Quick Hit: Solid development of story and red herrings, with very little development of characters.
I was thinking as I was watching this movie about creature features in general. Part of it may be because I included several of them on the list for Halloween horror movies this month, part of it be the current Twitter handle for the website. But most of all, I think it’s because I just legitimately enjoy animals, and therefore enjoy the horror of seeing them devour people as well. There’s a sad lack of bear horror out there, particularly that isn’t parody based, but Backcountry, Adam MacDonald’s debut feature, strives to fill that void.
The plot is just about as simple as you could expect, and there is a lot of commendation that is deserved for MacDonald, who also wrote the film, for getting everything together so simply. Alex (Jeff Roop) and Jenn (Missy Peregrym) are getting ready to go on a hike in the woods. They’re very different, but maybe that’s why they work. After numerous placements of items – the lack of a map, the placement of a cell phone – they set out for a lake from Alex’s memory alone. After a strange encounter with another hiker, they find themselves lost. As the tension grows in the moment they finally realize they have no idea where to go, they start to hear something that may be tracking them.
From here, the movie goes into a bit of a survivor thriller mode, which is a bit disappointing. The bear (a real bear was reportedly used), shows up late in the film, and though he has a terrific bit of on screen time, you can’t help but think so much of this is set up just for the effects team to have fun. While most of the action from the bear is under a shaky cam, the carnage is laid out for the eyes to see. It’s devastating and much worse than anything you’d see in The Revenant. Maybe Alex should have just played dead, but I have a feeling it wouldn’t have worked in this story.
What’s most disappointing throughout the story is just how little you learn about Alex and Missy. They interact with each other throughout the story in a number of escalating arguments, and there feels like there is very little in the way of characterization. Missy is a bit high strung, and I guess is a lawyer or something like it, whereas Alex is not. I wish there was more to it than that – and there are the bones of something more there, in the way Alex is obviously emasculated several times throughout the film – but there just isn’t enough to hang your hat on.
Nevertheless, Backcountry provides enough in its sparse run time that you will probably enjoy it. And, as I stated, how much other bear horror is there out there? Check it out if you’ve got time in your final week of October! I’m giving it a “C”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"