After the abysmally awful Into the Grizzly Maze, the bar was set so low for predatory bear horror that Backcountry had a very high chance of appearing good by comparison. Not only did it do that, but the film was quite well done and carried handsomely by its two leads. The dialogue, pacing, and tension were all effective for most of the duration of the movie. There was little of this film that was overtly disappointing, though it was by no means flawless.
As is the case with many fictional horror films, Backcountry claims to be based on a true story. Going into the film, I fully expected the only truth to lie in the simple fact that bears have attacked people in the past. And while one could argue that a detail here or there establishes some parallels between the true story, we are essentially dealing with just that; a film saying "this is probably what every fatal bear attack is like".
I can't decide how I feel about the third act of this film. Considering the amount of plot left after our bear attack, it is hard to consider that moment the climax. In most cases, it is not effective filmmaking when your most memorable and exciting scene feels as though it is midway through the movie. It was this third act's drop in pacing and in-flux tension with no cinematic resolution with the bear encounter that led me to one of two conclusions; either this was a courageous retelling of a true story with the closing pace be damned, or, the climax of the film came an act too early. I still don't know where I land in this regard, but it is undoubtedly the case that the most impactful scene was no where near the end, and I'm not sure it would be any solace to learn it was fully intentional.
The bear attack scene felt disturbingly accurate to how it would be if a predatory bear decided human was on the menu. It felt particularly visceral and emotionally charged because of the superb effort the director put into developing the two leads and their relationship. When the boyfriend is screaming for his girlfriend to run while he is being torn apart, there was an unsettled feeling in my gut that I must give kudos to the director for creating. It made you feel a part of this gory tragedy, and in a far more real sense than most horror films create.
The build to the attack and then the attack scene itself were evidence of great filmmaking. Everything after that wasn't a waste by any means, but it felt like it just didn't hold up in comparison to the rest of the film. If I were to place this film anywhere on the bear attack spectrum, I'd place it in between Into the Grizzly Maze and The Revenant. You know, somewhere right around The Edge.
Horror Qualifier: 6/10
Horror Quality: 6/10
Film Quality: 6/10