Sunday, May 24, 2015

Backcountry - basic instincts

movie review

Backcountry barely survives when it comes to showcasing originality in the genre

Starring: Missy Peregrym, Jeff Roop, Eric Balfour, and Nicholas Campbell
Directed by: Adam MacDonald
Tagline: Survive.

The dangers that lurk in the wilderness have given film-makers many opportunities to inflict horror on their characters by pitting them against abominable forces, thereby giving viewers a harrowing glance into the abyss of nature’s fury. Joining the list of these cinematic thrillers is the Canadian film Backcountry that stars Missy Peregrym and Jeff Roop as a couple whose camping trip goes awfully wrong.

Purportedly based on a true story, Adam MacDonald’s directorial debut is pretty standard man-versus-wild fare that relies on characters making poor choices as a substitute for an inventive storyline. After much convincing, Jenn (Missy Peregrym) goes on a hike with her boyfriend Alex (Jeff Roop), who is adamant on taking her to a secluded trail that he visited when he was younger. Confident about his familiarity with the area and his outdoor skills, Alex promptly ignores warnings that the trail is closed for the season and — to please viewers who don’t appreciate subtlety — declines a map offered by a park ranger (Nicholas Campbell). Soon, they find themselves injured, lost, coming across a sinister stranger (Eric Balfour) and facing a hungry predator — an aggressive black bear whose territory they have stumbled upon.

Sadly, the couple runs into clichés about as many times as they run into danger. The film does not craft a unique or interesting plot to land its leads into their predicament, and instead, relies on their lack of common sense and basic precautions. That in itself ensures that the duo does not make compelling protagonists.

MacDonald does succeed in creating an ominous vibe and shrouding the film in a feeling of impending doom. But when stretched to a full length movie, the proceedings seem to drag on before they reach the climax — the horror of which is delivered quite forcefully and disturbingly — and grow repetitive in its aftermath. The interplay between its central characters’ physical and emotional isolation is thematically interesting, but not executed with the depth it deserves.

Viewers who enjoy typical survival thrillers (and also happen to be fans of the obvious) will probably enjoy Backcountry. But if you are looking for something that adds some intelligence and innovation to the genre, you are very likely to be disappointed in this outing.

Rating: 2 out of 5

- By Sameen Amer

Sunday Magazine, The Express Tribune - 24th May, 2015 *

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