JANUARY 24, 2010
I didn’t take notes for Nature’s Grave, but I guess I could just use the ones I wrote for Long Weekend and write the exact same review, since Jamie Blanks (and original writer Everett DeRoche) made the exact same movie. Granted, the basic plot doesn’t leave much room for mixing things up (though I suppose they could have put the wife front and center this time around), but Christ, entire dialogue exchanges are repeated verbatim and the film as a whole goes by beat for beat the same as it did in the 1978 version. So my question is: why did they bother?
I’m particularly puzzled since Blanks’ previous film was Storm Warning, which was also about a couple on a camping trip who run afoul of an enemy (albeit a more traditional family of backwoods deviants instead of mother nature). Didn’t he get this sort of thing out of his system? Why would he want to make two movies in a row where any plot synopsis would begin “A couple’s vacation is cut short when...”? And why remake a film and not do anything different? Even the horrid Psycho remake can at least claim that Vince Vaughn had a different interpretation of the character than Anthony Perkins had, but Jim Caviezel and Claudia Karvan pretty much play their characters the same way: he’s brash and cocky, she is shrill and agoraphobic. Even swapping the sexes (but otherwise retaining the identical script) would have been at least somewhat interesting for a while, but Blanks and DeRoche don’t offer us any such alternate approach. The only major difference I caught came at the very end; instead of just fading out after the truck stops, Blanks inserts some footage of the two of them at their wedding, looking happy and such. It’s a sort of nice touch, but it’s not really relevant either; had they killed each other, it would be a nice bit of irony, but they were killed by mother nature. It would make more sense to show footage of them, I dunno, enjoying a nice day in the city or going to the recycling plant or something.
Needless to say, this means that they don’t take the opportunity to improve on the original’s (minor) flaws, such as the go-nowhere subplot (more like sub-shot) where Peter’s cigarette causes a fire. Once again we see the fire start, and once again it’s never mentioned again. The guys at the bar are once again sort of creepy, but once again we never learn if they were simply trying to keep the visitors from harm by telling them that there was no beach, or if they really had never heard of it (and if not, then how did Peter hear about it? Everyone who goes there dies, right?).
Now, if you’ve never seen either version, then I wouldn’t know which one to recommend. Obviously the original is worthy of more respect, but Blanks does bring some stylistic touches here and there that the original lacked, and Karvan is much easier to bear than Briony Behets was in the original (they have also dropped the fact that she was still cheating on Peter, so she’s not unsympathetic from the start). And obviously things like the eagle attack are less goofy, so there’s something. And since everything is upgraded, we get the creepy image of a GPS trying to find its bearings in the middle of a blank area, which is better than looking at a map and saying “this road’s not on here” or something. So yeah, they have “modernized” the film, but I didn’t feel that the original was dated, so it’s hardly a good enough excuse to bother with such an exact replica.
I dunno. Maybe if it had been years instead of a couple weeks since I saw the original, I would have enjoyed it more, as I wouldn’t have been able to recall everything so easily. I mean, there’s nothing technically BAD about the movie - it’s just literally the exact same movie in pretty much every way that matters. So fuck it, let’s be positive - if you are in the mood to watch a couple of assholes get their just desserts at the hands of the animal kingdom and some trees, then you have two pretty much equally enjoyable options. Go with the one that’s easier to come by and be done with it.
What say you?