Starring Missy Peregrym, Jeff Roop, and Eric Balfour. Rated 14A. Opens Friday (August 28)
If you’re thinking about going camping anywhere bears might be, Backcountry is definitely not for you. It’s Stephen Colbert’s worst nightmare come to life, basically.
Surrey escapee Missy Peregrym, from TV’s Rookie Blue, and Montreal’s Jeff Roop star as Jenn and Alex, a young couple embarking on a camping trip to the provincial park he visited as a child. We first meet them as Alex is loading their backpacks into his SUV, and his furtive glances at Jenn texting away make it clear that he’d much rather she leave her phone behind. It’s the first of many bad ideas on his part.
While renting a canoe to start their trip Alex scoffs at the safety advice offered by Nicholas Campbell’s park ranger, but Jenn is cautious enough to bring along a can of bear spray.
Things go fine until, while Alex is off gathering wood, Jenn befriends sketchy-looking hiker Brad (horror vet Eric Balfour from Cell 213 and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake), whom Alex immediately takes a paranoid dislike to. Brad picks up on the vibe, but stays for dinner anyway, showing off his big knife and bad table manners. When the simmering conflict between the two guys boils over, the stranger departs in the dead of night, so now they’ve got a pissed off survivalist with a wicked blade to worry about, as well as any furry, thousand-pound killing machines.
The terror starts to ramp up once the overconfident Alex gets them hopelessly lost without a map—shades of the best parts of The Blair Witch Project, sans jittery camerawork. Writer-director Adam MacDonald does a keen job of coaxing equal parts desperation and determination from his stars, although Peregrym’s performance proves strongest overall.
It all leads up to a scene of flat-out, primal horror that brings to mind how Werner Herzog might have felt listening to that tape of Timothy Treadwell’s final moments in Grizzly Man.