"We're not gonna see anything bigger than a chipmunk!"
Adam MacDonald’s feature directorial debut is an interesting one. It’s a small and simple outdoor movie about a couple who are going camping in the woods, so you can at least count on being able to enjoy the gorgeous background of the Canadian wilderness even during the simple moments where the pacing seems to drag. It’s a minimalist film since it basically focuses on one couple, Missy Peregrym playing the girlfriend, Jenn, while Jeff Roop plays Alex. There are only two other characters who have small appearances in the film, the Park Ranger (Nicholas Campbell) and a creepy Irish man they come across at camp named Brad (Eric Balfour). Alex is determined to take Jenn to Provincial Park, a camping trail where he used to go as a young teenager, but she doesn’t seem too thrilled since she’s more of a city girl. He is very sure of himself and is convinced she will love this place, Jenn on the other hand complains that he always seems to get his way. Once they arrive at the Park, the guide gives the couple instructions and offers them a trail map, but of course Alex refuses because he knows this place and men don’t need directions. Before beginning the trail Alex even makes fun of Jenn for bringing a road flare and a bear spray, things she won’t need around him because he is an “expert.” The film wastes no time in introducing these character traits and because of them we know that things aren’t going to turn out the way they are expecting.
What begins as a romantic and enjoyable camping trip getaway pretty soon turns into a nightmare for Alex and Jenn. It is a survivalist tale that doesn’t do anything new, but it still manages to entertain and thrill its audience. Even though we know what to expect, the film manages to keep you engaged with several intense scenes along the way. It isn’t until the final half hour that it really picks up, but the setting up of the plot was done in a convincing manner. We’ve come to know these characters which in turn allows us to care for them. All the warning signs are present from the beginning, but of course the couple pay no attention to them because if not we wouldn’t have a movie. Perhaps I enjoyed it more because I like the outdoors, but the story felt believable and I felt the tension during the suspenseful moments. There were a couple of gruesome scenes that were difficult to watch and the bear attack scene was handled pretty well for a small budget film, although it wasn’t anything mind blowing either. The film reminded me of The Edge in some ways, but its structure is more similar to Open Water. So if you enjoyed any of those films then you might want to check Backcountry out.
The performances were central if MacDonald wanted any chance for his film to succeed and both Roop and Peregrym delivered convincing roles, although in the final half hour it is Peregrym who completely steals the show. The acting was solid and the entire film felt natural. It could've been one of those found footage films since the material was right for it, but it worked better this way allowing the audience to enjoy the view of the Park much more with the different angle shots and 360 degree panorama. The film might not offer anything new or groundbreaking to the genre, but for its simple and minimalist premise it manages to entertain.