It's not a surprise that the concept for Backcountry, director Adam MacDonald's new horror film about a couple who ventures into the wilderness and encounters a big, bad black bear, came to him on a camping trip. The film screens at 7:15 p.m. on Thursday, April 2, at the Capitol Theatre and then opens there on April 10. The April 2 screening will feature an introduction and post-film discussion with Harvey Webster, the director of wildlife resources at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
"I was in a tent with my wife," says MacDonald when asked about the inspiration for the story. "I woke up at the earliest crack of dawn and I heard something walking around the tent. I don't know if it was a dog or a bear or a raccoon, but it really scared me at first. I thought of Open Water in the woods. That morning, I told my wife I wanted to make the film. Five years later, it's bizarre to see it finally come to life."
The film follows a couple (Missy Peregrym and Jeff Roop) as the two hike out to a remote campground. Along the way, they encounter a black bear that starts tracking them.
"When I started writing the script, I started doing research and came across true stories of bear attacks," MacDonald says. "There was a young couple that got attacked in the backcountry of northern Ontario. That inspired me. There was this couple in Algonquin Provincial Park as well. That gave me the weight and anchor and emotion of the story, thinking of those people. It's a fictionalized account for sure."
MacDonald admits the film is a "slowburn." It's certainly paced much slower than your average horror flick, which will often start slow and then pour on the blood and guts and gore. And yet that's also its strength. It builds so slowly, it catches viewers off guard when the violence hits.
"Some of my favorite films are slow-burn films," says MacDonald. "I'm a bit tired of the scare every five seconds and the films that give away the ending at the beginning. It's fine but one of my favorite horror directors is Rob Zombie. He does that but in his own way. Alien is a good example. That's a slow burn in many ways and so is The Shining and Ti West really changed things with House of the Devil. When I saw that, I knew I wanted more of those films. When I was writing this film five years ago, I thought if I'm bombarding you with all these elements and the pace is so fast, it won't be realistic. When you're hiking, things can go from slow to fast in a hurry. I wanted to capture that and for some people it's too slow but it's the movie I wanted to make."
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