I’m not really into ‘so bad it’s good’ movies unless they are fully in on the joke and do a great job of really amping up their cheesiness, but with its 80’s setting and balls-to-the-wall vibe, I was intrigued by this one; so when Miss Rachel suggested we see this, our second bear movie of the month together, I was in!
The ‘based on a true story’ disclaimer was bothering me though; it didn’t seem right to make a horror-comedy about people dying, so when I discovered it was only the concept of a bear on cocaine and the circumstances surrounding how she got to be that way that were used in this film, I felt relieved and marched off to the cinema for what I assumed would be a slight and corny comedy.
I got much more than I expected.
Focusing on several different protagonists including the always-good Kerri Russel as a mum searching for her daughter and friend who are lost in the local national forest, a pair of forest rangers (a barely recognisable Jesse Tyler Ferguson of ‘Modern Family’ fame and Margo Martindale), a trio of small-time teenage crooks and a separate trio of big-time drug dealers (the late Ray Liotta amongst them in his last film role), a pair of sheriffs accompanied by adorable Lhasa Apso Rosette – don’t worry, she lives!) and more, this tells the story of a bear accidentally coming across cocaine in the forest where she lives, ingesting it and essentially going on a drug-fueled killing spree all in search of more cocaine.
In between the action, the film focuses on the different protagonist groups individually, so we learn more about each character and grow invested in their stories. Luckily the sprawling cast is wholly populated with talented and reliable actors who all manage to be personable and interesting which is no small feat. This is something that is vital for a good horror movie – give the audience characters to invest in and we will care when they are endangered. It’s not rocket science but something that many film-makers don’t seem to understand. It’s the texture that counts. Each character here comes alive as a fully-formed person with their own thoughts, motivations, quirks, needs; and it’s this attention to detail that really pays off in the long run.
However, there are set-pieces here that are pure adrenaline-fuelled, yell-at-the-screen action that shake things up and keep the film moving a pleasingly fast-pace; one in particular (pictured above) was so well-executed and so gruesome that I felt pinned to my seat in horror, even while I was laughing. In fact, it’s the gruesome attacks that took me by surprise – I did not expect things to be quite so graphic, they really leave very little to the imagination.
Written by Jimmy Warden (The Babysitter) and directed by Elizabth Banks (Charlies Angels 2019, Pitch Perfect 2) this is a perfect blend of comedy and horror which is hard to get right. Too much either way and you lose the ability to enjoy the other; tone is vital and Banks nails it. I particularly enjoyed the way she plays with audience expectations; take the ambulance scene for instance – the driver floors it, a power song drops, and we are off – this is the recipe for a kickass escapade set to a cool beat as we have all seen and enjoyed in films before. Instead, Banks treats us to some of the grisliest carnage I’ve seen in a long time, and because of the preceding ‘escapade vibe’, we are totally unprepared for it. I also really liked how she took great pains to ensure the audience understands the difference between a movie monster bear and the real-life animals, the ‘bears do not attack humans without cause’ message was received and appreciated.
Goofy but not stupid, bloody, funny, and exciting with a killer soundtrack and a liberal dose of 80’s dorkiness; I had a great time with this.
And I didn’t even need to get stoned.