Do you remember Open Water? Let me refresh your memory. A young couple gets left stranded in the deep blue sea after their tour group leaves them behind. It’s a glorious, atmospheric survival film with suspense building from one scene to the next. Now replace the ocean with the woods and a shark with a bear.
That is Backcountry.
Alex (Jeff Roop) and Jenn (Missy Peregrym), a young adventurous couple, decide to leave the city and head out in to the Canadian wilderness. Alex is an experienced outdoorsman who is familiar with Provincial Park, but Jenn is a lawyer who cannot stay off her phone. From the beginning, she’s not thrilled about camping, but she’s doing it for Alex. He wants to take her to Blackfoot Trail—one of his favorite secluded spots with an amazing view. As the journey gets longer, it intensifies with each encounter (man and beast). And then with every passing day, food and water becomes scarce until finally the truth is said out loud. The trail Alex once knew has vanished. They are despairingly lost.
Roop and Peregrym go together so well. If someone said they were a real couple off-screen, I would believe it. They have solid chemistry and wear the cruelties of the wilderness very well. Alex and Jenn are tested in the most extreme conditions. It is easy to see they are at war with nature and themselves, and it takes a toll on their already fragile relationship.
In his directorial debut, Adam MacDonald instantly shows his skills when it comes to messing with your nerves. By being in the middle of nowhere along with the struggle of overcoming the brutality of Mother Nature herself, a feeling of isolation, terror and panic can demolish the soul. In exceptionally smooth fashion, MacDonald demonstrates just that. His film is indisputably effective due to the execution of showing very little, but suggesting so much.
How far would I go? What would I do? How would I survive?
These questions are asked in our minds throughout movies that have a certain kind of reality to them. There’s a shocking realism to situations we never think about until it’s staring us right in the face. Films such as this one, Open Water, and the one that probably started it all, The Blair Witch Project, do such a terrific job at guiding the audience to imagining themselves in these nerve-frying situations. And the fact you know it could happen sends chills.
Backcountry is a terrific example of taking a simple concept and turning it in to something truly horrific.