Backcountry has a lot familiar parts but as a whole it manages to carve out its own, very tense survival horror/animal amok horror film. Despite the name this is not a ‘freaks in the woods’ story but rather a look at how hubris and nature can possibly kill you… well a bear helps as well.
Backcountry takes its time setting up out couple Jenn (Missy Peregrym) and Alex (Jeff Roop) who are going camping so Alex can show Jenn a magical little place in the forest that he discovered some time ago. As we spend more time with the couple they seem to have been together for quite sometime, so little things that each other do end up grate on them, its a nice touch and if you are in a long term relationship you can almost immediately relate. It is this kind of writing that really sets up the story and the denouement which you can actually feel coming (and is laid out very early on) but can’t do anything about. The couple is put through a mini test early on as the Irish outdoors man Brad (Eric Balfour) invades their coupledom ever so briefly but even in this short time he provides some menace and goads Alex, just to see if he can break him. This is another foreboding scene in the film and it sets up a very tense film from this point.
The acting in Backcountry is great from the the two main leads. Peregrym and Roop have a natural chemistry and when the tension bumps up these two thrive onscreen. Eric Balfour is very memorable in his role as well, his character is played on the line of being an a-hole or just trying to be the alpha male (and no those two things aren’t always mutually exclusive) and as mentioned before he sets the film off kilter.
Writer and director Adam McDonald is the winner here though. He is created something that is amazingly tense despite ‘nothing much’ happening for a good deal of the run time. He knows just when to up the danger to a point where he takes his foot off the brake and lets the horrific finale play out as it careens downhill but without losing its focus. All the way through any violence or blood letting is pushed into the back ground before it is unleashed and it is very effective and tough to watch.
Regardless of if you go camping or not (chances are if haven’t been, you definitely won’t want to go after this), you will certainly feel everything that happens in the film. Backcountry should be seen.