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 must be hell on the camping industry! Much like Friday the 13th, Day of the Animals, The Blair Witch Project, and, more recently, Preservation and Exists, 2014’s Backcountry managed to convince me that anyone pitching a tent in the middle of a thick forest is just asking for trouble.

Having spent a good deal of his childhood roaming the woods of a picturesque Canadian reserve, Alex (Jeff Roop) decides to treat his girlfriend Jenn (Missy Peregrym) to what he believes will be a romantic weekend getaway, and can’t wait to show her the beautiful lake and waterfall that lie at the end of Blackfoot Trail. Unfortunately, the excursion doesn’t go as he planned; their first night in the woods, Jenn invites Brad (Eric Balfour), an Irish hiker who happened to be passing by, 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 two venture deeper into the wilderness, their food reserve is eaten by an animal (Alex is convinced it was a raccoon), and, to make matters worse, Alex gets lost while guiding Jenn to the lake, with no idea how to get back to the trail. Yet as bad as the situation is, there’s an even greater threat lurking nearby, and the panicked couple must do everything they can to get as far away from it as possible.

Backcountry builds the tension up slowly, putting its characters (and us) on edge with each new mini-disaster that strikes. During his time with them, Brad seems intent on challenging Alex’s manhood, as if he was attempting to steal Jenn away from him (right before leaving, he appeared ready for a fight). So, later that evening, when Jenn hears noises outside their tent, she’s afraid it might be Brad spying on them (Alex calms her by saying it’s simply acorns falling from a nearby tree). Of course, this is just the beginning of their worries, and with each successive scene, director Adam MacDonald tosses a bit more stress into the mix, which reaches 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 he also stole her cell phone from her backpack and hid it in the car, hoping to keep her mind off of the outside world during their vacation). Still, even with the methodical way it generates tension, the terror that eventually befalls the young couple happens so quickly, and so matter-of-factly, that it catches us off-guard, resulting in a scene more terrifying than anything we had imagined.

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

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