• Backcountry

    Released by Shout Factory
    Released on: September 1, 2015
    Directed by: Adam MacDonald
    Cast: Missy Peregrym, Jeff Roop, Eric Balfour
    Year: 2014

    The Movie:

    When loser boyfriend Alex (Jeff Roop) decides the best place to propose to his successful, lawyer girlfriend, Jenn (Missy Peregrym), is by a lake he used to hang out at as a teen, the two head out to a national park for some wilderness fun. Problems arise almost immediately because while Alex talks a big game, he’s actually a bigger dud while surrounded by trees than he is while in the big city. By sundown Alex is being emasculated by Irish wilderness guide Brad (Eric Balfour), he has Jenn and himself lost by day two, and a bear is stalking the duo by that night. Will Alex and Jenn find their way out of the woods before the bear strikes?

    I have never been camping and I have never wanted to go camping. It seems like a horrible experience, and not because of the potential danger. I am too much a slave to the modern world. I have grown accustomed to the creature comforts of 21st century society. One day into a camping trip I probably would be screaming, “I want to get online… I need a computer!” like I am some sort of backwoods Johnny Mnemonic. However, despite my reservations about camping I do enjoy a good wilderness adventure/horror film, and that description could be applied to Backcountry. The debut feature from writer-director Adam MacDonald, the film is a mildly entertaining and surprisingly well-made man (and woman) versus nature tale focusing on the collapsing of a relationship. If there is anything disappointing about Backcountry it is the wilderness terror in the film takes the backseat to the relationship drama. It is obvious from the first scene, in which Jenn is seen doing a “Rate Your Mate” style quiz in a woman’s magazine, the relationship has problems and the dangers the duo face while in the woods, and Alex’s lack of resources to handle the problems, act as a metaphor for their interpersonal failings. He wants to be the traditional man in the relationship but lacks the skills and know-how to fill that role, thus Jenn is forced to wear the preverbal “pants.”

    In some regards the film makes Alex into too much of a loser. He is a know it all that knows nothing and he is obviously insecure, not only about his own failings but also Jenn’s successes. The film even makes a judgement call about Alex’s career, that as a landscaper. Brad, the interloper with the Irish brogue, when discovering Alex’s profession asks if he is Mexican because that’s a job for them. It was an odd remark in an odd scene. Alex does not defend himself nor his job when Brad make the racist remark, instead Alex depends on Jenn to stand-up for him noting his talent in the field. Throughout the film I could not help but wonder what an attractive, smart and successful woman like Jenn would be doing with an absolute zero like Alex. It did not make any sense other than the filmmakers wanted to juxtapose a successful female to a loser male. What makes it even stranger is Jenn knows Alex is a loser, she calls him one when they discover they are lost in the woods.

    It was about two-thirds into the film when we finally see the bear, but it was good stuff once he appeared. What little bear footage there was in the film was well-done and pretty exciting. The bear only gets one kill but he made the most of it by tearing his victim limb from limb in a rather gory scene. After the kill, the remainder of the film was a chase scene involving the bear and the survivor of the couple. The chase was fast paced and featured some nice moments, however the survivor seemed to be more adept at wilderness survival than the amateur the character was presented as. The ending was sort of anti-climactic. The survivor makes it to the parking lot and falls on the ground, that’s it. I guess there was some sort of invisible fence the bear could not penetrate. Where was Christopher George to blow-up the bear? Once the credits started rolling I gave an audible, “That’s it?”

    Backcountry is not a great wilderness adventure but it is not the worst either. It is much better than the previously referenced Grizzly, but way less fun. There was enough drama and tension to warrant the 90 minute run time, but I wanted more bear action. Director MacDonald does not get all the suspense he could have got from this type of film, but he shows potential. He seemed more interested in how gender roles have changed in the 21st century than he is with the horrors of nature. This is fine but he has problems pulling it off. His commentary on gender is a little clunky and far from subtle. The most suspenseful scene was the couple’s encounter with Brad. He sort of verbally cuckolds Alex by opening flirting with Jenn while belittling Alex. He even somehow gets a pair of Jenn’s panties to play with during dinner. I am not sure if he was rummaging through her bag or she just had panties scattered around the campsite.


    Shout Factory brings Backcountry to home video through their Scream Factory sublabel. The Blu-ray release is given a high-definition widescreen 2.40:1 picture that looks very strong. The film was obviously shot digitally and looks crisp and clean. The colors seem sort of steely, a grey-blueish hue which many modern films seem to sport. The release is artifact free and is very well-done. The audio is DTS-5.1 and sounds good. The mix is well separated and gives one the feeling of being in a forest. The roar of the bear is very affective. The film was given English SDH subtitles which I was pleased with.

    Backcountry is given a handful of features for its home video debut. The primary feature is a commentary track with MacDonald, Peregrym and Roop. The trio do a fine job with plenty of anecdotes but they seem to overinflate the importance of the film. This also was an issue with the 17-minute behind the scenes featurette. MacDonald and Roop seem to believe they made a far more important work of art than they actually produced. Producer Thomas Michael is the most engaging talking head, he is funny and seems to understand what film they made. Oddly, every talking head notes how scary Backcountry is but they all seem to purposely avoid labeling it a horror film. My favorite feature was a reenactment of the bear scenes with house cats. Being a sucker for cats I greatly enjoyed the terrorizing felines. The disc was rounded out by a trailer and stills gallery.

    The Final Word:

    More relationship drama than wilderness horror film, Backcountry still features some cool bear footage and one gory and somewhat gross kill. The bear alone makes the film a worthwhile watch. While the film was well-made it is not very much fun. Backcountry may be technically better made than some man versus nature films it is bogged down by a loser character.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screencaps!