Nature's Grave


[a.k.a. Long Weekend]
Dir: Jamie Blanks
Star: James Caviezel, Claudia Karvan

I'm not sure whether this is a pro- or anti-nature film. On the one hand, it re-affirms our strong commitment against camping, which as portrayed here, is proven to be a very bad idea. On the other hand, it shows that hell hath no fury like a Mother Nature scorned. Not-so loving couple Peter (Caviezel) and Marcia (Krvan) head off for a weekend on their beach; they're supposed to meet up with friends, but they never arrivel, leaving our husband and wife to "enjoy" nature. Quotes used advisedly, since Marcia prefers room-service to roughing it, and Peter is equipped with a spear-gun and rifle. A shadow in the water is gunned down by him, but turns out to be a harmless dugong - cue shouts of "Oh, the huge manatee!" from us - while Marcia sprays insecticide on anything with more than four legs and, in a fit of pique, hurls an eagle's egg against a tree. However, the atmosphere becomes increasingly dark and forboding, with strange cries permeating the night and inexplicable occurrences adding to the oppressive air surrounding them.

While obviously not the first film to suggest that the countryside is hell (it's a remake of a 70's Aussie flick, to start with), or that we'd all be a lot better off sticking to the urban areas, this is, for the most part, restrained. It operaties more in the realm of paranoia and unease than direct threat, and for what's basically a two-hander, with hardly anyone on the screen except for the leads, it's surprisingly effective at generating tension. This is done mostly through small things, but there are a couple of startling moments - good enough to forgive the fact that the film more or less handwaves off all attempts at explanation for them. Against this, Peter and Marcia are an immensely irritating couple, who rarely stop sniping at each other for an instant: more than once, I turned to Chris and asked, "So, why do they stay together?" This left us ambivalent as to their fate, and it's kinda hard to root for a dead aquatic mammal either, so the end result is somewhat distancing. However, any film which panders to our anti-camping prejudice in such a way can only be admired.

B-
[November 2010]


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