2014, Movies

Backcountry (2014, Adam MacDonald)

This review contains SPOILERS.

As someone who’s spent just a little bit of time in the outdoors – likely as much as main character Alex is supposed to have – I find the set-up to be pretty problematic: Jenn at times appears to be able to handle the outdoors and at other times appears to be utterly petrified by it – and literally everything around her; she’s scared of the woods in daylight, is that a thing an adult feels? Alex is at times capable and at times utterly insane. (Who doesn’t bring a map due to hubris? It would be one thing if he was just some city slicker. But he’s supposed to have camped and hiked and so on. And he doesn’t want a map? I mean, one would then assume he would be able to navigate in other ways… And he supposedly knows this park. I can guarantee you that if I had been to a park like this the number of times Alex is supposed to have been to this park, I’d know how to get out of it…I’d know landmarks or something.)

And they’re in a provincial park, a park which they make no attempt to indicate the size of so that we could believe they could be lost for days. (By the way, we see them leaving Toronto – though the park sure looks like it is elsewhere at times – so it’s extremely hard for me, a Torontonian, to believe that they can get anywhere in a day where they could be lost for days. (Googling confirms some of the film was shot in BC but is basically set in Restoule, a park I’ve never been to.) There are absolutely parks like this within a day’s drive, but they’re not what we call “organized” like this one is – aside from Algonquin – and they sure don’t have car-wide trails all over the place. Speaking of which…) And it’s a weird park: they canoe to a place where they then walk a trail wide enough for a car. Who is clearing this trail? Why does this trail exist? If this trail exists, it’s definitely within a day’s walk of civilization.

I understand this is all outdoors minutiae, but the fact is that they do not get it right. They get it right at times but, at other times, do not. And that’s a problem, because I’m supposed to believe their panic. So when Jenn has her freak out on the promontory it feels ridiculous. It feels like she is being a stereotypical “never camped before” female stock character and it feels like it is completely unreasonable to the situation. Because I don’t feel like they’re truly lost at this point. I don’t feel the desperation of her, and I certainly don’t feel the idiocy of him. (Because, honestly, if he didn’t bring a map and he didn’t know which direction he was going, he’s an idiot. And there should have been more character development around his idiocy, such as him doing other idiotic things before they leave town.)

All that being said, I do like the misdirection: the creepy park ranger, the creepy, inexplicably Irish fisherman. It starts out on the “Cabin in the Woods” trope and then goes all Open Water on us. I appreciate that. I just wish the characters and the setting could have been thought out a little better.


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