If you go down to the woods today… you’re likely to get eaten by a bloody great big bear!
After the 1975 classic Jaws the market was saturated with a whole load of other monster movies where every possible animal was a menace, whether it be a mutant octopus in Tentacles, which unbelievably featured A-list star Henry Fonda and John Huston as well as Shelley Winters to the blood curdling terror of earthworms in the equally execrable Squirm. 1977 saw Orca, the everyday tale of an enraged killer whale out to get Richard Harris and the year before had seen the top-notch tat–fest that was Grizzly with the tagline “Not since Jaws has the terror been like this,” which is true as Jaws was utterly terrifying, traumatising audiences to this day whereas Grizzly was merely terrible and unable to inspire fear in a cub scout camp although it incredibly went onto become the most profitable independent film of that year. But fast forwarding 30 years or so we come to the less than catchily titled Into the Grizzly Maze as James Marsden (who must be wondering where it’s all gone wrong since his appearances in the X-Men films) returns to his home town where his estranged brother , Beckett, played by Thomas Jane ( who veers between quality films like The Mist to D-list detritus such as Buttwhistle) is now a cop and together, with the requisite female company who seems to be present only to be put in peril and saved by the men, set out to stalk a killer grizzly bear that’s gone on a killing spree in an area called The Grizzly Maze – ahhhhhh , I see what they did there!
Yes, it is basically Jaws with claws and even features Billy Bob Thornton – clearly slumming it as the Quint–like lone bear hunter also out to get the grizzly. Directed by David Hackl, whose previous work as a production designer on the SAW franchise before directing SAW 5, he doesn’t spare the gore as limbs are separated from bodies. With paper-thin characters being introduced merely to serve as an aperitif for the bear before the final standoff this is standard monster fare. The Grizzly, played by Bart the Bear, is a stunning animal to watch and its climatic mano-a mano/bear-o is extremely well choreographed but there are few scares to be had here with only the aerial shots of the forest being anything to gasp at in awe rather than horror. With straight-to-video stalwart Scott Glenn popping up you know you’re in B-movie heaven with this Saturday night movie that has six-pack and a pizza written all over it.
Words: Simon Hooper