The Alaskan wilderness makes for a scenic backdrop in this “bear hunting humans “horror flick that should please fans of William Girdler’s 1976 opus, “Grizzly.”
It starts with a guy ,named Rowan, coming back to his hometown after a stretch in prison. Turns out he is back to help out an old friend, Cadillac Johnny, who has gone missing after teaming up with a pair of unsavory poachers. These are nasty dudes but they get their due for slaughtering bear cubs(for the claws and gallbladders)when an enormous and decidedly irate Grizzly invades their cabin.
Meanwhile Rowan’s brother, Beckett, is working for the Sheriff’s department and gets called out to the scene of a bear attack. He finds two loggers ripped to shreds . The Sheriff orders all trails closed and assigns the hunt for the beast to a local, Douglas, who has a mad on for bears. Beckett is tasked with rescuing his conservationist wife, Michelle, who is out setting snares so she can track local bear migration. He brings along Kaley, an EMT, who has a history with Rowan.
They are all bound to come together at some point and it starts with Rowan rescuing Michelle . She winds up stepping in one of her own snares when the Grizzly surprises her. Rowan manages to scare it off by firing a pistol and he stays behind to tend to Michelle.
Rowan and Kaley catch up to them and the quartet . With night approaching they bed down with a plan to exit in the morning. The grizzly decides to visit their camp in the wee hours and attacks the party. Once again they scare it off but getting away will be tricky now. The mammal is tracking hem and it has cut them off from an easy exit. The group has no choice but to cut through an area called, ‘The Grizzly Maze.” So named because bears get lost in it as easy as humans do.
Their escape is complicated by several factors . These include stumbling upon the remains of the poachers and coming to the realization that the sheriff may have known about the criminal enterprise and condoned it. Then there is also the history between Rowan and Beckett which better get worked out soon because this creature has their scent and it is not going away.
This is an excellent man vs. nature flick. The characters have a lot to contend with, and the dangers of escaping through rugged terrain put the hurt on everyone. One scene will have you cringing as the characters must pull a jagged branch out of the leg of a victim while the Grizzly bears down on them(couldn’t resist ). It all comes down to a brutal battle that finds everyone pitching in to take on the bear with very little in the way of weapons. Great stuff.
This is a superb addition to the nature based horror genre. It ranks right up there with flicks like “Deliverance” and ‘Frogs.” The bear attacks are gruesome with plenty of gore. The human drama works too, thanks to an excellent cast that includes James Marsten and Thomas Jane as the battling brothers. Scott Glenn is also good as the conflicted Sheriff but the film’s bets lines go to Billy Bob Thornton as Douglas. he functions like the Quint character in ‘Jaws” and sort of stands off to the side admiring the critter while also frothing at the mouth at the opportunity to test himself against it.
The best acting honors, however, go to ‘Bart the Bear” as the killer Grizzly. Bart is a screen veteran who got his start over a decade ago in light comedies like ‘Dr. Doolittle 2.” Now he is older and must take parts in horror flicks but he acquits himself well. The scene where he gobble a CGI head is priceless. A perfect companion to the recent “Backcountry.”
Best lines: “What kind of animal would come at a man with a running chainsaw?”
‘Logger or tree hugger, you all taste the same.”
‘You never met a bear like this before?”
Tom Doty is a columnist for The Floyd County Times.