If the movies have taught us anything, it’s that bad things happen when city folk go stomping around in the woods.
In writer-director Adam MacDonald’s terse, borderline minimalist “Backcountry,” a couple of 30-something, urban Canadians, Jenn and Alex (Missy Peregrym, Jeff Roop), leave the city for a wilderness park. It’s the end of the season, the leaves are turning, and they have the place pretty much to themselves.
Alex came to this park often as a child, and now he wants to introduce Jenn to its wonders. Moreover, he plans to pop the big question in the warm glow of a campfire.
Naturally, it goes very, very wrong.
First there’s the visit to their campsite by a vaguely sinister local guide (Eric Balfour) that generates the expected two-men-one-woman tensions. But this interloper is merely a red herring. The real danger lies just over the hill, with four taloned paws and very sharp teeth.
MacDonald wisely plays it coy for most of the film. We rarely get a good look at the huge bear that stalks our stressed-out couple. For example, there’s a great scene in which the sleeping campers don’t hear the snuffling outside their tent or see the impression of a huge snout trying to poke through the nylon wall.
There are nasty words when they realize they’re lost — and that the overconfident Alex has left behind both map and cell phone. And let’s just say that “Backcountry” has what may be the most disturbing depiction of a bear attack in cinema history.
For the most part, though, this is a film about unseen terrors — mysterious noises in the forest at night, rotting deer carcasses and massive paw prints in the soft dirt.
This is a ridiculously simple premise that generates way more than its share of creepiness and terror.
Stay out of the woods!