Now available on VOD
Brendan Michael Coughlin as Nick
Patrick Scott Lewis as Sam
Katie Lowes as Christine
Mary Alexandra Stiefvater as Liz
Blue as The Bear
Directed by John Rebel
Somewhere the ghost of Timothy “Grizzly Man” Treadwell weeps. Not for the treatment of the bear in this film – the latest in a legacy of nature-run-amok tales featuring our hirsute four-legged pals of the forest – but for the stupidity swirling around the cantankerous critter both in front of and behind the camera.
Bear is low budget junk that is incompetent on a technical level, a story level, hell, every level and if it wasn’t for the bear flashback sequence in the first 15 minutes, I would have turned it off. Yet, it was too much of a glorious disaster to turn away from, after all, if a filmmaker is pulling an “animal flashback” card to reinforce said animals motivation (see: the dog from Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes Part 2) you know you’re in unpredictable hands. And unpredictable Bear slightly is, well, at least when it comes to the animal side of things. The human drama’s a complete mess.
The story throws two bickering brothers – and their ladies – in a van for a trip to see their parents. Sam (Lewis) is a success and is apparently living the good life, while his younger brother, Nick (Coughlin, who has a Justin Chatwin vibe about him), is a struggling musician who has spent the last few months sobering up with his girlfriend, Christine (Lowes). Nick takes a shortcut (naturally), the van gets a flat and the quartet are stuck in the woods.
Then Mr. Bear comes along.
Not the bear. Just a wandering innocent. Sam’s natural instinct is to break out his handgun (you know, something a son should always pack when seeing mom and dad) to pop an entire clip of caps in the poor retreating bear’s ass until he’s dead. Ultimately, the bear rears his head – not pleased with his fallen companion – and the story takes a Cujo/Prey route has the film’s only leads proceed to figure out what to as they remain trapped in the van while the bear stalks the area.
Nick, conveniently, has read up on Native American folklore surrounding bears, so he has some grand idea as to what the bear is up to, unfortunately, he’s not too bright in the way of common sense. Neither are his companions. So, when the bear tips the van over and disappears for a spell, the group decide to venture into the woods to escape. This proves to be a bad idea, because the bear is right on their trail. Luckily, they seek refuge in a giant pipe and the stupidity escalates when the bear reaches in and snags Christine’s purse.
Now, if a bear is grabbing the one thing he can get his paw on, and it doesn’t involve you, wouldn’t you let him take it? You bet. Christine, instead, fights for her purse and actually gets it back. But safety doesn’t last long because the group is chased back to the van, which I should add, they were able to flip back over by hand, and you can completely see the production cable rigged by the special effects team helping them do it. (On a side note, you can also see a bear trainer or someone hiding behind the metal pipe coaxing the bear to climb over it in an earlier scene.)
And so, Bear plays out in a “chase, break for drama, chase again” formula and the things we come to learn about our characters inexplicably tie into the bear’s motivations! This explains why, at one point, when Sam decides to make a run for help (because he participates in marathons), the bear drags him back the mile or so to the van.
The hilarity ensues and a grocery list of the silliness that occurs in this film could take up two more pages. Here are a few highlightsâ¦ Sam and Liz are able to overturn the van (again) by themselves with a full-grown bear inside. Sam spits and threatens the bear, promising he will “skull f**k” the animal. Nick reveals the bear keeps coming back “for his honor.” Lighting fluctuates between dusk and night. And the end credits give us a replay of the film’s final shot, but just from another angle.
Equally confounding, FX vet Chris Walas served as a co-producer. On editing and director of photography duties, you’ve got Roel ReinÃ©, director of Death Race 2. But big kudos to Bear director John Rebel for this train wreck laden with continuity errors and miserable performances. Hell, John Candy told a more engaging, and scarier story, of a bear in The Great Outdoors.
Can’t wait to see what happens when Rebel switches gears and focuses on another breed of animal in Wolf Townâ¦ I’ll look for that one to go direct-to-Netflix Instant as well.