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Backcountry: A Fantastic Survival Thriller That is Loaded with Dread, Unease and Wild Action

December 17, 2015

Backcountry movie poster

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When you watch as many horror movies and thrillers as I do you learn to appreciate when a good one comes around. Backcountry is a fantastic thriller that is crazy tense and actually creates likable characters. It is beautiful to look at and the story revolves around two hikers having a terrible trip. The young couple Jenn (Missy Peregrym) and Alex (Jeff Roop) are likable people and it breaks your heart because you know something will inevitably go wrong.  You want this couple to make their way back to safety and not have a Grizzly Man experience. Backcountry is a crazy effective film that fills you with dread and unease. That is the highest compliment you can pay a thriller.

Backcountry movie

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In films like this it is imperative to create likable characters. You need to care about the bear fodder and something needs to be at stake. The premise is terrifying (think Open Water) and it is made even worse because Jenn and Alex feel like real people. I love the build up to the action and the couple actually experience problems that happen to everybody. There is insecurity, cell phone usage and a man that is trying too hard to give his girlfriend a good time. You understand why Alex wants to impress Jenn and his dumb mistakes come from his insecurity and not that he is actually dumb.

When the action breaks out it punches you in the face with its intensity and urgency. It is like The Descent (no monsters here) met Open Water and spawned a crazy bear attack. Director Adam MacDonald had three years to prep and you can tell he was able to whittle it down to a lean 90 minutes that uses its scares well. MacDonald wanted it to appear real and he gets an A+ in carnage.  MacDonald was aided greatly by Peregrym because her physicality is believable and you buy it when she climbs, runs and falls.

Missy Peregrym Backcountry

I love what Mark Harris had to say about Backcountry in his article about the indie horror boom:

Backcountry takes its time, which is always good for a horror movie. It also, for the most part, manages not to succumb to the “Don’t go into the basement, dumb-ass!” syndrome of horror movies whose characters are so stupid they deserve their fates, because Alex’s proclivity for doing the wrong thing emerges gently, as a product of his insecurity, his stubbornness, and his desire to show his girlfriend his idea of a good time. To the extent that he’s a trope, he’s a charmingly self-aware trope.

The last couple years have been loaded with fantastic horror films that feel proactive and not reactive. Between The Guest, Backcountry, It Follows,Spring, The Conjuring, Creep, What We Do in the Shadows, The Babadook, Honeymoon, HouseboundCheap Thrills and Under the Skin horror fans have been really lucky. What makes them work is they are original ideas that are effective in inflicting scares, thrills and laughs. The themes are familiar yet they’ve found a way to make them their own and embrace the familiar tropes. Backcountry is proof that a familiar idea can be made fresh and exciting.

Backcountry is a fantastic calling card for MacDonald because it proves he has a firm grasp of character, tension and dread. I totally recommend you watch this film and enjoy the carnage.

 

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