Wednesday, August 26, 2015

BACKCOUNTRY (2015) (Scream Factory)


Label: Scream Factory I IFC Midnight

Release Date: September 1st 2015 
Region Code: A
Duration: 92 Minutes
Rating: R
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 7.1, english DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1) 
Director: Adam MacDonald
Cast: Eric Balfour, Nicholas Campbell, Missy Peregrym, Melanie Mullen,  Alex Roop

Young couple Alex (Jeff Roop) and Jenn (Missy Peregrym) head off to the Canadian backcountry for some backpacking and camping, heading for a trail that has been closed for the season, but Alex is a seasoned camper and ignores the advice of the park ranger who tries to steer him clear of the area. Along the way things begin to go awry, first Alex drops the canoe on his big toe, causing quite an unsightly wound, but he ventures on. 

The scenery is fantastic, the woodlands are gorgeous and the views are breathtaking along the way, the couple seem to have some underlying issues with each other and as the journey continues they begin to argue and turn against one another, with Jenn rightfully questioning Alex's skills as an outdoorsman along the way. Things turn for the worse when they encounter a strange hiker named Brad (Eric Balfour) who joins them for a fish dinner around the campfire, he has a weird menacing manner about him that threatens to turn into a physical altercation, but soon enough he continues on his own through the darkened woods, leaving the couple to themselves. 

Later that night they begin to hear strange sounds and twigs snapping int the woods, in the morning their supplies have been ransacked, but Alex lays the blame on raccoons, though he knows damn well that he saw a bear track in the area, he chooses not to alarm Jenn about such things, continuing on their journey through the wilderness. Before too long it becomes evident that Alex has no clue where they are or how to return to where they began, and the two really start to lay into each other, especially Jenn who emasculates Alex with a lot of venom, and who can blame her, they're deep in the woods, they have no idea where they are, and a bear is stalking them and things are about to get a lot worse.

Backcountry is a bit of a backwoods slow-burn that it's sweet time to get going, at nearly an hour before it gets a decent boil going, along the way we're feeling out the young couple, seeing the quiet drama between the two, the unease and jealousies, we're also seeing mistakes being made along the way that a seasoned camper wouldn't have made, and if they'd done thing differently perhaps things would have gone a bit differently. Some of these no-brainers include refusing a map of the area, leaving behind an emergency tracking system, and purposefully leaving behind cell phones, plus there's no small amount of male ego at play here, especially the decision to not just turn back at several points. 

While it does take awhile to get the pot boiling once we get to a certain point in the movie things turn harrowing rather quickly with a rather visceral and blood-soaked encounter that leaves one of them in shreds and the other in shock and wounded wandering through the wilderness with a flesh-crazed bear stalking them. The minimal cast is superb with Roop and Peregrym turning in convincing performances, as a young couple in love, as a young couple  at odds with each other and then as a couple terrified beyond belief at the hands of vivacious bear, you buy into it, you feel it. It was great to see Peregrym, who I have not seen since the short-lived TV series Reaper, she makes for a strong character and has quite a set of pipes on her, those scream were nerve shattering. The appearance of Eric Balfour as an Irish-accented hiker was a bit out of nowhere, his presence added some early menace to the movie, creating some needed tension between our main characters, creating an uneasy tone which worked to the movies benefit. 

The effects are pretty minimal in the film, you don't really get any gore for an hour, but the violence is gut-churning once it begins, and though brief you won't soon forget someone clawed to shreds, helpless against a furry force of nature. 

Audio/Video: The Blu-ray from Scream Factory and their partnership with IFC Midnight looks and sounds great, the HD image looks crisp and clean with scene after scene of gorgeous wilderness shots, which might bore some of the horror fans but I loved it. The English DTS-HD MA 7.1 Surround audio sounded great, clean and crisp with a strong surround presence, the sounds of birds and the crackling of the campfire the menacing bear sounds and the terrifying screams of agony - this is a great sound design.. 

Special Features

- Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Adam MacDonald And Actors Missy Peregrym And Jeff Roop
- Behind-The-Scenes Featurette (17 Mins) HD 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins) HD 
- Bear Shots (2 Mins) HD 
- Still Gallery (64 Images) 95 Mins) HD 

Extras on the disc beginning with an engaging audio commentary from With Writer/Director Adam MacDonald And Actors Missy Peregrym And Jeff Roop who recall the making of the movie and filling in some anecdotal stories along the way. There's also a behind-the-scenes featurette,  a gruesome gallery of stills and behind the scenes shots, a series of shots using a cat as a stand-in for the bear, a sort of video storyboard of sorts that were used to convey to the bear wrangler what shots they needed for the movie. 

While the structure of the movies feels a bit off, with the slow-build and a visceral punch-to-the-gut, but then it slows down again for a somewhat slow finale that brought to mind the end of Adam Green's Frozen. Backcountry is an effective wilderness survival tale, and to it's credit, the night I watched it I was plagued by nightmares of of a vicious bear attack in my sleep, my wife said I was kicking and screaming in my sleep with torrents of sweat puring off of me, so the movie has got some serious juice to it. 3.5/5