RHI Entertainment’s Maneater Series returns again with this latest installment of teens vs. nature. But, this time the man behind the lens is noted cult filmmaker David DeCoteau (THE BROTHERHOOD).
Shot in Canada where DeCoteau resides, the flick is the tale of 4 recent high-school graduates Wes, Sean, Ritch and Lauren, who decide to get away from it all for a little freedom in the great north woods where the gang decides to take an off-the-beaten-path detour before accidentally running down a grizzly bear cub and crashing their car into a tree. This unfortunate turn of events will leave the four friends running through the woods for their lives, as the big bad mama is ready for revenge.
If GRIZZLY RAGE is your first foray into the Maneater series of film—which have previously aired on the Sci-fi Channel—then you in for something of a treat. As this one, despite it’s incredible cheese value—is actually pretty watchable. The film looks great, DeCocteau knows how to pace the project—and with more than 60 credits to his name he’s the most over qualified of the previous “Maneater” directors to helm one of these productions. The cast is totally serviceable and while it’s not bringing in any over-the-hill stars like F. Murray Abarham, Lance Henriksen or Gary Busey into the mix, fans of teen fare like RADIO FREE ROSCOE and 7TH HEAVEN might perk up at the casting of Kate Todd and Tyler Hoechlin. Even stalwart fans of DeCoteau could note the presence of Brody Harms (BROTHERHOOD IV: THE COMPLEX) although the film dispatches with Harms character of Ritch pretty quickly.
Essentially what we have here is a chase movie. The targeted teens are stalked through the woods by the ferocious bear. And unlike the rubber spiders and rubble tentacles of past production, GRIZZLY RAGE employs an actual bear for effect. Of course a man in a bear suit is also employed for the close ups—but it’s a well made bear suit and one would hardly notice it, except for the fact that the real bear is never in the same frame as the actors.
The Velveeta element that I mentioned before is pretty jarring and it’s ultimately what makes GRIZZLY RAGE laughable at times. Instead of showing the bear actually killing off the protagonists in the film, they are generally swiped off screen—catapulted into buildings and bushes with a canon-like trajectory. When the bear finally arrives to exact the ultimate revenge the lens is splattered with a CGI spray of day-glo reds in order to inform us that the bear has just fed on our victim. It would have been more effective and infinitely less ridiculous to have simply cut away from a screaming victim. But then again, ridiculous is the very nature of the Maneater Series. So, I don’t fault them for following suit on this production and if you’ve seen some of the other films, you won’t either.
Interestingly enough, since the film is mostly man versus animal, there’s not a lot of dialogue to bandy about. Mostly is just stuff like “run” or “look out” which is fine by me because when the characters are forced to get contemplative about their situation the teenage soap opera dissertations about the nature of life and death are pretty hard to take. At one point Lauren’s character even contemplates the karmic relationship between her hitting a parked car and being eaten alive. Yikes!
In the grand scheme of things, GRIZZLY RAGE is not going to take home any prizes for its reality or its originality but in the shadow of BLOOD MONKEY and IN THE SPIDERS WEB it looks and sounds better than most. Putting DeCoteau behind the camera is the only discernable difference I can see between this film and the others in terms of plot and production value, but, David’s proven over the course of his career that he knows how to make teens look good in front of the camera and for the most part he does that here as well. So, when you see the “Maneater Series” on the box art this time, don’t flee into the woods, scared for your life that another EYE OF THE BEAST is out there. If you do you might miss a pretty silly but satisfying little fright flick.