  After this, even Peter gets it through his thick skull that maybe something is off here.

Well, he and Carla argue some more about when/how to leave and finally she splits in the SUV. Peter ends up staying another night in the freaky woods.  And in the night the kangaroos come…and they just stand there. You know, kangaroos are not inherently terrifying. I’m just saying. Meanwhile, Carla’s having trouble getting out of the woods—the GPS is fracked and the road just seems to go in circles. Finally, she smashes into a tree. The next morning Peter awakes to find the Manatee of Death beached right next to him. Well, he freaks out and runs screaming through the woods past snakes and, well, more snakes, and eventually he finds Carla’s body run through with a spear from his spear gun and several days dead. Peter continues his running/screaming until he makes it to a stretch of road. Delirious and, frankly, freaked, he staggers into the road and tries to flag down an approaching truck. Unfortunately, at the last minute the eagle flies into the cab and distracts the driver long enough for him to lose control and splatter Peter all over the hood.

Bummer. But man, that must have been one pissed-off manatee.

You know, at first I thought this was some sort of weird-ass take on No Exit. Problem being, Carla’s not such a bad person; she’s just emotionally closed-off and traumatized. No, it’s Peter who’s the jackhole, but he’s not even a compelling jackhole. He’s just an emotionally-stunted manchild.

Reading up on the movie I found that it was a pretty faithful remake of a 1978 movie also called The Long Weekend, and it was intended to be a straightforward eco-revenge story. It’s also considered a classic in Australia (bear in mind this is a country whose national sport is either murdering slackers or spear gun surfing). Problem is, the couple’s sins against nature are pretty trivial. They break an eagle egg, kill some ants, and litter a little bit. I mean, it’s not like they razed the trees and built a nuclear reactor fueled by baby platypuses or something.

And nature, for its part, really didn’t break much of a sweat in terrorizing these people. A dead manatee and some sentinel kangaroos really don’t compare to, say, the killer trees of The Happening, the were-cows of Isolation, or the dinosaur-reindeer ghosts of The Last Winter. If it was me, I would have been like, “Aw, poor manatee,” and then I would have buried it or maybe eaten it, I guess.

So, to the list of bad things in store for anyone unlucky enough to find themselves in Australia we have never-neverland beaches and avenging manatee corpses. Great.

3 comments

  1. This is a brilliant summary of the plot, but I don’t quite understand a few things! Well, a lot of things but I’ll mainly name a few. First of all, the dead family is the one they drive behind, and nearly crash into, on the trip down, yet their camp site has supposedly been deserted for weeks despite them only being able to have set it up 2 days previously! And the main confusion for me, is how on earth did Carla die!? She was far away from the car, and ended up with a spear in her neck? WTF!? Did a kangaroo grab it and shoot her, or maybe it was the pissed off manatee zombie from hell. Anyway, so she died from a ghoul spear gun, and her body made her look like she’d been dead for days, but it could have only been 12 hours max! This film makes no sense, except perhaps the fact that things in the Australian wilderness decompose ten times faster than anywhere else in the world, hence the mouldy chicken. Anyway, confused rant over.


  2. Yeah, the movie kept playing with the passage of time in a manner that suggested some supernatural state of being, yet never pulled the trigger on that concept and revealed that Peter and Carla are in limbo or purgatory or the island from Lost or whatever. Instead they just get chased by the manatee corpse.


  3. Your plot summary has some problems.

    It’s a dead baby manatee tangled in a plastic bag that washes up on shore. Peter fires at the dark thing in the ocean and there is a lot of blood, he says it was probably a dolphin, but it washes up the next day and is revealed to be the mother of the baby manatee. The screaming they heard was the mother looking for its baby.

    And the Eagle attacks BEFORE Carla breaks it egg.

    Everything else was pretty much correct.

    Oh, and you forgot to mention that the lead male is dead sexy.

    FTFY ;D



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