The portrayal of bears in popular culture has always leaned towards the cute and cuddly side especially if you consider all the cartoons with clumsy and friendly bears. There was a small wave of killer bear movies in the seventies but I think that the movie The Edge from 1997 brought them back as something to be feared. And we all remember just how vicious the scenes in The Revenant were, although this movie was not about bears per se. More about that towards the end of the review because now is the time to go for a walk in the backcountry.
First of all, Backcountry is loosely based on real events and I will leave the link for the actual event after the review. I recommend you read it after you’ve seen the movie, just to keep things interesting. This was a directorial debut for an accomplished actor Adam MacDonald and it seems that the kid is on to something, especially when it comes to directing. The movie was shot in just 16 days and it had a rather small budget. You can’t feel any of it because of the way it was shot and the magnificent landscapes that it features.
This is a classic couple-goes-on-an-adventure-that-goes-horribly-wrong movie and in that sense, it’s not very original. Still, it has a certain charm because of the setting and the execution. Our two main actors Jeff Roop and Missy Peregrym did a great job with a script that was a bit too clunky and sometimes melodramatic. I mean, sometimes the scenes between the two of them seemed like from a sitcom while at other times, especially with the introduction of Eric Balfour, everything looked really well written and engaging. If you decide to watch Backcountry with your partner it presents a great opportunity to discuss how would you behave in certain situations. I must admit that I engaged in such discussions and they were pretty interesting.
Alex and Jenn are a couple living in a big city, an urban concrete jungle, busy with their jobs and everyday chores. Alex used to hike a lot when he was younger and the couple decides to go on a hiking adventure to a secret lake. After arriving at the visitors center, a local ranger warns them that it’s quite late in the season and the trail they were planning to take is closed, but Alex disregards the warnings and decides that they carry on…
Shot in North Bay, Ontario, Canada, Backcountry features mesmerizing lush forests and beautiful nature that you just want to visit immediately. Feels like a place where Bear Grylls would shoot some of his shows although being located in Canada, I think this is more of a Survivorman territory. The camerawork was excellent and the director managed to create a decent atmosphere with just two characters and the surrounding nature. Cleverly building up the tension to the event you know it’s coming, Backcountry was decently paced although it sometimes feels a bit draggy.
The final third was very engaging and intense and visuals helped a lot with that. The special effects were very effective and visceral, something I didn’t expect from a movie that started as a television flick for one of those sleepless nights, so be prepared for one hell of a finale. In the end, this is a decent movie and a great entry into the bear attack sub-genre, especially when compared to some of the recent releases. Grizzly Maze had great actors but it was kind of dull and Unnatural makes the aforementioned seem like a masterpiece. If you want to explore more similar movies I recommend you check out Rabbit Review Natural Horror Lists.
The Edge remains the reigning champion and if you’re up for some old school you might want to check out John Frankenheimer’s Prophecy from 1979 about mutant killer bear created from toxic waste. Ahh, the eighties, they have been warning us about toxic waste and the environment for so long and we haven’t learned anything. Finally, if you’re looking for some real bear action I can’t recommend enough Werner Herzog’s documentary Grizzly Man.
Cast: Jeff Roop, Missy Peregrym, Nicholas Campbell, Eric Balfour
Fun Facts: The film is set in fictional “Nibookaazo Provincial Park”, this can be seen written on the side of the canoe towards the end of the film. In the native North American Ojibwe language this translates into “Pretend to be Dead Provincial Park”