Backcountry (Blu-ray) (2014)
|Year Of Production||2014|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Adam MacDonald|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Alex (Jeff Roop), an experienced camper and hiker, invites his girlfriend Jenn (Missy Peregryn), a city corporate lawyer, on a camping trip into the Canadian wilderness. Alex wants to show Jenn some of his favourite spots and to propose to her. Alex is a macho man, sure of himself, and he declines to take a map when it is offered by the Park Ranger. On their first night camping in the woods a stranger, Brad (Eric Balfour), appears with fish. He is invited by Jenn to stay and to have dinner, during which the first cracks start to appear in Alex and Jenn’s relationship, and indeed in Alex’s machismo. Over the next few days Alex and Jenn go further into the woods, but Alex’s overconfidence proves disastrous as they get hopelessly lost. Short on food and water and their relationship under immense strain, things get even worse when they find they have entered the territory of a huge, deadly black bear.
Backcountry is the debut feature of writer / director Adam MacDonald although he has an extensive resume as an actor, generally in TV or shorts. Backcountry is an assured debut, a drama / horror that is tightly scripted, well-acted, tense and scary. The film builds gradually towards its climax although there are creepy and scary moments throughout involving noises in the woods at night; there is one well staged and claustrophobic sequence of the couple in their tent in the dark with movement outside that anyone who has camped in the bush will appreciate. But the first hour of the film is more about character and the relationship between Jenn and Alex. Here the film certainly benefits from excellent natural and believable performances by Missy Peregryn and Jeff Roop. Both have credits predominately in TV and Roop back in 2005 acted in MacDonald’s TV short Sombre Zombie; Roop was also executive producer of Backcountry so the two obviously kept in touch.
Backcountry is at its best when the menace is unseen or only partly heard; one sequence where the bear’s shape is silhouetted on the outside of the tent as bear growls fill the rears is heart in mouth stuff. The bear attack (and this is no spoiler as the Blu-ray cover makes it obvious) is rather less effective, using out of focus quick cutting, gore effects, blood and loud roars but I guess that in a low budget film without CGI one should not expect too much. I believe that no bears were harmed during the making of the film however!
We are informed by a text screen that Backcountry was “inspired by true events”. Perhaps to emphasise the reality aspect the film is shot with swaying hand held Red digital cameras which does more or less work, while some of the widescreen compositions of the autumnal Canadian wilderness look spectacular. And, with their troubles, Jeff Roop and Missy Peregryn are a believable couple who we care about, giving this horror film a grounding in reality.
The Blu-ray cover indicates that Backcountry is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Luckily, this is incorrect and the Blu-ray has the film in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.
Shot using Red digital cameras, the fine detail in Backcountry is impressive and some of the widescreen compositions of the Canadian wilderness look spectacular. Colours have that digital glossiness and flatness but the colours of autumn look nice. The film does use a lot of hand-held camerawork which does affect sharpness, not counting the deliberate out of focus or lighter contrast shots that reflect the disorientation of the characters. Blacks are rock solid and the print handles without a problem the contrast between the black night and the flickering camp fire. Shadow detail is good.
Other than some slight motion blur against trees I did not notice any marks or artefacts.
There are no subtitles.
The only audio choice is English DTS-HD MA 5.1.
This is a subtle, well put together audio. Dialogue was always clean and easy to understand. In the woods, especially at night, the rears and surrounds were often silent; at other times there are bird and insect noises, music or the rustle and crack of branches when something more solid was around! There was also distant thunder and one scene of rain on the tent roof felt all too real! The bear sounds were menacing and during the attack the sound stage reverberated with loud growls. The sub-woofer added depth to the bear attack, thunder, the music and the menace.
The score by Frere Lumieres was diverse and effective; ominous, menacing, exciting or reflective as needed.
There are no lip synchronisation issues.
|Surround Channel Use|
Nothing. The menu offers only Play and Chapters.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region A US Blu-ray of Backcountry wins easily. The video is the same as our Region All Blu-ray but that release adds:
Backcountry is terrifying because it feels authentic; the characters, the relationships, the dialogue come over as genuine, you can feel the rain on the roof of the tent or the rustles in the bushes and when people are hurt you wince as the bones break and the blood flows. This is one instance where the swaying hand-held camera works. If it is true that the film was “inspired by true events” it makes me pleased I go camping in Australia, not Canada!
The video and audio are good but we miss out on all the extras available in the US.
|DVD||Sony BDP-S580, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||NAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||Studio Acoustics 5.1|