The true story behind “Backcountry”

Every now and then, the thriller/survival genre puts out a movie that would scare people enough to completely abandon a favorite leisure activity. 

When Jaws was released, nobody was ready to go near water for a long time. After watching Backcountry, the audience was scared of bears. Seeing such a vicious animal made many rethink their next camping trip.

The 2005 Bear Attack

In 2005, a black bear started making headlines for hunting people in the northern Ontario region. 

It was this incident that served as an inspiration behind the movie. 

Jacqueline Perry and Mark Jordan, a young couple, were on a two-week holiday. Their plan included kayaking and camping at a remote campsite nearly 80 km north of Chapleau.

Out of nowhere, Jacqueline got attacked by a black bear. 30-year-old Mark Jordan tried his best to help her by fighting off the animal.

He stabbed the bear with a Swiss Army knife, but Perry was already in a critical condition by the time he got a hold of her.

Jordan picked his wife up and put her on their kayak. 

He paddled in hopes of getting to safety, screaming for help.

He was heard by a father and son who quickly rushed to his aid, calling a doctor. Perry’s survival chances were getting bleaker by the second. 

The doctor arrived too late for Jacqueline; she died in the boat while being treated for her wounds.

After the news of this horrific tragedy broke, the fear of black bears became real among hikers. 

To address this situation, the Ministry of Natural Resources asked Keith Scott, a beer expert, for assistance.

In an attempt to calm people, Scott explained that attacks of this nature are rare. He even produced statistics and assured people that only four fatalities had ever been reported due to black bear attacks. 

Keith told the crowd that the police were tracking the bear who had acquired a predator-type nature and had become a threat to anyone nearby. 

Plot of Backcountry

Alex (Jeff Roop) and Jen (Missy Peregrym) go camping on the weekend. 

Right on their arrival, Alex is warned by a park ranger. The officer tells him his preferred trail is closed and he should go somewhere else. 

Alex doesn’t listen to him and tells Jen he knows his way around. After some time, he injures his foot, forcing the couple to find a camping spot quickly.

At night, when Jen and Alex are setting up for dinner, a tour guide named Brad (Eric Balfour) comes to say hello to them. 

The interaction gets irritating for Alex as Brad keeps on flirting with Jen. The tour guide even tells Jen that he is better suited to take her on the hike. 

The next morning, an agitated Alex decides to go much further than the couple had originally decided. On his way, he notices a bear paw print but doesn’t mention anything to Jen. The couple also comes across the carcass of a half-eaten deer but doesn’t think much of it.

After arriving at the supposed lake location, they realize they have no idea where they are. There was no lake, and Alex comes clean about his poor knowledge of the area. 

Jen tries to find her cellphone to help them navigate, but her boyfriend tells her of another blunder. 

Alex had hidden her phone in the car because he thought she wouldn’t enjoy the trip fully, tethered to her screen.

This confession leads them to a huge fight where Alex finally tells her why he had brought her to the lake. He planned to propose to her.

Jen calms down after hearing Alex’s real reason, and she even apologizes to him. 

Then they quickly set up their camp and treat Alex’s foot.

That night, the bear first appears and takes all of their food. After seeing their supplies gone, Alex and Jen realize that they aren’t camping in a safe spot. 

The couple tries to move the campsite in the dark, but it turns out that they didn’t move far enough. The next morning, Alex sees the bear coming closer to the tent. 

Before he can do anything, the bear claws Jen. 

Both of them keep fighting with the bear, getting injured in the process. Then, Jen’s bear spray works and gets the bear off their back for a while. 

Even after that, the bear returns and, this time, succeeds in attacking Alex. When Jen realizes that she can’t help him, she decides to flee.

Jen has no food or shelter, and she is also getting stalked by the bear who is ready to pounce on her. To get it off her back, she tries to climb a waterfall but slips.

That fall results in her getting her ankle broken. After a harrowing journey, she finally returns to the campsite. Jen paddles back to the lodge and collapses on the beach, where Brad finds her.

Adam MacDonald’s Vision

The writer-director, Adam MacDonald, was first struck by this idea when camping with his wife. 

He heard a noise coming from outside the tent, which sparked the idea for the movie script.

When Alex started writing, he did a deep dive into the history of wild animals attacking people. While researching, the story of Jacqueline and Mark caught his eye, and he decided to use that incident as a base for his movie.

Throughout the making of this movie, Adam’s main intention was to present it in a way that highlights the grotesque nature of these attacks.

He also changed the script to a large extent and explained that it wasn’t exactly a documentary. MacDonald didn’t compromise on the authenticity of the events, and instead of using a CGI bear, he decided to hire two real ones. 

The director was so petrified of the wild animals that he didn’t sleep the night before the first day of shooting. 

Upon release, Backcountry got positive responses from the audience and critics alike.