*** out of ****
Backcountry is a modest and compact little thriller that is so much more effective than many recent bigger budgeted attempts at horror (Insidious, anyone?). “Based on a true story,” Backcountry has a young couple, Jenn and Alex (Missy Peregrym and Jeff Roop), taking a hiking trip in the Canadian wilderness.
Yeah, it's kind of heavy-handed and laughable when Alex refuses to buy a map, claiming that he knows the area well, but in this kind of movie the characters have to make bad judgments or there just wouldn't be a movie. On their first night camping, they meet an Irish tour guide (Eric Balfour) who is a quite odd. He's so odd, in fact, that the next day the couple get the feeling he may be following them. Jenn and Alex eventually get lost, but the worst is yet to come, as they are being stalked by a hungry black bear.
Backcountry is reminiscent of man-against-nature films like Open Water (2003), Black Water (2007) and The Reef (2010), and while it doesn't bring anything new to the genre it is extremely well-made and suspenseful. Director Adam MacDonald stretches the tension as far as it will go, then hits us with a bear attack that is so horrific and brutal that it will leave you shaken. A key element that makes this sequence work is that the gore is made up of practical effects instead of digital cartoon-ery. That really makes a difference. And it helps immeasurably that the performances are good, too.
The film's limited theatrical release didn't include New Orleans, but Backcountry is available on Google Play and Amazon Instant.