What “Jaws” did for the ocean, “Backcountry” will do for the woods.
The premise isn’t unfamiliar: A couple ventures into the Canadian woods for a weekend getaway, and things don’t go exactly as planned. Alex claims to be an expert woodsman, and he does all he can to impress his girlfriend, Jenn, since this is her first camping trip.
“Backcountry” works because of the relationship between Alex and Jenn. When they first arrive at the campsite, it’s clear that Jenn has little to no interest in actually being there — she’s only there because Alex is so gung-ho about it. She’d rather just stare at her BlackBerry the whole time.
As the trip progresses and things spiral out of control, Jenn’s disinterest in the trip becomes toxic, and a whole other level of tension and intensity is thrown into the mix.
The film is more effective than your average horror movie since the terror comes from real-life situations. There are no ghosts, demons, or creatures from another dimension, just the seemingly never-ending woods with all of nature’s horrors contained within.
There are so many elements working to keep the audience on edge and it’s never clear which scary set-up will actually get its pay-off. Each new situation brings its own sense of dread to the table, and when the proverbial shit hits the fan, my jaw hit the floor and stayed there for rest of the movie.
Saying any more would likely weaken the experience — I knew literally nothing about the movie going in, so I tense on the edge of my seat the entire time trying to anticipate what would happen next. Every time I thought I knew where it was going, it veered off the path and surprised me with something else that’s equally unsettling.
The single most horrifying moment occurs right up top, when text appears on-screen that reads “based on a true story.” “Backcountry” plays like a bizzarro version of Reese Witherspoon’s Oscar-nominated “Wild,” where literally nothing goes right along the way.
Watch the trailer below (although I recommend going in completely blank if you can hold out):
“Backcountry” opens in limited release on March 20th.
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