Dir. Adam MacDonald (2014)
A camping trip is cut short by a bear really doesn’t like campers.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
This right here, officer. This is why I don’t camp. Because of fucking bears, bees, and all sorts of other woodland creatures that would just as soon eat me as look at me. Watching movies like this does not increase my affinity for the outdoors, and while I absolutely enjoy the beauty of nature, lots of other people love it enough to go and take pictures of it that I can look at and enjoy from home. The fact that this was basically a true story, based on an actual bear attack, is further proof that we have evolved for millions of years so that we don’t have to go off into the woods and fight bears.
Excuse me sir, do you have any honey?
A young couple named Alex and Jen (Jeff Roop and Missy Peregrym) are looking to get away from it all by heading off into the woods. Jen is a lawyer and Alex is a landscaper, and they want to spend a few days relaxing in nature. After setting up camp at a pre-established campground, a mysterious Irish stranger enters the camp with fish that he has just caught, and he’s about as creepy as he could be without being overtly threatening. He is doing everything he can to denigrate Alex, trying to act the big man and tell Alex how little he knows about the area. He says that he grew up in the woods (of Ireland, apparently) and knows his way around, giving eco tours to tourists who are looking to see more of nature. He’s threatening, and the thought of meeting someone like that when there’s no immediate path to safety is scary as hell. Unfortunately for the young couple, they have much more to worry about than the Woodland Weirdo.
The next morning, the couple decide to hike farther into the woods to see this mysterious lake surrounding by black earth. Along the way, Alex discovers a bear footprint and, of course, decides not to tell Jen because she doesn’t want anything to do with any of this outdoors shit anyway. When they start hearing noises outside their tent at night, they suspect that their creepy neighbor may be following them. The audience, however, has seen the poster with the big black bear on it, so… yeah, probably not him. The next day, they discover a half-eaten deer swarming with flies, and Jen is completely not about that life and wants to go home immediately. Alex trudges onward, determined to show his girlfriend a good time. He doesn’t succeed in this even a little bit, and once they inevitably get lost, their fragile relationship begins to come unraveled.
It’s first and foremost a story of survival, and while that’s not in the cards for everyone in our story, there’s something so primal about watching a bear rip someone to pieces and knowing that it could easily be doing the same to you next. The film does an amazing job of putting us in our poor camper’s shoes, feeling that extreme urge to simply survive. It’s a tense film, and the director does a marvelous job, once shit starts to hit the fan, of keeping us on the edge of our seat. There are hints of foreshadowing throughout in the film’s script, but nothing that is so on the nose that it feels unreal or unnecessary. At the end of the day, it’s not simply two folks against nature: it’s two folks against nature’s greatest killing machine (except maybe sharks).
Do these look like two people who would survive a bear attack to you?
The film is filled with eautiful scenery made all the better with gorgeous cinematography. better than adequate acting, and perhaps the first film ever that lets you see from the perspective of a bear! BearCam™! Featuring one of the gnarliest animal kills that you’ll ever see and filled to the brim with isolated tension, Backcountry was far better than I expected it to be while still having the type of indie flare that stands on its own. For an indie, this is a damn good film. It’s also terrifying for anyone who already has a healthy fear of nature.
Who this movie is for: Indie film lovers, Animal Attack Horror fans, People who always wanted Winnie the Pooh to eat Piglet
Bottom line: Far better than it has any right to be and featuring both excellent gore and storytelling, Backcountry is not to be missed. It’s streaming on Shudder, so there’s almost no excuse. The acting is excellent, the story is compelling, the cinematography is fucking gorgeous, and the fact that it’s based on a true story pushes it right over the top. I loved this one, and if you hate nature as much as I do, you will too.