As B-Movie titles go Into The Grizzly Maze is up there with an attempt at originality. The concept is pure B-movie brilliance though; deep in the Alaskan wilds a rogue bear is chomping on poachers, lumberjacks and pretty much anyone who gets in his way. Throw in a few true-blue hero types and Into The Grizzly Maze is aiming to be Jaws but with a bear, and on land.
There’s the old sea dog type in the shape of Billy Bob Thornton’s bear tracker, the sheriff who wants to try and save the bear, a disinterested Thomas Jane, his little brother who is hiding secrets, given surprising gusto by James Marsden, and a couple of girls, played with solid peril in their eyes by Piper Perabo and Michaela McManus, whose sole purpose is to slow down our intrepid heroes.
But plot and clichés be damned, we’re here for some good old-fashioned man vs. nature and nature possessing a big old bite with which to chew up man. From that point of view Into The Grizzly Maze should work. But it really doesn’t. Despite having the world famous Bart The Bear, last seen in Game Of Thrones, the bear action always feels clunky. At times we get some nice moments, one death near the end is crunchy and gory, but for the most part you’re left feeling a little short changed. And this is all from a director who gave us one of the Saw films.
The issues arise in having too many characters most of whom serve next to no purpose at all. Perabo’s Michelle is deaf, for no other reason other than to allow big old Bart to sneak up on her in one scene. Plot devices like this take the B-Movie clunk to a whole new level meaning that, when you’re not being dazzled by Billy Bob’s hairline, you are left witnessing a group stumble through stunning scenery being chased by a bear, when they have enough firepower to presumably put him down if they really wanted to.
A film of this ilk should be scary, it should be gory, it should have moments of comic levity; you know the type, “You’re going to need a bigger boat”. But Into The Grizzly maze manages none of the above. Instead you find yourself rooting for Bart The Bear to get his jaws and claws all bloodied up on these bland characters. What is concerning is that with this many characters for Bart to chew on most of them make it to the final credits, meaning there isn’t nearly enough blood-letting to satisfy the needs of a solid B-Movie.
For a recent venture into the man vs. nature with a whole load of existential brilliance thrown-in for good measure seek out Joe Carnahan’s The Grey. Into The Grizzly Maze is death by formulaic, low-budget boredom, hardly the teddy bear’s picnic you are hoping for.