Directed by John Rebel
Written by Roel Reine & Ethan Wiley
Starring Brendan Michael Coughlin, Patrick Scott Lewis, Katie Lowes, & Bill Rampley
You know, I think the folks behind the movie simply named BEAR share the same fear of bears that I have. There is a lot here that could be great. The story is pretty simple; four people wreck their car in the middle of a forest and run into a bear. One kills it and they think everything is ok until the bear’s mate shows up for revenge. The concept of a bear with vengeance in its eyes is both goofy and fun. But given the right conditions, it could make for a pretty frightening tale.
At the point of the film when we find out the bear is out for blood, BEAR could go either way—deathly serious or full-on camp. In order for either to work, I think another factor should have come into consideration—budget and effects. If the story were to go the deathly serious route, the best way to do that is to make the threat of the bear real and scary. If the story were to go a more campy route, corners could be cut with the budget to amp up the laughs rather than thrills. Unfortunately, BEAR cut corners and played it deadly serious, and in doing so, the resulting film isn’t that great.
Because the bear in BEAR is either a bear being filmed from a safe distance wrecking up a minivan or a man in a floppy fur suit pawing at screaming actors, the story isn’t really that terrifying. The actors are playing things completely straight. They are supposed to be terrified as a guy wearing a bear rug circles their car. The thing is, the bear simply isn’t that frightening and because of that, the film falls completely flat.
There are elements to like about BEAR. They were going for a claustrophobic CUJO feel with a vicious beast circling a car full of folks dealing with their own demons. It’s an ambitious film, but one held back by its limitations of budget and effects and maybe the abilities of the actors, who are shooting for the gold here, but may be in need of a bit more target practice.
At the beginning of this column, I said that a film that captures the true fear a bear attack could produce hadn’t been made yet. That feeling may have been captured in Herzog’s GRIZZLY MAN, but since that was a documentary and out of respect for the dead, I didn’t want to include that with these picks. All of the films featured today, even BEAR, had a moment or two that twinged my fear of bears at least a bit. BEAR didn’t fully succeed, but it served as a reminder of that fear.