Wednesday, January 27, 2016

#1,990. Backcountry (2014)

Directed By: Adam MacDonald

Starring: Missy Peregrym, Eric Balfour, Nicholas Campbell

Tag line: "Survive"

Trivia: The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2014

Man, horror movies have been hell on the camping industry!

As it was with Friday the 13th, Day of the Animals, The Blair Witch Project, and, more recently, Preservation and Exists, 2014’s Backcountry has convinced me that anyone pitching a tent in the middle of a thick forest is just asking for trouble.

Alex (Jeff Roop) spent most of his childhood roaming the woods of a picturesque Canadian reserve, and wants to treat his girlfriend Jenn (Missy Peregrym) to what he believes will be a romantic weekend getaway in this very locale. He can’t wait to show her the beautiful lake, or the waterfall that lies at the end of Blackfoot Trail. 

But the excursion doesn’t go as planned. Their first night in the forest, Jenn invites Brad (Eric Balfour), an Irish hiker, to have dinner with them. Over the course of the evening, Brad acts erratically, resulting in a few tense moments for Alex and Jenn. Then, once the couple ventures deeper into the wilderness, their food is eaten by a wild animal. To make matters worse, Alex gets lost while guiding Jenn to the lake, and has no idea how to get back to the trail. 

Yet as bad as the situation seems, there’s an even greater danger lurking nearby, and Alex and Jenn must do everything in their power to get as far away from it as possible.

Throughout Backcountry , director Adam MacDonald builds the tension slowly while, at the same time, putting his characters (and, in turn, we the audience) on edge with each new mini-disaster that befalls them. During their brief time together,  Brad challenges Alex’s manhood, as if trying to steal Jenn away from him. So, later that night, when Jenn hears noises outside their tent, she fears it might be Brad spying on them.  Alas, t
his is just the start of their worries. With each successive scene, Backcountry introduces a bit more friction into the mix, reaching a fever pitch when Alex loses his way (not only did he refuse a map at the visitors center - a move clearly designed to impress Jenn - but Alex also lifted Jenn's cell phone from her backpack and hid it in the car, to keep her mind off the outside world during their vacation). 

Still, even with the methodical manner in which the film generates tension, the greatest terror to befall the young couple happens so quickly - and so matter-of-factly - that it catches us off-guard, resulting in a pivotal scene that is more terrifying than anything we could have imagined.

Films like Jaws and The Impossible have proven that the beach isn’t always a safe haven, but after watching what unfolds in Backcountry, I’ll take lying in the sand over a stroll in the woods every damn day of the week!

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