Backcountry is everything you want in a Man vs Nature horror and more, as a couple looking for a romantic getaway get up close and personal with a one of it’s baddest occupants. The film takes its time getting to the good bits, but there’s plenty to enjoy in the build up as the tell-tale signs of the upcoming horror seep through from the negligence of the leads.
From the outset, our smug outdoorsman (Jeff Roop) decides to refuse the offer of a map of the area, leading the audience to fully expect him to get lost later like the idiot that he is. His girlfriend (Missy Peregrym), despite being a lawyer, doesn’t seem much more clued up than he is. Addicted to her smart phone, not really dressed for the occasion and bored out of her mind, she plods along unwillingly with her boyfriend counting down the days until it is over. He is determined to show her a spot he remembers from his childhood, and ignoring the warnings of a grizzly bear by the warden in a sort of mysterious yet obvious South Park styled “don’t wanna go down that road” caution, they trek away hoping it was just that, a caution.
Dim lighting, rustles in the bushes and 3rd person perspectives give the eerie feeling that the couple are being watched, and all is not as it seems. The tension builds excellently, both as the mysterious predator is watching them, but as their relationship naturally reaches a tipping point through a combination of recognisably frustrating qualms; the mystery hiker who impedes on their privacy provoking jealousy in the camp, the chivalry and determined nature of the alpha-male who thinks he is always right, and the disappointment of an event not going exactly the way you had hoped it would.
It’s incredibly relatable, and while you have many horror films set in the woods (Evil Dead, Wrong Turn, Cabin in the Woods, Blair Witch etc), most have a detachment from reality which makes it, for me personally, somewhat difficult to be fully scared. I wasn’t scared by Backcountry, but I was unnerved and unsettled. I didn’t like what was coming, I didn’t want to see where it was going and the final third, despite being a little drawn out, had me on the edge of my seat.
This debut feature by Adam Macdonald, loosely based on true events, is yet another testament to the creativity currently being generated in the crop of horror we see these days. While some may find its slow pace frustrating and chalk it up to ‘nothing happening’, I believe this is a well crafted creature-feature where the reliance on gore, cheap scares and shock value has been replaced with tension, atmospheric discomfort and well placed scenes of horrific violence. Our two leads may be too stupid for some to handle, but their obliviousness to the upcoming horror that awaits them is simply part of the fun.
Backcountry is available on Amazon as ‘Blackfoot Trail‘ in the UK, and many other VOD outlets.