Late for a 30th birthday party, a trip through the country turns into a nightmare for a group of four friends when their mini-van blows a tyre. This attracts the curiosity of a grizzly bear which one of the group quickly kill with a gun. This turns out to be an even worse mistake as the grizzly's massive eight-foot tall mate arrives, trapping the group in the mini-van.
We need another killer bear film like a hole in the head. It's a sparse sub-genre that began with Grizzly back in 1976. Prophecy came along in 1979 with a mutant bear. We've had Grizzly Rage from 2007 and then most recently Cocaine Bear. I guess it shows the limitations to what one can do with the notion of a killer grizzly bear and there's a reason why there are so few killer bear films (look at the amount of killer shark and killer snake films in the meantime). Bears just aren't in the same fear factor bracket as the aforementioned creatures because, as I said in my review for Grizzly, they're usually portrayed as cuddly animals in the media. The Care Bears, Gentle Ben, Rupert the Bear, Paddington Bear, Fozzy Bear, Barney, Sooty, Winnie the Pooh, Superted, Yogi Bear....need I go on? I know they are deadly in real life and I certainly wouldn't want to cross one in the woods. But come on, we'd rather picture them as furry and cuddly as opposed to something that would crush you and maul you. Bear will not change my perceptions of that in any shape or form.
Apart from not taking a bear as serious as a threat as the film would want you to, the problems with Bear are evident from almost the first scene - that of characters. They are so annoying and spend most of their time arguing with each other. It's funny how these life-or-death situations cause people to suddenly reveal all sorts of secrets and histories with each other that they'd never disclose. It usually makes the situation worse because instead of pulling together, they turn on each other. Here is no exception as it turns out they're all sleeping around with someone else and one of them is pregnant. The constant bickering and sniping between the four people means that you'll quickly forget they're trapped inside the van with a giant grizzly bear outside. Such is the lack of focus that the bear receives for a good proportion of the running time. These characters talk about their lives, their careers, their loves and anything but the freakin' grizzly bear outside the car and how to escape. It's almost the elephant in the room (or should that be the bear in the room?).
I don't know about you but I'd rather be putting together a plan of action rather than worry about how much my mortgage is going to cost. The small cast need to be able to handle themselves in a film like this because they'll share a bigger proportion of screen time. It's a shame then that Katie Lowes, Mary Alexander Steifvater, Brendan Michael Coughlin and Patrick Scott Lewis are probably the four worst actors that director John Rebel could have found. Not one of them has an ounce of screen presence. In fact if black holes were actors, then surely these four would be blacker than black (am I allowed to say that?)
The bear is the best actor in display here. It's pretty ferocious when it's clawing at the van or growling hard through the window. It keeps plugging away at the van, slowly tearing it piece-by-piece so you know that eventually it's going to get to the people inside. But the big problem is that you will root for the bear. I mean it hasn't really done anything wrong. It just wants some good old fashioned revenge for the death of its mate. Given how bitchy and stupid the characters are, you'll immediately warm to the bear and wish it to succeed in ripping them all apart. Sadly, it doesn't do all that much and aside from one or two half-decent scenes where there is an element of danger and potential for some carnage, the film opts to remove the bear and focus back on dialogue.
Thankfully the bear is also real which adds a degree of authenticity to proceedings. There's no daft CGI here although I'm sure there was a fake paw and silly stuffed head in some close-up shots. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the bear and how it's portrayed here It's just not used enough and, given the fact it was real, there's always a degree of separation between it and the cast which takes you out of proceedings somewhat. As I've already said, the characters spend little time in worrying about their current predicament so the bear becomes a secondary threat to the brothers wanting to batter each other for sleeping around - maybe they were only able to get hold of the live bear for a one-day shoot or something. I could have done without the bear flashback though as it thinks back to its mate being shot, a ridiculous choice of scene to include which really helps Bear to jump the shark...or should that be jump the bear?
Bear is a total waste of time. Nature runs amok in other films far better than this. It was that abysmal, I spent most of time thinking of really bad puns to end my review. So here we go: I could bear-ly contain my dissatisfaction with the film. It's un-bear-able at times.
Director(s): Roel Reiné
Writer(s): Roel Reiné, Ethan Wiley
Actor(s): Brendan Michael Coughlin, Patrick Scott Lewis, Katie Lowes, Bill Rampley, Mary Alexandra Stiefvater
Duration: 88 mins