BACKCOUNTRY (BLACKFOOT TRAIL)
(director/writer: Adam MacDonald; cinematographer: Christian Bielz; editor: Dev Singh; music: Freres Lumiere; cast: Jeff Roop (Alex), Missy Peregrym (Jenn), Eric Balfour (Brad), Nicholas Campbell (Ranger), Melanie Mullen (Lola); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Melanie Mullen, David Scott; IFC Films; 2014-Canada)
“Enticing wilderness survival thriller.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Canadian actor turned writer-director Adam MacDonald makes his feature film debut with this enticing wilderness survival thriller. A couple on a camping trip to Restoule Provincial Park, in southern Ontario, must flee from a man-eating bear.
The film is part horror story and part character study, supposedly based on a true story. Though the story is underdeveloped it packs some punch in its centerpiece attack scene.
Jenn (Missy Peregrym), an uptight lawyer glued to her cellphone, and the hipster Alex (Jeff Roop), are a young couple driving in their SUV through the Canadian woods on a camping trip to a park he recalls with delight from a childhood visit to its mountain top. The park ranger (Nicholas Campbell) cautions the couple to keep with them a can of bear spray and a map, but Alex refuses to take either while renting a canoe. The couple then stop in the woods so Alex can gather wood for their campfire. Meanwhile Jenn is approached by the bad-vibe Brad (Eric Balfour), an odd-looking Irish hiker armed with a big knife and a catch of fish. Even though Alex can’t stomach him, Brad chows down with them for supper and leaves after making a bad impression with the uppity couple he can’t relate to.
The real terror part creeps up on us when the obnoxious ego-tripping Alex navigates his way through the woods and gets lost in bear country without a map. What follows is a scene out of Herzog’s Grizzly, with a giant black bear suddenly emerging from the woods to confront the arrogant week-end warriors. The film turns primal and shows how cruel nature can be. The mauling scene is clearly the film’s highlight. The violence is filmed through the process of selective editing, which shows the savage attack in only bits and pieces.
REVIEWED ON 10/30/2018 GRADE: B-