So influential was Jaws on release that it’s first imitator appeared on the scene barely (pun intended) a year later.
Switching out a rampaging Carcharodon carcharias for a huge, bloodthirsty grizzly bear, an island in New England for a National Park and then keeping virtually everything else the same, Grizzly’s poster confidently boasts “18 feet of gut cruching, man eating terror” when actually it should have plainly stated “Jaws with paws”.
It’s camping season at a vast National Park but things go from tents to tense when two nubile young women are torn to shreds by an freakishly huge bear that has wandered down from the local mountain and that sports an awesome appetite comparable to Guy Fieri in his heyday. Continuing to chow down on other victims (predominantly women, suggesting that blonde is not just a hair colour but also a legitimate food group) Michael Kelly; the park’s head ranger, butts heads with the unscrupulous park supervisor over the closing of the park when the later suggests drafting in a shit-load of hunters instead. Surviving waves of rifle toting good ol’ boys however, the Grizzly continues merrily on it’s blood soaked way like Yogi Bear merged with Ted Bundy and eventually gruesomely mauls a small child and his mother. This (finally) is the last straw and a final plan is made by Kelly, a local pilot and an eccentric naturalist who vow to go out into the forest and make a giant rug out of the clawed carnivore once and for all.
Grizzly truly is the best (and by best I mean worst) example of someone trying to emulate someone else’s success despite not having the remotest clue as to what made the thing they’re copying work in the first place. It relentlessly box checks whole scenes and chunks of plot from Spielberg’s watery classic wholesale including an unwillingness by a corrupt authority figure to close the area, incompetent hunters, a startling attack on a child, a trio of mismatched dudes taking on the title creature on it’s own turf and even a bit where the score switches to an adventurous motif when the heroes give chase in the final third. There’s also a hell of a lots of shaky POV shots too as the cameraman pushes through branches as various growls punctuate over the soundtrack.
To give Grizzly some credit, there’s actually a couple of startling moments here. The aforementioned child attack is surprising in it’s meaness despite it looking very much like the little fella is getting hugged by a guy in a bear costume (he is) and another bit where a horses head is backhanded off it’s body is impressive in a “holy shit, I wasn’t expecting THAT!” kind of way but this really is a scare free zone as a climax that includes the bear wrasslin’ a helicopter and (for some reason) a bazooka falls flatter than the Arizona plains.
The direction from William Girdler (who also directed Exorcist ripoff Abby, bizarre back burster The Manitou and the Leslie Nielsen killer animal vehicle Day Of The Animals) never rises much above TV movie and most of the performances are the same.
One for killer animal completists only I’m afraid as there’s not much going on with this problematic bear… or should I say: Trouble bruin.