After a very successful run in the film festival circuit, Adam MacDonald makes his directorial debut. This Canadian born director is also a highly accomplished actor with over 40 films and television credits on his resume. At a glance, the synopsis for this feature had me wondering if this was just going to be another man vs nature film. The intriguing part was seeing how the genre for this film was labeled. “Drama, Horror, Thriller” is how it reads. Right off the bat I have to give this new director credit because this film is laid out in that formula…and it works.
Drama. Jenn (Missy Peregrym) and Alex (Jeff Roop) are your typical couple living in the big city. On the surface they appear to be this young happy pair rolling off to have some fun in the woods. What we soon start to uncover about their relationship is…nothing is ever perfect. There are always levels to a situation or relationship and they don’t always reveal themselves without proper motivation. In the case of Jenn and Alex, things look fine on the surface but this relationship was headed into murky waters before they planned this trip. In fact, you might say this trip was planned to save their relationship. The basic pitfalls and relationship cloak and dagger apply here. Alex is involved with a corporate lawyer and really wants to be the breadwinner…he is not. Somewhere during this relationship he started to feel something was slipping. He realized he was not in control and started to feel he may be losing her. The acting is very subtle and builds at a very smooth pace. There is clearly a layer of fluff between them as they roll in the car. Then when Alex notices her using her cell phone we are given the first clue to their issues. Alex planned this trip with one purpose in mind…to get Jenn to a special lake in the secluded Blackfoot Trail. He wanted to get her out of her element and out of her comfort zone. The perfect place to show her he is the man. He is supposed to be the one with expertise in hiking. They get off to a rough start and meet the estranged Brad (Eric Balfour) who becomes attracted to Jenn. From there they slowly descend deeper into the vast forest and cross roads of their relationship. For Alex, this is his chance to be the man. The acting and writing are all on point up this part of the film.
Horror. As the couple continues on their track, it becomes clear Alex is lost. He has lost the trail and has no clue where they are. What Jenn finds out is his ego has led them out into the middle of nowhere. Things get worse when Jenn realizes he took her cell phone and left it back in the car. His thinking was he wanted her complete focus on their trip and not checking email or texting. He also turned down getting a map, so no GPS help or map. It is here that Jenn makes her feelings known. She blasts him in a stack of harsh words that ends with her calling him a loser. His expression upon hearing this speaks volumes. The only way to cut any deeper, is to take a sword…anyway, to continue to make matters worse, they find themselves treading across a black bear’s home. Alex doesn’t tell Jenn this new development. Apparently he is still jolted by her verbal assault. We now know what she thinks of him when they are not smiling and hiding. She later tells him she didn’t mean it but we know better. Alex then reveals he was planning on proposing to her on the lake, the one he couldn’t find. Her reaction here is good. There is guilt, it reads well. His ego is damaged and it’s clear he is not the type of guy to lead. The funny part here, is while they are about to get all sentimental the black bear begins tracking them. What seperates this movie from all the others, is this film doesn’t try and analyze anything. The dynamics here are man versus nature. With no cell phone, gun or anything for communication or defense, they are naked in the woods. We feel this reality very hard and Alex being the weaker of the two meets his end in a vicious manner. He even predicts his death after the bear attacks and cripples him, then comes back to finish the job. Jenn is left alone…in the forest. This reminded me of that feeling I had watching the first Alien movie or jaws the first time.
Thriller. At this point the film shifts into survival mode. With no food or water, Jenn finds herself trying to escape the woods and the bear. Keep in mind she didn’t want to come on this trip to begin with and this is not her thing. We are introduced to why she was the breadwinner in their relationship again and again as she manages to stay a few steps ahead of the bear. Starving and thirsty she manages to find a canoe and floats to safety. For a first time director MacDonald does a fine job writing and directing this feature.
What I find myself liking the most is how this film went from being light hearted fun to full fledged horror by way of nature. Humans may have codes and sophisticated ways of communicating. None of that applies when we enter the forest and cross over into their world. The rules of the forest are simple…and at times can be brutal. What it tells me is when man goes against nature…man loses.
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