Backcountry is one of the most surprising movies I’ve watched in recent memory. I couldn’t have possibly had less expectations. And what do you know, I ended up loving it! What a pleasant surprise.
Alex and Jenn, a young couple played by Jeff Roop and Missy Peregrym, head out for a weekend camping trip. This is Jenn’s first camping trip and she’s actually quite scared of what they might encounter. Alex assures her everything will be fine. Having grown up in and around these woods, Alex claims to be an expert so much so that he turns down a map when the park ranger offers him one. The trip starts off fine enough but by day two the couple is lost.
As Alex and Jenn desperately try and find their way in the woods they notice a few signs that suggest a bear might be near by. Before long they actually come face to face with a black bear. Now not only must Alex and Jenn find their way out of the woods but they also have a bear to worry about. I’m no expert, but this doesn’t really feel like an ideal camping situation.
I was pretty much on edge the entire time I was watching Backcountry. Going into the film I knew it was about a bear attack so writer/director Adam MacDonald was working with a pretty sizable advantage to build suspense. The whole time you’re watching you’re waiting for a bear attack. Luckily MacDonald wisely chose not to rely solely on that fact.
Other elements are tossed in to help build the tension. On the couple’s first night in the middle of the woods they encounter a strange individual named Brad played by Eric Balfour. Brad’s an interesting character. He seems like a nice enough guy, just out enjoying the wilderness, no different than Alex and Jenn. And yet, there’s something creepy about him. You can’t fully trust him. This is a great little role for Balfour. He nails it, even pulling off a pretty convincing Irish accent.
I don’t want to spoil too much of the film but the bear does find them and he does attack. While the bear attack scenes are brief, they’re quite gruesome. If you have a weak stomach you may be best suited covering your eyes during these moments.
A heavily wooded area is such a wonderful location for a horror film. The whole time Alex and Jenn are trapped in the middle of nowhere, yet at the same time they’re just on the outskirts of civilization. Head in the right direction and it won’t be long before they reach safety, but head in the wrong direction and they go further and further into the dangerous unknown.
This is what freaked me out so much about Backcountry. I feel like this could easily happen to me. I live in Portland, a city founded in the middle of the woods. This is black bear country. In my mind bears, just like the one in Backcountry, are constantly circling me, just waiting to make their move. This movie just reinforces my thoughts. I already hated camping and thanks to Backcountry I’m now terrified of it.
Backcountry is a supremely scary little flick. How any reasonably sane human being can think camping is a good idea after viewing it is beyond me. Be smart. Don’t go into the woods.
Backcountry is now available on Blu-ray from IFC Midnight and Scream Factory.