Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bear No Evil

I love movies made by people just visiting this planet. Often these extraterrestrials with a penchant for midnight filmmaking are disguised as foreigners, like the enigmatic Tommy Wiseau or Birdemic’s James Nguyen. We laugh at their incompetence, stoning up our faces only if and when we discover these men or women are in on the joke. Nobody should make The Room with the intention of making The Room, and if they did, then let us banish them to a vault of phonies currently occupied by Troma trolls.

Tom Skulls, the mind behind Grizzly Park, is a riddle wrapped inside a ridiculously great name. With only this film to his credit, it’s impossible to know what he’s capable (or incapable) of doing, and more importantly, just how self-aware this bizarrely bad nature amok horror film is. The movie is poorly acted, paced, and written, but certain touches seem to hint at this man being in on his own joke.  

Color me perplexed.

Quick Plot: We start on a biblical quote about bears, something I didn’t know existed.

We move on.

It’s closing season for Grizzly Park, a foresty paradise prone to wildfires, rattlesnakes, and once upon a time, bear attacks. Before Ranger Bob (Glenn Morshower) sets his stiff hat down for winter, the no-nonsense mountain man must lead a group of juvenile delinquents with cute misdemeanors like statutory rape on a weeklong cleaning hike, pausing to break up mild fights, ask the kids about their spotty pasts, and try his best to keep them from sexing up the wilderness. There’s also the slightly more pressing matters involving an escaped murderer masquerading as a corrections officer and, you know, man-eating grizzly bears trying to fill up before winter hibernation.

So yes, Grizzly Park is essentially a remake of See No Evil with Kane’s lead villain now being played by Brody the Bear. 

Replace some of that film’s messy CGI with scenes that instead focus on characters screaming cut with quick shots of Brody roaring, characters screaming with blood on them cut with more quick shots of Brody, and longer shots of Brody followed by juicy prosthetic limbs and you’ve got something of a movie.

 I think.

I say something because Grizzly Park’s script feels like it was penned by an eighth grader trying to get extra credit by handing in a one-act play inspired by The Call of the Wild. Observe such dialogue:

“I could really use a beer.”
“Oh! I could drink one.”

Is this a joke I’m not getting? How about one character’s rationalization of the theory of relativity in regards to being lost in the woods:

“If a tree falls in a forest, do you hear the tree? How do you know [we’ve been walking for] more than 10 minutes?”

Clearly someone paid attention when watching Nathan Lane butcher Tchaikovsky in The Nutcracker In 3D!

Remember how See No Evil introduced its unmemorable teenage bait? There was a freeze frame on their pretty young faces as text read out their names and crimes. Grizzly Park isn’t quite as advanced. As each kid boards the park bus, the film presents their mug shot. Not their rap sheet, especially since most of their crimes are saved as a later reveal because we’re supposed to care enough to be curious. Nope. Just their faces in black and white, with an indicator of their height behind them. Note that this happens before most have even spoken, promising that we’ll remember each attractive mug because…um…we care?

To be kind, Grizzly Park does help us decipher characters with ease, primarily because each embodies a stereotype so strongly, it’s impossible to misidentify anyone. Upon roll call, The Black Guy affirms his presence with “In the house,” kindly telling the audience that he is The Black Guy. 

The Rich Guy ties his sweater over his shoulders and is a The Third, ensuring we’ll know that the white guy with the sweater is rich. A kid named—I kid you not—Trickster plays, get this, practical jokes.  There's a spoiled blond who packs designer heels for a camping trip because that’s just what spoiled blonds do (they also, just like in See No Evil, chat obnoxiously on cell phones but you already knew that). 

Scab is a white supremacist who huffs Pam cooking spray and therefore can be excused for acting like a space alien or someone trying to make sense out of the script. There’s a Latina with gang associations because, you know, she’s Latina. The girl with the biggest breasts is stupid, since that’s how anatomy works. In a feat of restraint, the Asian girl isn’t the computer whiz but a terrible person who tried to kill her mother.

Actually, ALL the kids are horrid, horrid, and horridly irredeemable people, something that makes me almost wonder if Tom Skulls is a smarter screenwriter than I’m giving him credit for. There’s no way we’re NOT expected to hate these kids, and thus, when the bear (and occasionally, wolf) feasting begins, we have nothing to do but cheer as their Maxim caliber bodies are torn into bloody bits. Considering the only mildly likable character (yes, it’s the one with big boobs)’s best moment comes at her thrill at seeing a picnic table (dialogue: “Oh goodie! A picnic table!”) I have to tip my ranger hat to its source.

Grizzly Park IS funny, and its humorous nihilism is surely intentional. I don’t doubt that Tom Skulls (seriously, Tom Skulls) was having fun with camera ogling hot bodies on evil people before literally tearing them in half. But the film is just so strangely made that I hesitate to call it fully self-aware. Is a five-minute underwear-clad coed bathing scene supposed to just SIT THERE in the middle of the film, with music playing as we gaze at wordless actors passing soap around for, did I mention, FIVE MINUTES?

How about that subplot involving a serial killer, the one who’s supposed to be a viciously violent murderer and rapist. Isn’t that supposed to create tension? Sure…or the killer could just get eaten first, well before he even has an inch of a chance at cutting up anyone pretty. Oh, by “eaten first,” I don’t mean in the prologue: I mean 30 minutes into the film, which then gives us another 15 of the young cast complaining and washing off skunk spray before anyone else dies. Tom Skulls wants you to wait.

Ultimately, I’m just baffled by Grizzly Park, and that was well before I got to the rather insane silly-cone twist ending.

That in itself should make you want to watch this movie.

High Points
My bear hand applause goes out to the makeup and special effects team, who do a fine and gory job of showing some gooey bear aftermath (including a hilarious half-face discovery that makes you wonder how skin actually works)

There’s some clever use of that famously annoying camp song “I Met a Bear” in play throughout the film. Though I could’ve done without the five minute montage it played over as the stereo—er, characters were introduced, it was still vaguely cute

Low Points
Part of my reasoning for watching this movie—aside from the fact that it features a bear killing people—was that Whitney demon mother Whitney Cummings was listed in the cast. Killer bear + unbearable presence MUST = Brutal Whitney Cummings death, no? Sigh. No, no it doesn’t. Cummings shows up in the final scene to play a field reporter and survives unscathed (although the same can’t be said for her hair and makeup, something that makes me even more dubious as to Ms. Cummings’ claim to be born the same year as me)

Pet Peeve Of the Day
I hate when characters are dressed for different seasons within one setting. As someone who sleeps with a fan on in all but freezing weather, I completely understand that everybody has their own sense of hot and cold. But is there ever REALLY a situation where one person wears short shorts while another layers up?

Pet Peeve Of the Day Part 2
Look, I get that Grizzly Park’s costume department was clearly granted some generous donation from the Sears Outlet but SERIOUSLY. Speaking as a woman to any male director reading this, I beg you to hear me: Women do not sleep in bras. We wear these things to support our assets when in public. Once we walk into our houses or cabins or tents or bearskin sleeping bags, one of the first things we lose is our Victoria’s Secret, and when it comes to bedtime, most ladies I know would fall asleep inside a grizzly bear’s esophagus before turning in with brassiere intact.

Lessons Learned
Bears can run between 30 and 35 miles per hour

A shiv is not the recommended weapon when facing a grizzly bear

Overly chatty one-off characters are a great way to share some plot-necessary exposition

When you’re safely hiding in a fairly strong storage shed, there is nothing to “go check out.” Just because you’re the dude and the two girls want you to assess your status does not mean you need to listen to them. You’re perfectly secure hiding where you are. Opening up a door just reminds the bear that you are not.

Grizzly Park is one of those “wait, really?” movies that make someone like me exceedingly happy. It’s obviously intended for laughs—any film that ends with a final kill on par with this one CANNOT be taken seriously—but done so oddly that you just can’t help but wonder what Tom Skulls (and yes, I keep writing his name because it’s TOM SKULLS) originally envisioned. Considering some of the triter tripe you could be watching on Netflix Instant, it’s not by any means a dull choice to pass 90 minutes of your life and it’s certainly made with more competence than something like Haunted Boat. It drags dreadfully and packs nothing of a scare, but its sheer oddness makes it more than a recommend for someone who needs a little grizzly bear eating ugly Americans in their life. You know who you are.


  1. Honestly I can't remember seeing a killer bear movie, so might have to give this a watch for that reason alone, but thankfully now atleast I have alittle prior warning of what to expect. Still it's this sort of curiosity which usually also leads to you watching a movie like "Nude Nuns With Big Guns".

    I agree with you when you have somthing like Birdemic, as to what the directors were actually thinking when they called it a day on shooting and submit somthing which looks like a half finished piece of crap, wether they know it's crap or belive that this will be thier breakout movie. It's seemingly a delusion shared by the cast and crew of "The Zombie Diaries" whose extras are full of ass slapping about a film which isn't remotely good.

    Thanks for adding to my watch pile again :)

  2. I pretty much agree with your review. Watched this one about three years ago and was somewhat entertained by it despite its obvious shortcomings. I believe Nick Nunziata from was a producer on this.

  3. Elwood, there is some good bear action, even if most of it involves a bear roaring, then quick shot of the aftermath of his carnage. But hey, BEARS!

    I didn't mind the Zombie Diaries myself, but it did have that pretentious air to it. Points for confidence I guess?

    Aaron, I didn't know that about Nunziata. It makes sense and helps the theory that the badness was intentional. I just wish it know...better.

    1. ALL hot women in movies sleep in bras. It's one of the first things I learned in film school, and they said it's more unbreakable than the 180 degree rule...

  4. Well if they taught it in fancy dancy 'film school,' I can't see HOW it's not true. After all, these are the same institutions that taught us how all pregnant women constantly pat their stomachs and that knives make metallic 'whoosh' sounds any time they move.

  5. Not only do we not sleep in bras, but a friend's crazy ol' grandma convinced me in 7th grade that if we did sleep in bras we would grow hair on our chests!

  6. Ha! Remember when random warnings that made no sense TOTALLY made sense? Like the idea that wearing mascara made your eyelashes fall off or pinching gave you cancer? I'd never heard the bra one, but I'm TOTALLY using it in the future. I bet that harkens back to nervously busty teenagers who didn't want to take their bras off at slumber parties.

  7. This looks like a lot of fun, maybe a great double feature with Grizzly Man.

  8. In my perfect world, Grizzly would marry Grizzly Man and their baby would be a killer bear movie starring the ghost of Klaus the bear.