Now available on DVD
Glenn Morshower as Ranger Bob
Randy Wayne as Michael “Scab” White
Zulay Henao as Lola
Emily Foxler as Bebe
Shedrack Anderson as Ty
Julie Skon as Candy
Kavan Reece as Ryan
Jelynn Rodriguez as KiKi
Trevor Peterson as Trickster
Directed by Tom Skull
It’s commonly known that bears in the wilderness are attracted to the scent of blood, a fact that’s acknowledged several times throughout Grizzly Park. Writer/director Tom Skull knows that, like bears, we horror fans are attracted to blood, too — which is why it’s so puzzling that in a movie offering little else, we’re made to wait so long for it.
With its cross-hairs set somewhere between the hulking-killer-in-the-woods territory of 1982’s Madman and the when-nature-attacks-we-laugh terrain of Lake Placid, Grizzly Park fires recklessly in multiple directions without managing to hit much of anything. Ostensibly a tale of teens stalked by both a fugitive serial killer and a bloodthirsty bear, what unfolds instead is an exercise in unrelenting tedium surrounding eight dull stick figures who spout vacuous lines at one another while dragged sluggishly through the woods, with us in tow.
A cast of unknowns with pretentiously exotic names makes up this repellent pack of delinquents headed to a forested national park to pick up trash in atonement for their misdemeanor behavior. A cross-spectrum of archetypes and ethnicities, they’re nonetheless the blandest bunch of bad kids to ever do community service. The bimbo bares nothing, the thug couldn’t threaten a tomcat, and the resident prankster thinks plastic spiders constitute a clever scare. Even stoic Ranger Bob (Glenn Morshower), the beleaguered park ranger leading their expedition, is more engaging and sympathetic, stuck in the same predicament we are for about 85 minutes of flat humor and faulty characterization and 10 minutes of redemptive slaughter.
Certainly no one goes into a movie like Grizzly Park park looking for high-quality horror, but with both a bear and a homicidal maniac on the hunt, the proceedings should get interesting much sooner than they actually do. But like everything in his debut film, director Skull (who hardly seems worthy of such a cool last name) is unsure of what to do with these elements. After slashing the throat of the corrections officer assigned to chauffer the kids to their retreat, the burly, bearded killer masquerades as the dead man and hides out in the ranger’s quarters, presumably waiting for the opportune time to pick up his old habit and rid the forest of a few unwelcome teenage malcontents. He never gets the chance, though, becoming the bear’s first victim in a mostly offscreen attack and checking out of the film around the 30-minute mark. It’s as though his very presence is an afterthought, like someone on the crew suggested adding a slasher subplot and Skull obliged only to forget idea midway through production.
Among other ingredients introduced only to be ignored are some blatant references to eco-horror, a hint of commentary about racial tension and circumstantial alliances, and even the nature of the crimes committed by the film’s eight unlikable leads. Skull keeps the misdoings of his subjects secret at the film’s outset, choosing instead to reveal them slowly — very slowly — over the course of the film. But rather than giving these details greater relevance as danger finally develops, Skull drops them almost as soon as they’re established. It makes no difference that one character has a skill for concocting poisons, or that another is adept at identity theft. These traits are just dressing for characters who are otherwise indistinguishable from one another. The only recurring thread given any significant follow-through is a running joke about breast implants. Even the twist ending tacked on in a further attempt at humor lacks impact, relevance, or clarity.
But by far the greatest waste in Grizzly Park is that of the film’s evident production values and the gorgeous locations on which it was shot. Skull is certainly adequate behind the camera, and his teaming with cinematographer Matt Cantrell produces some rich visuals â especially the autumnal colors, rolling hills, and lush streams of rural southwest Virginia, a scenic palette ripe with haunting potential that’s completely squandered.
It is only when the outrageous bloodshed begins in the film’s final reel that Grizzly Park actually resembles the madcap b-movie it aspires to be. The pace improves and all ill-conceived pretense is cast aside like a torn chunk of human torso. There’s nothing here that’s particularly inventive, but what Skull presents in these final moments at least capitalizes on the killer bear concept. The cast’s interaction with the bear, though minimal, is convincing, and the resulting carnage, though over-the-top, is entertaining.
But everything that comes before? Unbearable.