Into The Grizzly Maze follows a well worn template in terms of animals running amok films but in no way does it dampen the enjoyment that comes from watching a film that knows where its going. All the familiar trope characters are there – the newly re-united yet estranged brothers, the grizzled old sheriff etc and you’d be forgiven for thinking that Into The Grizzly Maze in a ho-hum, join the dots film. It’s certainly a film that draws on all the style of films that have gone before it but still manages to work its charms (plus I’m a sucker for there kinds of films).
The story begins with Rowan (James Marsden) coming back to his Alaskan home town. His brother Beckett (Thomas Jane) is part of the local police force. After a bear attacks and kills a few black market loggers, the bear is marked for death. To add to the issues, Beckett’s wife Michelle, a conservationist, is out in the forest taking photos and Rowan is setting off to look for a tracker that went missing…Douglass (Billy Bob Thornton) is the slightly unhinged hunter who is tasked with killing the bear.
As you can see from the story description, the film is very pulpy, however this doesn’t always mean the dialogue is pulpy, occasionally there are a few funny lines thrown in and a few tiny little bits of conservationist social commentary but its few and far between. The dialogue throws the story forward despite a couple of moments that seemed slightly out of place with the rest of the writing.
Dave Hackl keeps the film ticking along though, and uses both the big wide shots of the wilderness to let you just how dense the forest is and when our group goes into the ‘grizzly maze’ he uses the claustrophobia of being trapped the wilderness to good effect.
Everyone in the film plays their roles well, As I mentioned before the characters are all tropes used in killer animal flicks but no one is cheesy in their portrayal and it is in the earnest way of playing the characters straight that makes the film all the more fun.
However, being a killer animal flick there comes a time when we must see the bear in all its glory. The bear itself doesn’t look terribly frightening but then I guess bears don’t, unless they are hunting you! There are only a few jump scares and admittedly they are effective with the bear ‘being smarter than your average bear’ – yes that is an actual line – stalking and dispatching a few humans by sneaking up on them. With a fairly intense finale that has a hint of Jaws & Jaws 2 about it makes for some suspense filled scenes however this is also where the CGI bear comes into play and it’s pretty awful. Terrible CGI aside though the film seems like an updated throwback film – if that makes any sense at all – with all the things that make the film feel familiar being celebrated but with trying to deconstruct it or be sarcastic about it and to be honest it is refreshing to see a film that just knows what it is, keeps it simple and sets out to entertain you, even with a few logic jumps.
Images: IMDb & cinemaslasher.com