Adam McDonald’s Backcountry

Getting hopelessly lost in the woods is a big fear for many people, and one that comes horrifically true in Adam McDonald’s Backcountry, a realistic, breathless, flawed yet ultimately effective survival thriller very loosely based on a true story. Young couple Jeff Roop and Missy Peregrym are off on a camping trip in the gorgeous Ontario wilderness, but things go dangerously wrong when they don’t bring a map, a phone or any means of navigation and find themselves stranded. I know what you’re thinking, how stupid is it to do that, however, the script provides specific reasons for every mistake they make and it’s up to the viewer to decide just how credible their turn of events is. In addition to being lost, they are suddenly faced with a very angry black bear who doesn’t take well to them wandering onto its land. The film isn’t really structured like your average thriller, instead building steadily and slowly with our two leads until it gets really crazy all of a sudden, and the visceral impact of the bear attacking hits very hard. The film is ruthlessly realistic in these scenes and if you thought Leo DiCaprio got it bad in The Revenant, just wait for this mauling. I really like Missy Peregrym, always been a fan of her work in stuff like Heroes, Rookie Blue and the overlooked Reaper. She’s usually cast in more lighthearted characters but she does a terrific job with the emotional heft, panic and despair needed to pull this role off and I wish she’d get cast in more dramatically demanding parts. There’s an odd, inexplicable subplot involving another hiker they come across played by Eric Balfour, who is vaguely threatening to them for reasons unknown but his character’s involvement and attitude towards them is never properly explained nor feels necessary to the story overall, which jams up the otherwise rock steady narrative a bit. Still, it’s a very effective film, the bear attacks are genuinely blood curdling and our two leads, Missy in particular, make their characters humans with depth that we care about. Good stuff.

-Nate Hill

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