Grizzly’s homonym, grisly, no doubt influenced how this creature became King of the Bears. It’s actually polar bears, though, which are larger, and more aggressive.* Still, “18-feet of gut-crunching (not munching) man-eating terror!” is nothing to sneeze it, even if in the movie…the creature in question is referred to as 15-feet tall and “played” by a creature smaller than that.
But hey, when it comes to eco-horror, it’s not the size that counts, as we’ve seen in Slugs and They Nest — it’s the body count and the kill-quality.
And Grizzly stands tall.
It goes without saying that William Girdler’s 1976 natural horror, shares many things in common with Steven Spielberg’s undeniable classic a year prior, Jaws. There’s the creature POV, the “clear the beaches” (or in this case, the nature park, and all 14 of its hikers), the evil higher-up who’s stonewalling the directive, the ecologist/naturalist, the hunter, and the law enforcement hero. So fine, it’s Jaws…but on land. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Two hikers are mauled, and the square-jawed Kelly (Chief ranger, played by Italian genre / horror hero Christopher George) gets down to business trying to figure out the particulars. He enlists the help of a chopper pilot and the aforementioned biologist, and there you go. There’s not much more to it than that, and not much more needed than that.
Along the way, a little kid playing with a giant rabbit, gets a limb torn off, while the biologist’s horse gets Timothy Treadwelled.
Grizzly is totally fun, totally 70s, and for good measure, even a bear cub gets it (although the death is off-camera). When animals meet their maker, you know a director ain’t pullin’ punches.
While not as bonkers as Leslie Nielsen’s Day of the Animals (1977), or as unabashedly entertaining as the icky icky killer roach movie, The Nest (1988), Grizzly is a solid, serviceable entry into the killer animal pantheon.
*** (out of 5)
[Be sure to check out the Really Awful Movies Podcast wherein we chat Jaws ripoffs, including Grizzly and The Car]
(*Editor’s note: And we all know that killer whales are the true Kings of the Deep)