Film

Backcountry Again Reminds Us the Woods Can Be Scary

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Urbanite anxiety over the big, bad woods is stoked yet again by Backcountry, an ostensibly based-on-real-events tale in which camping vet Alex (Jeff Roop) takes his lawyer girlfriend, Jenn (Missy Peregrym), into the Canadian wilderness, where their every imaginable fear comes true.

No sooner have the happy couple begun their hike than they’re getting lost, injuring themselves, screaming at each other, and having alarming run-ins with a menacing stranger (Eric Balfour) and a hungry black bear — all problems that are compounded by the fact that (plot contrivance alert!) arrogant Alex refused to bring along a map or workaholic Jenn’s cellphone.

Writer-director Adam MacDonald’s direction creates an ominous sense of rural-nowhere isolation, and his script avoids contrived banter while shrewdly suggesting it’s headed toward horror before unexpectedly veering into survival-story territory.

Nonetheless, such misdirection can’t compensate for hopelessly routine action. Dully stoking terrors about the unpredictable hazards of the great outdoors, which can render even the most modern and hyper-competent city folk vulnerable, Backcountry is simply another paranoid cinematic reminder that exiting the beaten path is a course best avoided — or, at least, one that also requires taking some basic, common-sense precautions beforehand.

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