Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here. Happy Birthday to AICN HORROR which celebrates its sixth year on Ain’t It Cool News in October! And what a fantastic year in horror it was! Always hoping to pass on new and exciting films for all of you ravenous readers, I have once again compiled a list counting down my favorite horror film released since last October 1, 2014 and covered in my weekly AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column.
As far as how I compiled this list? Well, I simply looked over my AICN HORROR columns over the last year since October 1st, 2014 (which happens to be the birthday of this little column six years ago!) and worked and reworked a list throughout the year until I had 31. No real method to my special brand of madness; just my own personal favorites. The only rule qualifying the film for this countdown is that it had to be released to the masses (via theaters, digital download, On Demand, or DVD/BluRay) within the range of October 1, 2014 and October 1, 2015. Anything before or after that span of time doesn’t count in this haunted dojo. I’ll be counting down every day until Halloween to my favorite horror film of the year. I’ll also provide a second film suggestion at the end of each post that is worth noting or just missed making the list for those who can’t get enough horror.
So let’s get to it! Chime in after the article and let me know what you think of the pick, it’s placing on the list, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, and most importantly, let me know your own personal faves from the last year in horror…let’s go!
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BACKCOUNTRY (2014)Directed by Adam MacDonald
Written by Adam MacDonald
Starring Missy Peregrym, Jeff Roop, Eric Balfour, Nicholas Campbell
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Dedicated readers of AICN HORROR know that one of my most basest of fears is of sharks. I don’t go into the ocean because of this fear and while I love watching killer shark movies, the films often chill me to the bone and effect me in ways that most everything else in the world of horror don’t….that is, except for bears. Bears are not cute cuddly things that eat honey and put out forest fires. Bears are land sharks and the same great fear I have of sharks goes double for bears as can avoid the ocean, but I spend 100% of my time on land. The good news is that I love being scared and films about bear attacks definitely send my old spine a tinglin’. BACKCOUNTRY is such a film which possesses one of the most realistic and terrifying bear attack sequences I have ever seen. While the scene is brief, the build to this scene is amazingly tension filled as we fist notice the tracks, then a gored animal, and finally the bear itself in ways that only heighten the tension to a pitch that is nerve-shattering. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
BACKCOUNTRY is a story of a couple heading out on a trip into the wild. Alex (Jeff Roop) is a self proclaimed woodsman, but like most city boys, it appears that his woodland training (which consists of going into the Canadian wilderness with his parents as a kid) is rudimentary at best. In the opening moments, it’s established that he’s a bit of a jerk, somewhat self centered, and not the best boyfriend as his girlfriend Jenn (Missy Peregrym ) takes a boyfriend test in a magazine and he fails it gloriously. Still, Alex is not portrayed as a total jerk. Through tender moments, we see Alex being a decent and affectionate guy, genuinely wanting to share an experience from his youth which he holds near and dear with his girlfriend. When Alex and Jenn cross paths with Brad (a Scottish brogue blurting Eric Balfour) who challenges Alex’s masculinity and makes him feel inadequate in front of Jenn, the couple’s seemingly good relationship starts to show its weaknesses. But Brad’s advances aren’t the only predatorial urges at play in this film. There’s the aforementioned bear stalking the periphery and circling close that pushes the couple to the limits of their relationship.
What works best with this film is the fact that writer/director Adam MacDonald fills this film with all sorts of strains on Alex and Jenn’s relationship. While the ties between the two are not perfect, both are very likable and this is key in order for any of the threats to work. So if you have issues with either of these characters, putting them in peril is only going to make you root one of them will soon be coming out of the south end of a north bound bear. MacDonald does a great job of keeping the threats vague for a great while as well. While it is evident something predatorial is stalking them, we don’t see it and for a long time I was wondering if this was a man vs. nature story or a man vs. man in nature story. Turns out it’s a little of both as the couple do a lot to threaten their own relationship themselves even before anything monstrous arrives. This threat from multiple fronts is part of the appeal of the film and since I found myself enmeshed with this couple and wanting them to work past their differences in order to survive, when the claws do come out (both literal and metaphorical) it makes the danger all the more palpable.
The bear attack in this film is legendary. It’s the kind of scene people will reference because it is so well paced and edited. While it’s highly choppy, MacDonald almost treats this scene like the shower scene in PSYCHO; focusing on one tiny detail after another and placing all of the puzzle pieces together on screen for the viewer to piece together. Seeing it all play out was absolutely horrific as not only do we piece together the carnage, but we hear it in gory, vivid detail as teeth and claws rip through flesh and gnaw at bone until it splinters. BACKCOUNTRY has been called OPEN WATER WITH BEARS. The description fits, but comparing it to OPEN WATER makes it feel like an uninspired copy. BACKCOUNTRY is not. It tosses you right into the bear pit with nothing but your own hands to protect you from what you’re witnessing. Those who love films highlighting the horrors of mother nature and man’s tendency to think he can somehow overcome it are in for a true treat with BACKCOUNTRY and those who plan a camping trip might want to either watch this film as a precautionary tale or steer clear of it lest you have many a sleepless night in your tent in the middle of the woods.
The fact that this film made me shake from head to toe makes me give this film a high recommendation. It’s more than just one bear attack that makes the film as the performances, the atmosphere, and the thematic heft are all great. But damn that is one doozy of a bear attack nevertheless.
Worth noting: CHILD OF GOD!
#31 – AN AMERICAN TERROR
#30 – WE ARE STILL HERE
#29 – FROM THE DARK
#28 – THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN
#27 – DEAD SNOW 2: DEAD VS RED
#26 – THE GREEN INFERNO
#25 – THE EDITOR
#24 – THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN
#23 – WITCHING & BITCHING
#22 – EXTINCTION
#21 – WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 13 years & AICN HORROR for 6. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.
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