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Friday, April 30, 2010

Remakes: Redux, Or Ridiculous? -- A Weekend You'll Never Forget


LONG WEEKEND (1978) versus NATURE'S GRAVE (2008)

Two Australian horror thrillers go head to head:

LONG WEEKEND: Colin Eggleston's superior slow burn builds the suspenseful horror to a crescendo leading to a shocking climax. One of the best of the 'Nature Strikes Back' subgenre, Eggleston's movie stands out as one of the best representations of both style and substance.

NATURE'S GRAVE: Jaime Blanks attempts to recapture the flavor of the original, but instead creates a turgid carbon copy that recreates many of the same moments from the original and puts a slight spin on some others. Those who appreciate a slow build might enjoy this, but only if they are unfamiliar with the original 1978 classy and classic production.


One of the most haunting photographic moments from LONG WEEKEND (1978)

Colin Eggleston's superlative cautionary horror tale of nature's vengeance is one of the most frightening of all the 'When Animals Attack' subgenre in horror. As has been the popular practice of late, the original story of a young, hostile married couple taking a vacation on a spooky and secluded stretch of beach has been remade by director, Jamie Blanks. At first bearing the same title, it was later changed to the new moniker, NATURE'S GRAVE lending itself some additional ties with the horror genre.

Blanks, a fan of the original, pays homage by naming this hotel after the originals director, Colin Eggleston. Not the truck to the left. It's the same one that figures into the final scene.

I'm a huge fan of the original having first bought it on VHS. It was truly one of the eeriest, most suspenseful movies I'd ever seen. Truly a movie that redefines the slow build, it will no doubt try the patience of the less inclined viewers. Little has changed for this remake. There are remakes that are faithful to their source material while still managing to achieve something fresh and welcome. Then their are others that simply mangle the original material, bearing little to no similarity outside of the original title. Then you have the remakes that simply rehash the original verbatim with hardly any deviation whatsoever. NATURE'S GRAVE falls into the last category.


The spear gun mysteriously goes off with the safety on in LONG WEEKEND


The same scene in NATURE'S GRAVE

The differences here are very minor, but some of them are detrimental to the film in my opinion as they worked so well the first time around. Blanks had stated what a fan he was of Eggleston's original and it shows. The original writer was even used to write this one, although even the bulk of the dialog is the same as well. There are differences even if one of the biggest is that the wife is now called Carla instead of Marcia.


The argumentative and hatemongering couple finally let it all out in LONG WEEKEND

The same scene almost verbatim with one small change in NATURE'S GRAVE

One area where the new film faulters is in the two leads. James Caviezel, whom I don't recall seeing in any movies but remembered his name from somewhere. I then realized that he played this guy named Jesus in THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Anyway, his performance was far more restrained than John Hargreaves from the original.


John Hargreaves in the bar asking about the location of a Munda Beach although no one has heard of it. A couple of brief shots afterward reveal that the patrons may know more than they let on.

James Caviezel in the bar asking how far to Munda Beach

He seemed like he'd taken some medication at times. He just didn't have the same reactions, nor emotional sentiments found in Hargreaves more believable role. Caviezel does emote at times, but these are few and far between. Towards the end in the truck, he gets very melodramatic during a moment where Hargreaves was very much restrained and vindictive all at the same time.


Aiming at something in the water--LONG WEEKEND (above) NATURE'S GRAVE (below)


Claudia Karvan is fine and gives a better go at it than Caviezel does. She's very attractive and easy on the eyes as well, but Briony Behets (who didn't mind being nude on several occasions) gave a bit more in my opinion. Maybe I am biased because I love the original so much, but that's how I feel about the film. I actually found this reboot to be boring considering everything was virtually the same and the small nuances that were tinkered with annoyed me slightly. The ending was one of the subtle altered sequences which I felt was miles away better the first time around.


Setting up camp--LONG WEEKEND (above) & NATURE'S GRAVE (below)


There are some nice touches, though. The score is very good at times and Blanks even uses the same unnerving "animal cry" that was used in the original film. The locations, while different, are incredibly similar to those seen in the original. The other locations are stunning (particularly what's seen in the opening credits) and sprawling in their vastness. The utterly spooky, winding, twisting road leading to their destination is mimicked respectably. The way the camp is set up to the way the actors move, it's an almost perfect assimilation of Eggleston's original.


One of the few new elements found in NATURE'S GRAVE

The original movie, while very serious in its approach towards an angry mother nature, was imbued with a creepy sense of the supernatural with its use of a dead animal carcass. Those who have seen it will know what I mean. The new film imports this element, but not with the same degree of success.

Below is a listing of some of the minor alterations--


Peter hopes to escape with his life and not become a permanent resident in NATURE'S GRAVE

At the beginning, we hear on the radio that there have been some reports of bizarre attacks by cockatoo's on humans. The remake eliminates any information that nature's rebellion might be widespread, instead limiting the vengeful wildlife to the central, isolated location.


Peter's LONG WEEKEND is about to come to an abrupt end

In the original, Peter tries out his rifle's scope by "playfully" aiming at his wife, Marcia. In the remake, he aims his speargun at his wife, named Carla in the new film.

You learn much sooner that Marcia has had an abortion in the original movie. It is revealed when she destroys the Eagle's egg. You don't know of it till towards the end in Blank's version when the couple are driving down the beach to search for the other vacationers. Also, Peter makes mention that the baby wasn't his. In the new movie, he states it was his baby.


The troubled couple arrives at their destination both in LONG WEEKEND (above) and NATURE'S GRAVE (below)


In LONG WEEKEND, Peter and Marcia are making the jaunt on their own, although there is mention that two of their friends were initially going to go with them. In the remake the couple are rendezvousing with one of Peter's friends, Luke, who mysteriously never shows up.


There's something out there in NATURE'S GRAVE

When Peter runs over the kangaroo, another car hits it prompting an unsettling cry of pain which is audible at various points throughout the movie and also is symbolic of a terrible instance in Marcia's life. This disturbing wail is heard far more in the original than it is in the remake. In the new version, the cry isn't heard till Peter inspects the front of his truck. Also, various other animal shrieks and howls are heard at regular intervals.


LONG WEEKEND (1978)

At the beginning, Marcia shows displeasure in their dog, Cricket, joining them on the trip despite Peter wanting to bring him along. While on the road, Marcia discovers Cricket has "stowed away". She realizes Peter has done this on purpose. In the new movie, Peter's guile is understated.


The tense conclusion to LONG WEEKEND

In LONG WEEKEND, Marcia believes they've been driving around in circles as they keep finding the same tree with an arrow carved into it. Peter states they've been on the same track for an hour. In NATURE'S GRAVE, Peter states they've been driving for thirty minutes.

Eggleston's movie has a lot more brief moments where the various animal life displays some subtly unfriendly tendencies towards the two interloping humans. The newer version has a scene not in the original where Peter discovers a big snake hiding underneath a pot. This is in the original, too, but a different animal is substituted.


One of relatively few happy moments from LONG WEEKEND (1978). Below it's probably the only moment both characters smile in the same scene


In the new movie, Carla has an aversion to guns. In the original, Marcia shows no such detestation. There's also more of an attempt at reconciliation between the couple in LONG WEEKEND as opposed to NATURE'S GRAVE. The two fluctuate between bickering and something of a slight semblance of getting along. In Blank's version, they're at each others throats more or less from start to finish.


Something is in the water--LONG WEEKEND (above); NATURE'S GRAVE (below)


In the original, Marcia becomes alarmed when something is spotted in the water while Peter is surfing. After two times, Peter grabs his rifle and kills whatever it is in the water. It is discovered to be a Duggong (sea cow). Peter states that it "must have a pup in the area." He then shovels sand in a half hearted burial. In the remake, Peter and Carla first find a dead baby Duggong on the beach before the discovery of the big one that washes up on the beach after Peter shoots it several times. They just leave it on the beach without covering it with sand.


Discovering and burying the Duggong in LONG WEEKEND


The same scene in NATURE'S GRAVE only the couple leave the dead creature on the shore

Peter is randomly attacked by an eagle in LONG WEEKEND prompting Marcia to destroy its egg. In the new version, the eagle attacks while he's handling its egg out in the open, which Carla then smashes against the tree. Rather cruel and careless, Marcia does this out of frustration for having an abortion. In NATURE'S GRAVE, she smashes the egg, but doesn't reveal about her abortion at this time. This bit of violence against the eagle's baby makes her out to be even more callous.



In the original, Peter wishes to speak with the campers at the other end of the beach. When they arrive, the van is gone. Peter goes exploring and finds the campers belongings scattered about. He finds a tent and upon inspecting it, finds only a dog as its sole occupant and it doesn't seem friendly at all. Back at the van, we hear the animal wailing sound again as Marcia covers her ears. Behind her, we see the van has ended up in the ocean. Marcia, in a moment of hopelessness, exits the jeep and heads for the water to kill herself. Peter stops her and dives below the surface to see the van. He finds a corpse of a woman.


In NATURE'S GRAVE, Peter and Carla go to where the other campers were parked. Peter notices the van is missing. He goes to inspect alone and finds the van sunken in a small inlet away from the ocean. He dives in and enters the vehicle where a female corpse greets him. Exiting the van and the water, he explores nearby and finds a rotted female corpse inside a tent. Looking further he finds a man hanging from a tree, the tree with the arrow carved in it. He goes back to his truck and explains what he has seen to Carla. The two head back to their camp.


***SPOILERS AHEAD***

The ending was the portion of Blank's version I was looking forward to the most to see how he was going to have it play out. Needless to say, I was a bit let down by it for several reasons. Don't read any further if you're planning on seeing either of the films at some point. The comparison is listed below...


LONG WEEKEND Ending: Marcia has had enough and leaves Peter at the campsite alone with his dog. She tries to escape in the jeep, but the wildlife won't allow it. Various birds smash against the windows, terror filling her face. She then hits a massive spider web. Marcia exits the jeep and runs off.


Back at the camp, an ever increasing number of animal sounds are heard while Peter frantically shoots in all directions. Something drops down at his feet. It's his wife's shoe. Crying, he gets his speargun and hears more noises. He hears a sudden squawk from a bird and then fires his spear in that direction. The scene fades to black.


The next morning, we see Peter sitting at his camp in a blank stare. The camera slowly pans over a few feet away from him with the horrifying discovery that he has shot his wife with his speargun. He then retrieves the jeep and upon returning, Peter finds the Duggong carcass now has moved within his campsite.


Peter quickly douses it with gasoline setting it on fire. He and his dog head out on foot till they find the jeep. Peter then tries to escape, but to no avail. He then leaves his dog inside the vehicle and carelessly makes his way out on foot in a panic. In a frightening twist, various snakes and other creatures "lead" Peter out of the strange maze and out onto the main highway where a passing 18 wheeler runs hims over after a bird flies into the window.


NATURE'S GRAVE Ending: The new version goes by much quicker. Only one bird hits the windshield when Carla stops the truck and takes off on foot. She never runs into the enormous spider web seen in the original. Peter sitting by the fire isn't as suspenseful as Eggleston's version. The sound effects of the animals aren't nearly as effective and the scene is over with rather quickly. The bit where Carla's shoe is dropped down in front of him is downplayed here. When he fires his spear gun, he simply hears a rustling in the woods and fires in that direction.



For the next sequence, the new version shuffles things around a bit. The next morning Peter awakens to find the Duggong carcass by the campsite. Startled, he simply runs away. He then briefly follows Cricket around till he stumbles upon Carla's dead body. She isn't by the camp, but a distance away. Everything else from this point on plays out much the same, only his running over by the truck hasn't the punch of the original, but is far more gruesome.


The final scene of LONG WEEKEND (above); The final scene of NATURE'S GRAVE (below)


NATURE'S GRAVE (2008) was mostly a disappointment for me as there was nothing even remotely memorable about any of the changes. I can't imagine there being much interest in the remake apart from those familiar with the original movie who would see this strictly out of curiosity. On the other hand, those who've never seen the original picture may find something of interest in the new film since they won't know what's coming...unless they've read this article from start to finish.


Peter finds a number of clues that others have been to this secluded beach...others that may have never left.

Blank's scored some impressive horror credits with his slasher rendition, VALENTINE (2001) and his 70's style gore throwback, STORM WARNING (2007), but NATURE'S GRAVE (2008) is hardly worth paying your respects.



3 comments:

Carl (ILHM) said...

Having not seen the original, I can say that I really enjoyed NATURES GRAVE, but I am all the more interested in seeing the original. I had heard that the two films were FUNNY GAMES / FUNNY GAMES US similar, and this seems to cement that. Will be sure to pick up LONG WEEKEND on your rec V!

venoms5 said...

I absolutely love the original, Carl. It's one of my favorite movies. I found this new version to be pretty much unnecessary, but not without some good moments. If there's going to be more remakes, I wish they could be in the vein of HILLS HAVE EYES wherein they're faithful, but manage to respectfully put there own spin on the subject.

thetruth said...

I cannot imagine ANYONE being foolhardy enough to want to re-make the original - the 1978 version was a masterpiece of slow burning suspense - what amazed me was that, while in other movies the slow pace would have been a handicap, here it added to the palpable sense of dread felt. The forest surroundings were a character all by itself, and added to the menace felt in the film. I actually bought the original actors as a couple - by contrast while Claudia Karvan tries to do her best, the husband in the original seems to have wandered into this movie as if my accident! Fair play to the Director, Jamie Blanka for attempting a re-make, but he was clearly out of his depth here.

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