Grizzly (1976) — Jaws. With a bear.

“What the hell is a million-year-old grizzly bear doing here?”

Justin’s rating: Hey baby, what’s ursine?

Justin’s review: Where there is a movie mega-success, there are always countless imitators rushing to cash in before an audience grows bored of repeated failure. Scream got I Know What You Did Last Summer, Alien got Galaxy of Terror, Jurassic Park got Carnosaur, and Jaws… well, Jaws got Grizzly.

It’s nearly four decades since this came out, so I think we can dispense with the pleasantries and be brutally honest. Grizzly isn’t an “homage” or “inspired by” or anything like that. It’s straight-up Jaws with a new, furry skin. And that’s not a horrible idea. I mean, bears are terrifying, grizzlies more so. The idea of having some 18-foot monstrosity brutalizing rangers and campers in a park holds all sorts of potential. It is a little unfortunate that they so slavishly copy the Jaws formula, though, because it’s immersion-breaking and steals any of the suspense they were going for.

At some national park, a heretofor unknown giant grizzly appears and starts an amazing murderbear rampage. For some reason, the filmmakers decide to portray the bear stalking his victims from a first-person perspective (with heavy Darth Vader-like breathing). To me, that takes the bear down a few pegs. He’s already a two-thousand-pound killing machine with razer claws and giant teeth. It’s not like he needs to be made into Michael Meyers to up his fear potential.

One advantage that Grizzly has over Jaws is an actual real animal for its main threat. For everything but up-close attacks, the bear was played by a tamed grizzly, which lends a bit of authenticity into the events. But it also means that all of the deaths had to be done with a fake bear and quick, confusing cuts that leaves way too much to the imagination. Maybe show a little more?

Mr. Grizzleton G. Grizzly is aided by the general incompetence of park manager, who refuses to close down the place until about a good half-dozen people — including a small bunny-loving child — are gutted and eaten. This is all to the frustration of Ranger Mike (Christopher George) and his best bud, helicopter pilot Don (Andrew Prine). The two have to navigate park politics, mustachioed press, a rising body count, misguided hunters, and a great amount of personal self-loathing to track down this killer.

Weirdly enough, this ended up being the most financially successful indie movie of 1976, roping in $39 million from people with a teddy bear fixation. Is Grizzly a good movie? Oh goodness gracious, no. It serves as an interesting example of how badly Jaws could’ve been without Steven Spielberg at the helm.

Yet it is entertaining, if only for the antics of our titular creature, who pops out of nowhere, takes down lookout towers and helicopters with impunity, and even manages to swipe the head off of a horse in one clean blow. The more this movie went on, the more I was cheering for the bear. In my head canon, the bear wins the day and establishes a personal kingdom in this park after all of the humans have been eliminated. Don’t tell me I wouldn’t have been an amazing screenwriter.

Didja notice?

  • This is Earth Tones: The Movie
  • Well, if you were hoping that someone would get an arm lopped off early on, this is the film for you
  • Killer grizzly on the loose? Best strip down to underwear and go frolic in a waterfall!
  • “You’re a big bag o’ grits!”
  • You’re going to learn a whole heap of grizzly facts in this movie, let me tell you
  • About time we got a redneck hunting party!
  • Bears hate lookout towers. It’s a known fact.
  • So much sandwich eating
  • Rocket launcher vs. bear

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