This tense thriller follows a young couple who go camping in the Canadian wilderness. Alex (Jeff Roop, Jekyll + Hyde) is a seasoned camper, but Jenn (Missy Peregrym, Rookie Blue) is not. When they realize that they have entered bear territory, the terror gets turned up to a whole new level.
In the film BACKCOUNTRY, we join Alex Lewis, and his girlfriend, Jenn, a Lawyer, as they embark on a camping trip. Jenn, who works in legal, is an indoors type, however, Alex, a seasoned outdoors-man, wants to change that. And so he arranges a trip, to Blackfoot Trail, his favorite camping site. However, when they arrive, the ranger on duty is quick to alert Alex(out of earshot of Jenn) that Blackfoot Trail has been closed for the season, due to the erratic behavior of some guests, and that going onto the trail, would result in a $500 each, fine. But, of course, Alex does not heed the man's warning, and soon, the couple head up to Blackfoot, anyway. After some preparation, they soon reach their destination, and the night proceeds rather routinely - however, not for long. Because they soon find themselves lost. After a while of attempting to get back where they begun, the two give in, and decide to call it a night. However, unfortunately, little did they know that they have just set up their tent and supplies right in the path of a hungry bear. A bear, that viscously attacks them. As a result, Alex is brutally mauled by the animal, leaving the inexperienced of the two, Jenn, to fend for herself. It's a true battle for survival, as Jenn must relax, face fear, and adjust to her surroundings, as she hopes to survive the blood-soaked wilderness.
Remember how, not too long ago, in my review for the film, INTO THE MAZE, I had mentioned that Actress Missy Peregrym, of ROOKIE BLUE fame, had left that particular film to film another of a similar theme? Well, Adam Macdonald's, BACKCOUNTRY is that film. After I reviewed INTO THE MAZE first, I knew that, soon, I would be reviewing this film as well, and anticipated having to essentially sit through a nearly identical sounding plot. Because, after all, I knew very little, aside from what the IMDb trivia stated about the 2 films being similar. So into the film, I went, but what I would find would be further proof, that one shouldn't always believe what you read(especially on the Internet).
Because, although they do both involve people being lost in the wilderness, amid inner conflict, and an impending bear attack, the 2 films are both very different, in both, their nature and feel. While INTO THE MAZE felt like a sort of like a 1970s drive-in flick, with some of its qualities resembling that of a TV movie of the week, BACKCOUNTRY, is a film that is much more deep, and rich with human emotion, and has the type of raw quality that is found in the best thrillers of the 1970s. There are no hokey, eccentric characters here(aside from Eric Balfour's f aux-Irish accent. Which is the only thing i'd consider, off-beat here), just real people faced with real suspense and fear. The film itself is nicely plotted, and progresses quite nicely with its story telling. The film starts off rather normal, and resembles the typical story about a couple going on a nice little camping trip. But, as always with a film of this nature, things don't go quite as planned, and it is up to the film to leave us in wonder, about just what will happen. We know that it will involve a giant Grizzly, as the imposing animal is nicely, and prominently pictured on the film's packaging. But how is it that things arrive to that point? Macdonald, whom was also the writer of the film, makes things uncertain to us, by presenting to us, a couple of levels of turmoil, which, in the end, further builds the film's characters. First enters Eric Balfour's character, Brad. Brad is an Irishman, and among other things, he is also a skilled woodsman, and tour guide - or so he says. When Brad, shows up, essentially out of nowhere, Alex is worried that the man may not be who he seems, and he becomes more weary, when Jenn invites him to a campsite dinner. During said dinner, Brad displays a rather volatile, and pushy nature, one that makes him fairly unpredictable. For awhile there, we aren't quite sure what he would, or wouldn't do. But luckily, it doesn't escalate(or does it?). Another thing which complicates the camping trip of our couple's camping adventure, is that the two eventually get lost, which causes a rift between them. It's a situation, which brings out emotion within the characters(and the true reason for the trip in the first place - which I won't reveal). It's the type of emotion, that causes the viewer to become truly invested in them. This of course makes what would happen to them next, pretty heart-wrenching. Because soon, Alex and Jenn find themselves stalked by a hungry bear. And here comes a spoiler - this results in Alex, being mauled by the bear. As Alex watches on as the bear takes apart the man that she loves, she must buckle down and fend for herself, in order to save her life. Although, I pretty much enjoyed INTO THE MAZE for what it was in the end, I must admit, that it ended rather predictably, in that it was, in fact a man, who saved the day. However, in BACKCOUNTRY, it is the exact opposite, as it is a film that puts its focus on the strong and powerful female. In the film, Jenn is totally someone you can get behind and root for. Because remember, at the beginning of the film, out of the 2 main characters, it was she, who was the less experienced, So, here, we watch, as a young female, comes into her own, right before our eyes. It is at times, highly intense, and is really a nice thing to witness. Along with this, the film, is truly a roller coaster full of emotion, that is well worth the ride, as in the end, things come full circle, making for a very pleasing outcome.
In the behind the scenes documentary that is included on the disc, Writer/Director, Adam Macdonald explains that he had been crafting the story behind BACKCOUNTRY for 2 years, and that for the main characters, he had specific people in mind(and luckily he got them in his cousin, Actor, Jeff Roop, and Missy Peregrym, an Actor he has worked with on ROOKIE BLUE). And with this in mind, one could really tell, as the characters fit their personalities perfectly, making the characters, that much more believable.
I'm honest when I say, that going in, I expected the same old average bear attack movie, but I have to say that BACKCOUNTRY is one that really surprised me. The story is not one that exisits only for the gore, as its story is also deeply written, with much heart and sincerity. I must also take about the film's approach when it comes to its suspense. Like an old school survivalist film, BACKCOUNTRY actually owns a sense of dread - especially during it's latter portion. I think what impressed me most here, was the actual bear attack. Talk about intense. It is truly the film's standout moment! It is obvious that the bear scenes in the film were well planned, and well thought out, as they have a nice level of precision to them. The attack utilizes both the point of view, of not only, the bear, but also the victim. This, alongside nice transitions between the strikes of the bear, as well as the special effects, create sequences that are ultra realistic, and undeniably effective.
In the end, I ended up enjoying BACKCOUNTRY a lot. It has a nicely formed story, as well as characters, and it moves along, much in the manner of a classic thriller. BACKCOUNTRY, in my opinion, is much more than your average Creature Feature, and I think it will definitely surprise people who go in expecting otherwise.
The Blu-Ray from SCREAM! FACTORY and IFC MIDNIGHT includes 2 featurettes, as well as a still gallery, and the film's trailer.
Some details about the featurettes are as follows :
Behind the Scenes (17m 25s)
In this featurette, the Writer/Director Adam Macdonald, the film's Producer, Thomas Michael, as well as the film's 3 main stars, Missy Peregrym("Jenn"), Jeff Roop("Alex"), and Eric Balfour("Brad"), respectively talk about how the film came about, as well as the characters of BACKCOUNTRY.
Bear Shots (17m 25s)
In order to get the 2 bears, who were used in the film, the trainers first needed to know what would be asked from them. To explain what he needed ro film, Macdonald shot a short video using his cat as a reference. This is that video.
7/10 The score for the film consists mostly of the classic suspense kind, and fits the film really well. I really, really enjoyed the film's main theme, which is sort've like this frantic Banjo tune. It too also echoes classic cinema.
IMPRESSION OF THE FILM
Yes, some may see BACKCOUNTRY as just another in a line of Creature Features. However, people who look for stories within their Horror films, will find a well crafted film here. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good Creature Feature, as well as just a good thriller in general
Special Features include :
- Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Adam MacDonald And Actors Missy Peregrym And Jeff Roop
- Behind-The-Scenes Featurette
- Theatrical Trailer
- Still Gallery