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By now the conceit of an urban couple heading to the wilderness for a weekend getaway is old hat but you have to hand it to a director who takes that familiar story and manages to add a new twist that makes it stand out. Such is the case with Adam MacDonald's Backcountry.

Missy Peregrym and Jeff Roop star as Jenn and Alex, apparently happy city dwellers who head out of the city for a weekend of camping adventure. The pair arrive to discover that the trail Alex wanted to share with his girlfriend is closed for the season but Alex figures he knows better than the park ranger and he heads along the trail anyways. As expected, the pair get lost in the woods and though they don't have a map or a working phone, they also aren't completely desolate: Alex is sure he has a general idea of how to get back to where they got lost. Reassuring; I know. At least they have shelter and food for a few days...

As their backcountry adventure continues, the pair's relationship begins to crumble. They argue, pick at each other and eventually have a full blowout before things in the wilderness really take a left turn and if you're thinking you know where the left turn is coming, let's just say that MacDonald manages to throw in a red herring that keeps you guessing – for about 5 minutes – before you figure out what's really going to cause all of the trouble.

Backcountry doesn't set out to re-invent the wheel or even make any changes to the construct. Instead, the movie succeeds because MacDonald executes the familiar story with great ability. Backcountry doesn't really offer any surprises, heck, the foreshadowing is so obvious that anyone even vaguely familiar with the genre will see some of the reveals and plot points coming a mile away, but Roop and Peregrym keep us in the moment by delivering solid performances as the lost couple and MacDonald builds great tension not only between the characters but also with the surroundings.

The woods, at first magical, beautiful and serene, are suddenly a place of contention full of things that could be harmful not to mention a dangerous place to try and survive the elements. Though Jenn and Alex mostly get over their personal issues and come together to try and survive, the pair soon find themselves relying on little more than their wits to stay alive. In addition to a good tale of survival, Backcountry is also a great bit of genre filmmaking featuring impressive practical effects – one of the other aspects that makes the film so enjoyable.

One would think that with all of the warnings about being prepared and following the rules when hiking in the wilderness, people would have learned a thing or two by now but judging from the yearly reports of people getting lots in the woods, it's not surprising that this type of thing still happens. It might be one of the reasons Backcountry played so well to the crowds in Whistler but truth is, it's solid, if familiar, genre entertainment.

IFC Midnight will release Backcountry next year.

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JeffC (7 years ago) Reply

Watched this twice the past week and have to say it's really in tents!!! lol

Sorry couldn't resist, but it really is! Loved it! Oh wont be going camping anytime soon.

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