Backcountry (2015): If You Go Into the Woods (Review)

Missy Peregrym as Jenn in Backcountry

Backcountry is a grim reminder that,  for all of the modern technology available to  the world, nature can still be a killer. It is based on the true story of Jordan and Jaqueline Perry, two professionals who went hiking in the woods in 2005 and had the misfortune to bump into a nasty black bear.

The film, written and directed by Adam MacDonald,  is more influenced by the horrific tale of the Perry’s than an actual recounting of what really happened .  In real life the wife was mauled and died of her injuries.  In this film the victim is switched and while this is not “correct” per se the tale loses nothing with the gender swap. 

Backcountry stars Missy PeregrymJeff Roop and Eric Balfour.  Peregrym and Roop  are Jenn and Alex the couple who hike the “Blackfoot Trail” sans map.  Balfour plays an Irish hiker who stumbles onto their camp and stays for dinner.  

Alex takes Jenn to the national park to show off his memories of hiking there when he was younger.  He is overconfident in terms of this woodsman skills and turns down the use of a map. Alex also takes his girlfriend’s mobile phone and puts it in their car. Both these actions have serious ramifications later on.

The film has been accused of misandry by reversing the victim’s roles. It may be true to an extent but it does nothing to dilute the film’s message. Backcountry is about respecting the dangers of the wilderness and remembering that your national park can kill you.

Jenn and Alex are a likable couple and even though their journey is slow to start we instinctively care about them both. Brad (Balfour) is an alpha male who intimidates Alex and he clearly has a thing for Jenn. Their meal is awkward and strained.

The Irishman tries to provoke Alex but Jenn’s boyfriend refuses to react the way Brad expects and the single hiker leaves eventually.  The couple are uneasy after the encounter and they rush the next day to put distance between them and Brad.

As they rush to find the Blackfoot Trail, Alex manages to get them  lost. They have no food and little water as well as no map.  While they try to find their way out of the forest, the bear attacks.

There are a number of complaints about the film’s creator changing the facts around. Making the boyfriend a buffoon who essentially  gets them both in deep trouble. Alex’s belief that he can lead Jenn and himself safely through  the woods ends in disaster.

The film focusses on Jenn’s struggle to survive and opts to place Alex in the role of overconfident buffoon. His refusal to take a map and the discarding of their one tool, the phone, insures the couple’s trek will not end well.

Filmed on location in Canada, with much of the action takin place in Restoule Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada Backcountry looks brilliant. As observers of the couple’s tragic adventure we can almost smell the dead leaves on the ground.

Despite the amount of upset caused by MacDonald rearranging the tale’s protagonists, the film entertains. The bear attack is disturbing and quite horrific. The camera does not linger too much on the wounds but gives the viewer just enough to really feel Alex’s pain.

Backcountry is a solid 4 star film. The movie does not follow what really happened in those woods in 2005 but it delivers enough suspense and tension to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. It has to be said that the scenes with Balfour are almost as uncomfortable to watch as the bear attack.

The film states that it is based on a true story bit it does not, at any time, claim to be a reconstruction of what really happened to the Perry’s.

The movie is streaming on Netflix and Hulu at the moment and is well worth a look.