'Backcountry' Director Talks Filming Bears, Hanging Off Cliffs (Exclusive Images)

Courtesy of IFC Midnight
Missy Peregrym

IFC Midnight will open the thriller theatrically in the U.S. on March 20.

"There was talk in the beginning of, 'do we want an animatronic bear?'" says Adam MacDonald. “I was like, 'F— no.' "

The writer-director will make his feature debut with Backcountry, the story of a couple who gets lost on a wilderness trek and encounters predatory wildlife and other dangers. The Hollywood Reporter here exclusively debuts new images from the horror release, which IFC Midnight will open theatrically on March 20.

The Canadian film premiered in Toronto in 2014, where it received positive reviews. THR's Justin Lowe calls its climactic scenes "impressively and disconcertingly realistic in their ferocity" and writes, “Knowing that the situations depicted in actor and filmmaker Adam MacDonald's Backcountry are based on 'true events' only makes them more harrowing to watch unfold onscreen."

MacDonald "was determined to find a location that felt really like you were in the woods," he tells THR. He shot the film over 16 days mostly in northern Ontario, enduring bitterly cold temperatures and treks into the forest to reach the set. For one waterfall sequence, cinematographer Christian Bielz hung off a cliff to shoot lead actress Missy Peregrym. (Says Macdonald of Bielz, "He's my hero.")

The crew was so deep in the wilderness that a bear roamed through their camp one night. "Our security guy in the morning was white as a ghost," says MacDonald. "He saw it, and he freaked out."

But the director brought bears on set for the scenes where the characters come face-to-face with one of the territorial beasts. He was "intimidated much more than I expected" with the trained black bears they filmed over one day. "You see it claw a tree on set and you're like, 'oh my god. I hope today isn't the day it just goes crazy,' " he says. The actors were game (though nervous) to film up close with the animals. "They were an inch away from that bear's face," says MacDonald.

The filmmaker, whose acting credits include ABC's Rookie Blue and Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, got Backcountry into development through his cousin, Jeff Roop, who plays the male lead. Roop introduced him to Fella Films producer Thomas Michael, who funded the project over three years via grants from Telefilm Canada and the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund. Peregrym, for her part, knew MacDonald from performing with him on Rookie Blue. D Films will distribute the thriller in Canada.

Macdonald, repped by APA and Canada's Characters Talent Agency, next will helm The Wolf at the Door, a horror film he compares to Dead Calm, the 1989 film in which a killer (Billy Zane) hunts a couple (Sam Neill and Nicole Kidman) on a boating trip. His film will take place in a cabin.

True to its title, it'll involve a wolf attack. With real wolves? "Absolutely!" he laughs.