Backcountry (2015)

bear

twohalfstar

There’s so much going for the bear attack natural horror Backcountry that it’s a total shame when the film can’t stick the landing. The opening hour feels like familiar man vs. nature territory, but it’s a familiarity that works. An urban couple slowly losing their way while hiking & camping in the woods has enough built-in suspense that it doesn’t matter too much that it feels like it’s all been done before, especially once the threat of a bear attack begins to build. The problem is that when the shit finally hits the fan in the climactic half hour the mess is disappointingly brief & easy to clean up. After a few minutes of deeply disturbing bear-related gore the movie finds its way back to the trail and leaves the more unfamiliar dangers of the woods behind.

Quick question: Why are couples always calling each other “Babe” in movies? Do a lot of people actually do that in real life? Backcountry proclaims that it’s “based on a true story” and I have to assume that the “Babe” pet names were part of that truth. It at least feels authentic to these characters. The film’s central conflict (getting lost in the woods & stumbling into killer bear territory) is a direct result of a bull-headed alpha male refusing advice, maps, and directions because he feels petty things like safety & common-sense threaten his manhood. This hubris, of course, eventually leads to the life-threatening disaster at the film’s core. His girlfriend, to her credit, sees right through his macho bullshit the entire time, starting with some light bickering early in the proceedings and then resorting to calling him a loser & a fuck-up once things go horribly, horribly wrong.

If those “horribly wrong” things had continued for the entirety of the final half hour, I may have been more won over by Backcountry. The comeuppance is indeed disgustingly brutal, but it’s short-lived. There are about ten minutes of this film that will haunt me for a great while, but that does little to justify the other 80 or so. For the most part, Backcountry brings very little of interest to the table. There’s some killer suspense in the way the central couple is voyeuristically filmed from behind trees and there are a few menacing characters that threaten to take the plot into some unexpected directions, but none of it amounts to much. Ultimately, Backcountry is a bear attack movie that doesn’t have much to offer outside a brief, singular bear attack and a bullheaded alpha male you can’t wait to see punished. A little more effort & creativity in the final half hour and it could’ve been something much more special, “true story” be damned.

-Brandon Ledet

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