Backcountry (2015)

0dw51e46GKHey you guys, sorry it’s been a while! I’ve been moving, starting school, and generally just busy. I’m sure the majority of you won’t have noticed, but for those who do I just thought I’d let you know that I was back and ready to get back to work. Let’s start things up with a Canadian movie, Backcountry:

An urban couple go camping in the woods and find themselves lost in the territory of a predatory black bear.

Alright, so I hesitate a little bit to call this a horror movie, because given its context it feels a whole lot more like a drama that happens to involve a really graphic bear attack. I know for some, tense scenes with a bear might equal a horror movie but this one just doesn’t do that. It goes hyper-realistic and deals with something we know really does happen to people in a pretty insensitive way.

We meet our characters as they embark on a journey into the woods, overall the first 50 minutes of the movie is a pretty standard fare where not a whole lot happens. Jeff Roop and Missy Peregrym are fine in their roles, their relationship feels pretty natural and the chemistry works for the most part. The issue with character arises more from their individual actions in the movie. Most glaringly, is the fact that Alex (Roop) refuses a map before going out into the titular backcountry, and also hides Jenn’s (Peregrym) phone in their car before they leave. So, despite his being an “experienced” woodsman, when they inevitably get lost, it’s entirely on him. I found that a bit hard to take, and the fact that upon learning that they are lost, Jenn’s response is to tell Alex what a “f*cking loser” she thinks he is. Almost immediately.

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A thought I had while watching this, was that it basically feels like a sequel to The Blair Witch Project if Heather and Mike survived that movie, and for some dumb reason decided to ever go back into the woods again. The pair in Backcountry make such poor decisions before embarking out into the middle of nowhere, that I started drawing parallels almost immediately.

In the beginning, this movie also makes an attempt to trick you into thinking that this isn’t a movie about a bear attack (it is), but we’ve seen the trailers and we know that it’s about a bear attack. Plus, the director of the movie has been yammering on about how determined to work with real bears and make the movie as bear-tastic as possible. So, knowing that when you go in, it becomes hard to take it seriously when the park ranger gives a slightly sinister look to the camera, or when Eric Balfour turns out to be extra creepy to our two main characters, but these things are their to give the movie a bit of a predictable horror feeling as we get closer and closer to the bear violence.

Backcountry is well shot in the beginning, it has a really great style and each scene is put together pretty well. Until the bear arrives, and then we head into shaky cam land and the movie becomes the story of Jenn running away from the woods monster.

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That’s my one issue with this, I’ve already read the “Like Jaws for the woods” reviews, and I have to say…that’s bullshit. The only movie that is like Jaws, is Jaws. The shark in Jaws is a monster, a massive aberration.  This movie reinforces the irrational fear people have of bears, and the idea that human beings can go wherever they want and anything horrible that happens to them is the bear’s fault. The movie gets a bit too real and still presents itself as a horror movie, which I had an issue with.

A piece of advice, if you find yourself facing down a huge black bear, hiding in your nylon tent probably isn’t going to be any more of a solution than running for your life, and if you bear mace a bear, you need to get away from where that bear was, not hide back into your tent. That’s just practical advice.

It’s not a bad movie, but I still can’t get on board with it. It comes close to feeling tasteless and in the end really falls short and makes a monster out of something that just isn’t.

RATING: **

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