Much like an unkillable creature in the final act of a nature run amock horror/thriller, some animals just don’t know when to stay dead. But while some proud animals lope off to lick their wounds in order to fight another day, others ricochet all over the place like a decapitated chicken trying to break the one minute mile as they spend their borrowed time mired in existential chaos. That second explanation fits snugly to the very belated release of Grizzly II: Revenge (formally Grizzly II: The Predator, or Grizzly II: The Concert) a film that’s been sitting on the shelf accumulating dust since 1983, thanks to the production collapsing due to lack of funds and some behind the scenes skullduggery.
However, finally emerging from the foliage for the first time after being rebuilt by original producer Suzanne C. Nagy, the world finally gets to lay it’s eyes on that long overdue Grizzly sequel that it’s not been waiting for.
After the bear cub of a massive female grizzly is slain in what appears to be a completely different movie whatsoever, the oversized – yet barely seen – big, bad mama goes on a rampage that claims the lives of three teens camping in the area and puts her on the trail of the hunters that drew obviously digital blood from her and her kin. Meanwhile, the power hungry superintendent to Yellowstone park, Eileene Draygon (subtle, no?) has decreed that a massive concert will be held much to the chagrin of Park Ranger Nick Hollister – or, at least I think he’s the Head Park Ranger despite dressing for work like he’s Barry Gibb from the Bee Gees.
As the bear wanders around looking for more prey to mangle, rehearsals ramp up as everybody prepares for the big night and the film gives us numerous character set ups that mostly go nowhere thanks to missing footage, but in an effort to bring this monster sized animal down, Hollister hires french bear hunter Bouchard, a walking, talking slice of pure eccentricity, who collects just as much Native American cultural appropriation as he does animal pelts much to the dismay of Samantha Owens, the local Director of “Bear Management”.
As the bear seems to be taking the scenic route towards the climatic showdown at the concert (perhaps it’s just trying to get it’s steps in before frenziedly binging on teenybopper carcasses), everyone prepares for the beast’s arrival by… not preparing for it at all – c’mon, no one shuts anything down in a Jaws rip off – and nothing short of a cataclysmic disappointment is on the cards as we get to witness first hand exactly how unfinished Grizzly II really is…
So in any genre, there are good films and bad films, especially in the realms of the nature amok movie. For every Jaws you get a Jaws 3 & 4 and for every Alligator you get an Alligator II: The Mutation – and just so we’re clear, the original Grizzly was no Jaws or Alligator – but it’s very rare that we get an unfinished film and make no mistake, that’s exactly what Grizzly II obviously is right from the start.
After a prologue noticably shot in another decade sets the scene, we switch to a pre-fame George Clooney, Charlie Sheen and Laura Dern as they shlep up a mountain only to get torn apart off screen despite the movie cheekily giving them top billing for barely three minutes worth of screen time. Not only does it prove once and for all that owning tiger blood is no match for a pair of bear’s claws (sorry Charlie), but it instantly clues us in that from here on in we’re up for a very bumpy ride.
I truly understand the trials and tribulations that this production went through but there’s no way you can get around the fact that an unfinished movie crammed with randomly sourced filler material is not a completed piece of work and what we have here is simply a patchwork quilt compiled by someone who simply can’t sew.
Whole scenes of dialogue play out without the speaker ever getting on screen left alone a close up, unfinished subplots rear their heads only to disappear like a fart through an open window and we get endless scenes of bands performing for the concert that at best all sound like round one rejections from a year from the Eurovision Song Contest where no one could be bothered to try.
It’s actually stunning how ramshackle this “finished” product really is and I’m not talking about the understandably puppety bear either. Numerous moments throughout the noticably brief runtime are dedicated to some desperate padding, be it a montage of trees (no, really) or extended b-roll footage of the various bands performing including a prototype Spice Girls type band who act like they’re performing for opium. It also doesn’t help that the real, Hungarian based concert – which actually featured 70’s scottish hard-rock band, Nazareth in real life – looks about as genuinely American as trying to recreate Coachella in Norfolk; although there’s bonus points for spotting an utterly random role for Timothy Spall as backstage staff.
The acting, when not getting upended by erratic editing, is pretty much what you’d expect from a killer bear sequel that’s been unreleased for over 35 years, although John Rhys-Davis (bless him) gets good mileage as the stock, unhinged hunter role all these movies seem to find indispensable and Deborah (Valley Girl, Waxwork) Foreman does well until the footage she shot runs out before her side story has ended.
I truly appreciate the effort in resurrecting these scraps but it’s hardly the killer animal version of the Snyder Cut of Justice League (although to be fair, no one was expecting that) and amongst other things it features quite possibly the worst climax the genre has ever seen as no death scene for the bear was actually shot. So sit back an gawp in disbelief as actual shots of the burning shark from Jaws 2 are drafted alongside a lot of close ups of a Danger: High Voltage sign in a frantic attempt to force the ending to make sense.
Worshipers of awful movies will flock to this thing just for it’s messy back story alone and I’ll admit that as a person who has a yawning soft spot for nature’s toothier residents tearing through holiday makers like a chainsaw with a digestive tract, there is an actual sense of wonky closure at work here. But and reasonable and rational filmgoer may understandably feel the need to give Grizzly II a wide birth.