Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Nature's Grave (2009)

Australia has always captivated me. “The land down under” just seems so wild, untamed and dangerous, featuring some of the world’s most venomous/poisonous animals, insects, reptiles and plants known to man. I’ve always wanted to visit there, but the thought of adding to the destruction of its unique ecosystem just turns my stomach. I don’t want to be just another one of those disrespectful tourists that go tramping through nature, spoiling the region’s natural beauty and tranquility! Not to mention that I might come face to face with some of its more deadly inhabitants!

So, when I received the film Nature’s Grave (releasing August 4th, 2009 from Screen Media Films), which just so happens to be set in breathtaking Australia and shows how Mother Nature can strike back against careless humans, I was eager to check it out! The film opens right away on some jaw-droppingly beautiful shots of Australia’s north coast before cutting to bickering couple Peter (James Caviezel) and Carla (Claudia Karvan), who are taking a long weekend and leaving on a camping trip to try to patch up their disintegrating marriage. Of course, some stormy weather keeps them on the road longer than they expected, so they don’t arrive to the isolated, hidden beach they are planning to camp on until very late at night. Right away Carla gets a strange feeling about the place, but stubborn Peter seems more interested in getting drunk, going surfing and spending time with his dog, Cricket, than working through any of their problems (one of which is that he is a selfish prick).

The couple is supposed to meet some friends there, but they never show. As Peter kills and terrorizes the local wildlife, throws beer bottles into the ocean, hacks away at trees and Carla sprays bug spray over everything and tries to spend most of the time as far away from nature as possible, the surrounding wilderness takes on an ominous feeling. It seems that Mother Nature isn’t taking too kindly to their intrusion. They hear strange crying noises at night, Peter is attacked by an eagle, animals break into their food and something very large lurks in the water just off shore. Carla insists they leave, but Peter can’t be bothered by her warnings and just wants to stick it out.

When they realize just how much danger they are in, it’s already too late and it’s time for Mother Nature to get even…

I wasn’t aware of this before watching Nature’s Grave, but it is actually a remake of a 1978 Australian film titled Long Weekend. From what I hear it has a bit of a cult following and is definitely worth a look. As for Nature’s Grave…eh, not so much, I’m afraid. It is supposedly a shot-for-shot remake of Long Weekend, but I’m guessing it is missing A LOT of the previous film’s subtleties and nuances.

Nature’s Grave is directed by Jamie Blank, who directed the awful Storm Warning and the mediocre Valentine and Urban Legend. Often times the film feels flat, and feels like it’s missing any kind of emotional connection with the audience. There are some beautiful shots of the Australian wilderness and wildlife, but at times it just didn’t feel like there was enough. I also thought the film’s creepy moments lacked punch and could have used with a few more scares.

The story, written by Everett De Roche (he also wrote the original Long Weekend), moves at a slow-but-sure pace, and I actually enjoyed the slowly-building dread. However, the characters are highly unlikable, with an over-the-top performance by Caviezel that feels like he’s never taking his character seriously to Karvan’s strangely reserved character that doesn’t even fight back when her husband tells her to “go fuck yourself”. Neither character is interesting and you don’t want to root for either, which kills any kind of tension that De Roche tried to build in his story. Without anyone to root for to survive, I found myself waiting for Mother Nature to extract her revenge on these two characters.

Though there are a few creepy scenes – one where something is lurking in the ocean’s crystal blue waters, another where a dead animal is seemingly moving of its own accord and, towards the end, another where Peter finds some other “campers”, most of the “revenge” that happens occurs because of the two characters’ doing. In the end, it’s really their own stupidity that catches up with them as opposed to Mother Nature. This really is a pity, because I was really hoping to see the characters ripped apart by animals or plants after how disrespectfully they treated nature.

Nature’s Grave isn’t that memorable of an affair. Though it has a few spooky scenes, the performances of the two actors and the way their characters are written are just grating and make the film hard to sit through. And when their final curtain finally comes, it just doesn’t feel vicious enough for what you’ve had to put up with the last hour and a half. My advice? Seek the original Long Weekend out…it has to be infinitely better than its remake, Nature’s Grave.

Buy it on Amazon!

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