Grizzly Park (2008)
"Eight troubled young people. Six days community service. It's gonna be a bear."
Eight young delinquents are sent to do community service at Grizzly Park under the watchful eye of Ranger Bob. Whilst on the way to the park, their corrections officer is killed by an escaped psycho who assumes his identity and plans to kill the teenagers off during their stay. But unbeknownst to anyone is the fact there is a giant grizzly bear on the loose in the woods which smells blood and begins to kill off the group one-by-one.
Grizzly bears have never been the go-to monsters for low budget creature feature films. Save for the 1976 Jaws-inspired Grizzly and the mutant killer bear shocker The Prophecy, the killer bear sub-genre was hardly been touched upon until the mid-2000s where a handful of killer bears have been unleashed across rural America. However, the recent Grizzly Rage and Bear have both proved that there is a reason why bears don't make for good killer monsters and Grizzly Park reinforces that fact - whilst there is no question they are ferocious animals when faced with in the wild, they just don't have that same stigma that sharks or snakes do. We'd rather cuddle up to a bear than go swimming with a shark.
Grizzly Park seems to have got its scripts mixed up with that of a low budget slasher film, or at least that's the impression it gives in the first hour. The escaped psycho looks to be the primary antagonist of the film and with a major lack of killer bear action, you'd hope that he'd live up to his billing. A lot of time is spent up building up the character in the expectation that he'd pose to be a bigger problem to the teenagers than the bear, or even come to their rescue and have his character arc go full circle. But no, the film drops him when he's served his purpose to pad out a bit of time.
It's an unnecessary waste of running time but the entire film is in all honesty. Grizzly Park has the lure of a killer bear, false expectations of free-flowing blood and potential to do something vaguely different with the whole monster-on-the-loose formula that this film is pandering to but opts to not only play it safe but rarely put itself into first gear. We feel every arduous step of the trek that the teenage cast take through the woods because that's pretty much all that happens for the majority of the film. The characters bicker, the characters walk, the characters do some 'wilderness' stuff like make a campfire, the characters bicker, the characters walk.....etc.
I like how these films always manage to cram every racial stereotype into their little groups of teenage tearaways. The parole office have gone to great pains to ensure that this group has the requisite white trash fascist, the Latina gangbanger, token black guy, rich preppie, Asian girl, blonde bimbo and more. I'm sure that putting together such socially-polarised groups is all done in the name of community relations but let's get real - there's no chance of this ever happening in real life. There's no sympathy to this group - none of the characters are likeable in any way and it comes to something when the Neo-Nazi guy moves closest to establishing any form of relationship with the audience. Glenn Morshower is one of those character actors who appears everywhere. He's great as the stoic Ranger Bob who seems to be representing the audience in the film, with his shrugging, his ho-humming and general lack of enthusiasm for what is going on. With no one to root for, the film becomes a waiting game as we sit and wonder when the first character is going to be killed off.
This takes ages to happen though and Grizzly Park will lose you long before the entertaining cheese kicks in during the final third. I didn't realise this was supposed to be a comedy until I checked the IMDB page. It does kind of explain the over-the-top gore effects, which are the film's saving grace. Mercifully done with the use of old school latex instead of CGI, though the effects look a little goofy, they're still highly enjoyable. From having silicone breast implants being ripped out to arms being torn off, Grizzly Park showcases some light-hearted splatter. But it all comes too late in the day and though the bear finally makes an appearance to kick off this massacre, it's all over rather too quickly.
Grizzly Park's final reel gives some evidence as to what the final product could have been had the cheap and cheerful splatter been more evenly spread throughout. Instead we've got a film which tries to live and die by its final third but unfortunately by that point the film is beyond resurrecting thanks to the woefully-lacklustre first two thirds. Grizzly need not worry - there is still no usurper to its crown of 'best killer grizzly bear film ever' moniker. And judging by recent efforts, it is a moniker that it is likely to have for some time yet.
Director(s): Tom Skull
Writer(s): Tom Skull
Actor(s): Glenn Morshower, Shedrack Anderson III, Susan Blakely, Ryan Culver, Trevor Petersen, Whitney Cummings
Duration: 91 mins