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Backcountry 2014



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About the Backcountry 💬

🐻The Black Bear Paradox🐻

*First, not think of the Black Bear.

*Secondly, don't think about the Black Bear.

Based on a true story, BACKCOUNTRY follows a big city couple who go camping in the Canadian wilderness. Alex (Jeff Roop) is a seasoned camper while Jenn (Missy Peregrym), a corporate lawyer, is not. After much convincing, and against her better judgment, she agrees to let him take her deep into a Provincial Park to one of his favorite spots - the secluded Blackfoot Trail.

On their first night, they have a very unsettling encounter with Brad (Eric Balfour), a strange alpha male with eyes for Jenn who may or may not be following them. Alex's desire to quickly reach Blackfoot Trail only intensifies. They push deeper and deeper into the forest, Alex stubbornly insisting that he remembers the way. After three days their path disappears; they are hopelessly lost. Without food or water, they struggle to find their way back, the harsh conditions bringing out the best and worst in them, pushing their already fragile relationship to the breaking point.

*Come one! Try not to think of a Black Bear.*

*You're thinking of one, aren't you?*

When they realize they have entered a bear's territory, being lost suddenly becomes the least of their problems. Terror, horror, will, and survival becomes paramount.

*Try to pose for yourself this task: not to think of a Black Bear, and you will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute.


Mid-­October, 2013. It was raining at Restoule Provincial Park in Ontario. And then it wasn't. It was snowing. That stopped after a brief while. Then the sun came out, and then it clouded over. Rain started again. And this was all inside of 15 minutes. Mother Nature is fickle, at best. But this is exactly where writer/director Adam MacDonald wanted to shoot his feature film directorial debut - where the bears are.

BACKCOUNTRY is about a young couple who extract themselves from the safety and familiarity of the city to go camping. ''What they find in the wilderness,'' said MacDonald, ''Is the most unimaginable beauty laying alongside their deepest primal fears - and I wanted to capture that.''

It's not an uncommon story of couples taking a trip to get away from it all. Often, as is the case in BACKCOUNTRY, one is a seasoned camper and the other is not. Nor is it unusual that on a vacation things do not go as planned. The difference is elemental when camping - the wilderness is not an all-inclusive beach resort. And it is most certainly not the corporate jungle where order can be established with a deftly worded email. Things happen to this couple in the wilderness that they did not foresee.

''People ask me about why I wrote this story,'' MacDonald recalled as he looked out over the aptly named Stormy Lake in Restoule Provincial Park where one of the final scenes of the film was being shot. ''As much as BACKCOUNTRY is a survival movie, it really is my love letter to nature. I spent a lot of time growing up in northern Quebec and there is a solitude there, where you are alone, but you are surrounded by so much life and death. We decided to shoot this in the fall and get out as far as we could get into nature because this wilderness just keeps changing, evolving, the weather, the seasons...'' His respect for the environment is palpable.

Palpable is one word that comes close to describing a camping experience that producer Thomas Michael once had when camping, which was enough to convince him this was a film that had to be made. ''I had been camping with three friends in the Adirondacks. We were cooking sausages, and a black bear came sniffing around the campsite. We thought, this is just a black bear, we are going to see a lot of them, they see a lot of campers, and it's going to be alright. So we calmly dropped everything and moved to the tent where we sat quietly in the dark. We heard the bear devour the food and thought, OK, now the bear will leave. Then we heard the bear lumber over, circle the tent, sniff around, and suddenly, the bear was very interested in the tent. He started pushing his face into the fabric. Yes, we were separated from this 800-pound beast by a millimeter of opaque tent material. We were silently screaming. Luckily, it lost interest and went away, but when Adam heard this story, he said 'this has to be in the script!'''

Michael revealed that one of the cinematic inspirations for BACKCOUNTRY is the thriller, Open Water. ''But we're making Open Water in the woods. It is about two people left alone in the vast openness of the wilderness. The couple starts in the confines of an elevator, a metal box, and then they get into a car and they drive out from a concrete underground parking garage and slowly make their way out of the city. Once they leave their car, they go into a wooden ranger's cabin to sign their names up for adventure and then they head out in a wooden canoe. Once they leave that behind, they are on foot. There is a wonderful progression from urban confinement into the wild,'' observed Michael. ''Slowly but surely, the arrogance and ill-preparedness of man is bested by the strength and power of nature at which point fear and then terror set in. What I love about this story is that it could happen to anybody. And every year, it happens to somebody in Canada.''

''I am really excited to be working with Adam. It's his first feature, but he has been an actor for half his life. He has been dreaming about this movie for three years. I am so impressed with him. He knows every shot he wants to get. He is confident, he is passionate and he's a natural leader. And he's an expert on thrillers, survival thrillers, and scary movies. He eats them up,'' Michael went on to say.


There is a long history of man against nature in survival stories, dating back as far as… the Bible. In film, the predecessors are legendary but always the focus remains firmly on the durability of man, which tends to boil down to a testosterone fest. ''The survival movies I love are always about the man climbing the figurative hilltop, finding his manliness. I think men hold rocks over their heads, beat their chests and play football because they can't give birth,'' MacDonald observed wryly.

BACKCOUNTRY does not quite follow the same path. ''We do start off with man engaging nature, accompanied by the urban female who is way outside of her comfort zone. It's interesting that often the things that women warn guys about are right,'' explains Michael. When Alex is injured, Jenn must step up to become the leader, making this a story about the battle between Mother Nature and a woman.

The pivotal scene, which Michael said he has not seen enough of in other films, takes place on a hike when Alex, who has always led the two of them, falls to the back and Jenn takes the lead.

What MacDonald likes about the context of nature is the purity of the conflict. ''One thing I know about nature is that there is no lying. It is what it is. You go into nature with yourself. You can have all of the ego or whatever baggage you bring with you, but when you are out in those elements, the real person emerges, no matter what. Nature is the real world.''


In survival, there is will and there is wit. This film incorporates the elements of predator and prey, life and death. Survival movies ultimately become about the inner character that nature brings to the fore. Both lead characters go through a journey, MacDonald explained. ''I don't want audiences to watch these people go camping, I want audiences to be with them, to smell their sweat, smell their fear, to feel the wind in their hair and I really feel that with my Director of Photography, Christian Bielz, we are capturing that,'' he said. The moment MacDonald especially wanted to explore was ''the moment when you have given everything you have... and it is not enough. This is not when there is a little reserve left, but when you have given everything. It is right then that something else steps in that we cannot explain.''

A test of character demands a worthwhile adversary. Sometimes it is hunger or the weather or the terrain or injury. On occasion, it is other men or other people. In BACKCOUNTRY, it is a black bear. MacDonald was crafty in his selection of this particular bear. Kodiaks or Grizzlies are the usual choices because they are spectacularly ominous. But the odds of encountering one of those are not high, depending on where you are camping. Black bears are different because black bears are everywhere. By far they are the most familiar and common of all bears.

And if you do encounter one, there are three possible scenarios, according to MacDonald. ''Mostly, black bears are afraid of humans and scurry away. Or there is the habitual bear (it has become habituated to human food sources). It's used to eating your garbage and keeps coming around. It's like a pest, an overgrown raccoon that can weigh as much as 1000 pounds. The third scenario is rare, but it does happen that you come across a predatory bear and they have one thing on their minds and that is to eat you.''

MacDonald did extensive research and came to realize that the predatory black bear can be as ferocious as the lions and tigers in the Sundarbans Reserve in India and Bangladesh. ''Just because man is at the top of the food chain doesn't mean we are removed from it,'' he said. In what has been interpreted as a sign of good luck, on the first day of shooting at Powassan, Ontario, a black bear appeared on set. Thankfully, it was interested in nothing more than garbage. That said, in a pamphlet distributed to the cast and crew of BACKCOUNTRY, entitled, How to avoid encounters with black bears while enjoying the outdoors, the final bit of advice was telling, ''If the bear makes contact, fight back with everything you have.''

The story of BACKCOUNTRY is based on a true story that happened in a provincial park. But when looking for a park location for the filming, the reaction was slightly reminiscent of the plot of Jaws. The producers were not permitted to shoot in the provincial park they originally wanted because of the story content. ''The first location was afraid of the reality of campers coming across a predatory black bear. This gave me a sense of pride,'' said MacDonald, ''It means I did my job. The story is real enough that audiences will believe in these characters and this journey.''

''And I want this film to shake people up and see things for what they really are,'' he continued. ''My goal is to make a bear attack scene that audiences will never forget, that will shake them to the core, that they have never seen before. But I want to make a movie that is more than being about a bear attack - I want it to be about character and story.''

Backcountry Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Adam MacDonald

Writing Credits

Adam MacDonald


Missy Peregrym

Jeff Roop

Nicholas Campbell

Eric Balfour

Music by

Vince Nudo

Cinematography by

Christian Bielz

Genres: Drama, Horror, Thriller

Country: Canada

Backcountry Official Trailer

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