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Pet Sematary: Bloodlines, Anaconda, Zombeavers, Slotherhouse, Grizzly, and Piranhas
Horror Bulletin Weekly Newsletter #251
It's "Killer Animal" week again. This time, we'll watch "Pet Sematary: Bloodlines" from 2023, followed by the original "Anaconda" from 1997, "Zombeavers" from 2014, and "Slotherhouse" from 2023.
In addition, exclusive to our weekly email newsletter, we also reviewed:
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"Grizzly" from 1976
"Piranha" from 1978
Check out all our books with one easy link: https://brianschell.com/collection/horrorguys
Here. We. Go!
Pet Sematary: Bloodlines (2023)
Directed by Lindsey Anderson Beer
Written by Lindsey Anderson Beer, Jeff Buhler, Stephen King
Stars Jackson White, Natalie Alyn Lind, Forrest Goodluck, Isabella LaBlanc
Run Time: 1 Hour, 27 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It's a years-ago prequel of young Jud and his misadventure, showing us the story that he told as an old man. It wasn't bad. In fact, it was more than okay. Everything was fine as far as cast and production values. It just felt unnecessary with few surprises, especially if you have seen or read the original Pet Sematary.
We hear about growing up in Ludlow, Maine and the Pet Sematary. Beyond that place was an evil place that was said to bring back the dead. "Sometimes, dead is better." Credits roll.
1969. Bill Bateman drags a dead body through the woods. If you've seen the other films in the series, he digs a grave in a place that looks oddly familiar. We soon see a hand reach up out of the grave and grab the dog standing there.
We meet Judson Crandall, his parents, Kathy and Dan, and his girlfriend, Norma. Jud runs into Bill at the store, and they all look at a photograph of Timmy, Bill's son. Bill says Timmy just came back from Vietnam. Everyone is glad to hear that Timmy came home in one piece.
Judson and Norma plan to join the Peace Corps, and his parents are skeptical. Dan suggests that maybe Jud shouldn't come back; this town seems to suck people in and never let them go.
Mayor Benson talks to Marjorie about finding an open grave big enough for a person and then some. He says they're on watch tonight.
Jud and Norma get in the car to leave town, but they encounter Bateman's dog, and it's filthy and sickly looking. They walk the dog home and encounter Timmy, who doesn't appreciate that Jud didn't go to the war.
We cut to Manny and Donna Rivers, two Native Americans who talk about modern music and her art projects. They go outside and talk about Jud leaving town. She's been invited to do an art show in Buffalo, so she'll be leaving, too. Timmy's dog attacks Norma, and she goes into shock. He takes her to the hospital, and she'll be fine in a day or two.
Jud runs into Manny, who's been avoiding him, so as not to have to say goodbye. Jud goes back to see Timmy, but Bill says, "Timmy isn't taking any visitors right now. He needs time to adjust." Bill isn't friendly about Jud avoiding going to war. We cut to Timmy, who's making a list of names and fingerpainting in blood.
Jud confronts his father about paying off officials to get him out of the war, which he does not deny.
Marjorie runs into Timmy and his dog on the road, and he's weird. He talks to her about her father, who hung himself decades ago, quoting his suicide note. She calls the mayor and fills him in about Timmy. He asks, "You really think Bill buried Timmy?" Not long after, the dog sneaks inside and attacks Marjorie.
Manny and Donna have a weird 60s party with people wearing creepy masks. Timmy shows up and wants to dance with Donna. He asks her about her dreams, and Manny tackles him. "You'll die here," he says. Donna says, "That's not Timmy. Something's talking through him."
The mayor meets with Dan, the sheriff, and Marjorie, who's not looking too good anymore after re-killing the undead dog that attacked her. They all know about the town's secret. But they still fart around for a while, not actually doing anything about it.
Jud sees someone peeking into his window and calls Manny to help. They both know it's Timmy, but they don't know why. They go to the church, which has all the old town records.
Timmy comes to see Donna late at night at her place, and he stabs her. He drags her to the old burial ground and buries her.
Jud and Manny go to see the priest at the church, and we get a flashback to hundreds of years ago when the white explorers moved into the area formerly controlled by the Native Americans. They walk through an old animal cemetery and then to the weird Indian burial ground beyond that. The Indian shaman is wearing the same kind of mask that Donna has been making. He tells that one of their guys, Ludlow, had been buried in "the sour earth." Ludlow turned into a cannibal, so they shot him in the eyes.
We cut to Dan reading from an old diary given to him by his father with entries by many ancestors. Apparently, trouble has been coming back to town over and over. "You must aim for the eyes; it's the only way to kill them." In the morning, Dan takes Jud to the burial ground and tells him everything. "It's like a sickness that we have to stop from spreading."
Now-undead-Donna goes to the hospital to visit Norma. Donna kills the doctor and the nurse and then chases Norma up the stairs.
Dan talks to Bill, who regrets burying Timmy in the first place. Manny, Jud, the sheriff, and most of the other characters converge on Bill's farm. Dan is supposed to go inside for the girls while Bill distracts Timmy. The sheriff will set the place on fire. Which is necessary why?
Donna stabs Manny. Timmy kills the sheriff and the mayor. Donna then stabs Dan with a rifle. The house is on fire, so Bill tells Jud and Manny to wait it out with him in the cellar, which makes no sense at all. But it allows them to find a long tunnel that Timmy must have dug down there, and they crawl in with guns.
Norma's in those tunnels somewhere, and they look for her. Timmy finds and kills Bill. Manny shoots Timmy with the flare gun, and it appears to kill him. Norma gets out of her muddy prison without help and runs to Jud.
Manny leaves town with a big smile on his face. Jud, however, moves in with his mother and never gets out.
It seems like everyone of importance in town knows that Timmy's a monster, so why didn't they do anything about it for so long?
Overall, it's a feature-length retelling of what Jud told Creed in the original "Pet Sematary" (1989). It's fine, but there aren't any surprises at all. It's pretty generic and wasn't a necessary story that needed to be told.
Directed by Matthew Goodhue
Written by Bradley Fowler, Cady Lanigan
Stars Olivia Rouyre, Lisa Ambalavanar, Stefan Kapicic, Sydney Craven
Run Time: 1 Hour, 33 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This was an absurd creation that was darkly funny throughout. It has many of the slasher tropes, but not a typical killer. Sloths are slow, cute, fuzzy, harmless little creatures, right? Nope, that's only what they want us to think. It was well made and so dumb that it ascends to be good.
We open in the jungles of Panama. The happy sloth is happy. Then something eats it--No, it fights off the crocodile and escapes right into the clutches of some hunters.
Emma and Madison, two sisters, talk about Emma becoming the president of her sorority. She talks to a man who owns a sloth for a pet, and he says they're no trouble at all.
It's move-in day at the sorority, and stuck-up Brianna doesn't even remember Dakota. She also wants to be president. We're introduced to what seems like about six-dozen characters by name, but we're never gonna remember all that. Ms. Mayflower is there, and she's the drunken house mother.
Tyler, Emily's boyfriend, comes for a visit, but he's assaulted on the way in. Emily asks Ms. Mayflower about her mother, who was president way back in the day.
We cut to the man with the sloth and see that the sloth doesn't live in a happy place anymore. "What would happen if I don't give you these pills, huh?" Emily texts him about the sloth. She thinks having a cute mascot will help her win the election. After he sets up a time for her to come over, the sloth tears him apart.
The next morning, Emily comes to the man's house and meets the sloth. The man's not around, so she just takes him. Brianna accosts Emily when she gets home, and everyone falls in love with the cute sloth. They adopt it for the house mascot, and Emily announces she's running for president.
Madison warns Emily about the hazards of using poached animals as pets. "It's a wild animal, Emily, send it back!" Another friend gives her pills and says the sloth has to take them "for anxiety." The sloth then--- gets on the Internet and checks out Emily's social media accounts. When he sees a photo of the exotic animal seller, he gets angry and spits out the pill.
Brianna orders one of her minions, Sarah, to "get rid of the sloth." There's a big party that evening, and almost everyone loves the sloth. Sarah takes advantage of the distraction to steal the sloth and set it loose outside.
The sloth then comes inside and drugs Sarah's drink. She finds out why sloths have such big claws. Emily figures out that the sloth is gone and looks everywhere for it until she finds it in her room.
Time passes, and we get a montage of the sloth killing Brianna's groupies. Where it stashes the bodies, we do not know.
Madison tries to steal the sloth so that she can take it to a shelter, but Emily catches her. They argue, and Madison gets hit by a car, so that's quickly settled.
We eventually make it to election night, and it's all surprisingly cult-like. The house mother chains the door shut to keep everything private. Meanwhile, the sloth checks out the GPS and steals the car keys to drive to the hospital to finish off Madison. There's a drawn-out, elaborate vote, and Emily is declared the winner.
At the hospital, the sloth sneaks into Madison's room. He takes a selfie for his own socials and then smothers her with a pillow.
Somehow, the sloth returns. Back at the sorority, it chases Brianna and Emily, so they both know what's going on now. "He's like a cute Chucky!"
Emily knocks the sloth out the window, but when she looks again, it's gone. The sloth then electrifies the shower, killing a whole bunch of the girls. One by one, the sloth picks off many of the girls, sparing Emily, and she has a gun.
Ms. Mayflower staggers in, completely sloshed, and wonders where all the girls are. She runs into the sloth and beats it severely. When the sloth gets her from behind, Mayflower gives an impassioned dying speech to Emily.
Emily thinks about Mayflower's dying words and the words of encouragement from all the dead girls. She runs into Tyler and Zenny in the hallway, but before they can leave, they must rescue Brianna, who's trapped in her room.
Zenny has a bunch of ninja weapons and battles with the little sloth. They both end up stabbed, but the sloth gets back up-- until it's shot by Madison, IV bag in tow, who didn't die in the hospital.
The sloth still hasn't died, so Emily goes back in for it, alone. Brianna comes down the stairs with the tiara-wearing sloth on her back. Brianna runs away as the sloth jumps on Emily. Emily pulls the gun and shoots the sloth again. She finally impales the fuzzy little creature with the tiara.
The sloth looks up pitifully and gestures to a photo of Panama on the wall. "Home," it says.
We cut to the following year at pledge time. Emily, Madison, Brianna, and Zenny are handing out pamphlets about taking animals from the wilderness.
Ah, the sorority president. I see they're all worrying about the truly important things in life. The little "profiles" of the characters are a nice idea, but they don't stay on screen long enough to read them, so they aren't really that helpful.
The sloth is a puppet, which is obvious from the get-go. It definitely gives off Mogwai vibes from "Gremlins(1984)," at least in the beginning. Still, he's a really smart sloth who can read, use a mouse, and browse the internet. That was impressive-- until he stole a car and used a GPS. Wow!
It plays on many of the usual tropes from slasher films, borrowing from many major hits. This one, however, is stupid to the point of hilarity. It's really a terrible film, but it's also really hard not to laugh throughout it.
Short Film: Leech (2023)
Directed by George Coley
Written by George Coley
Stars Sandra Voe, Josh Katembela, Graham O'Mara
Run Time: 10:06
An old woman watches TV, and we soon see that she’s blind. The young man in the hallway seems to avoid the old woman, and vice-versa. The home healthcare worker stops by and bandages a burn on the old woman’s hand. He suggests that she shouldn’t be living alone.
But she’s not, right? Why don't the health care workers ever come back for a second visit?
It’s very well-acted, and the cinematography is outstanding. We get a pretty good idea of what’s going on right away, but we don’t know why or how this is going to turn out.
Directed by Jordan Rubin
Written by Al Kaplan, Jordan Rubin, Jon Kaplan
Stars Rachel Melvin, Cortney Palm, Lexi Atkins, Hutch Dano
Run Time: 1 Hour, 17 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This one does a good job doling out horrifying and hilarious in equal measure. As the title hints, normally harmless beavers become killer beasts. They cause some real trouble for a group of young friends. We liked the grim, silly fun of it quite a bit.
We watch as two guys drive a truck full of medical waste stuff. They hit a deer, and one of the canisters falls off the truck into the river. Credits roll as we follow the canister downriver, where it ends near a beaver nest.
Jenn, Zoe, and Mary are going away for the weekend with their dog Bugsy. They're all going to Mary's cousin's cabin in the woods.
We cut to a kid out fishing. He loses his rod, and then something jumps him from the woods.
Mrs. Gregorson comes over to meet the new girls. They soon find out there's no cell service in the cabin, which is a major disaster for the college girls.
They waste no time going skinny-dipping. We see the fishing guy's hat float by. They notice that there's a beaver dam on the lake. They don't see the biohazard tank on the other side of the dam. They don't see any beavers, but they do see a big bear. Mr. Smyth shoots at the bear and runs it off. He warns them that beavers aren't cuddly little animals; "they'll mess you up."
That night, there's a knock outside the cabin. They all go outside to investigate and accidentally get locked out. It's just Tommy, Sam, and Buck, their unwanted boyfriends. Jenn and Sam had a recent argument, so she's not enthused but allows them to stay. Everyone goes inside, and there's some sex and stuff.
Jenn enters the bathroom and finds a very angry beaver in the bathtub. Everyone goes to look, and they beat it to death with a baseball bat. They all assume it had rabies. Later, we see the dead beaver still moving.
In the morning, we see Mr. Smyth outside, setting traps. The six vacationers all head back to the lake again, even after encountering a "rabid" beaver. Soon, they're all swimming in the beaver lake again. Sam and Mary talk about him cheating on Jenn-- with Mary.
Suddenly, something bites Buck's foot off. They all swim to the raft except for Jenn, who returns to the cabin to call for help. Of course, the beavers have chewed through the phone lines. Sam throws Zoe's dog into the water as a distraction, and the beavers quickly eat it. They all swim for the shore while the beavers are busy. Meanwhile, Jenn fights one in the kitchen.
They all run into the house, which zombie beavers now surround. Zoe tells Jenn about Mary and Sam. The "dead" zombie in the kitchen is cut to pieces, but it won't stop moving.
Tommy carries Buck to the car with Zoe in tow. They get inside and drive off. They soon find a tree down across the only road out. It looks a lot like a beaver chewed it down. Tommy is soon killed by the beavers dropping another tree on him. Meanwhile, the Gregorsons next door hear the noise and wonder about investigating.
Smyth rescues Zoe and Buck from the beavers. Jenn, Mary, and Sam barricade the house to keep the insane, unkillable animals from breaking in. Smyth talks about "beaver fever" from back in the 70s.
Since they can't get into Mary's boarded-up cabin, Smyth, Zoe, and Buck make it to the Gregorsons. They find the Gregorsons dead and a phone with the cord chewed through.
Jenn comes into Mary's room and climbs on top of her. Then, she mutates into a giant beaver. Yes, she got bit. Sam knocks her over the head and locks her in the bedroom. In the other house, Smyth and Zoe try to cauterize Buck's leg wound-- until Buck turns into a beaver and bites Smyth's face off.
Mary and Sam play whack-a-mole with beavers tunneling up through the floor. They lock themselves in the bathroom and get naked because why wouldn't they? Outside, a beaver sets the house on fire. Suddenly, Jenn breaks through the floor and bites Sam right where she wanted to bite him all along.
Zoe runs Smyth's truck through the wall, and Mary climbs in. Zombeaver Smyth shoots at them, and they crash the truck. Then they stop a zom-BEAR in the woods.
Mary and Zoe get away. Mary thinks Zoe's been bitten since she's covered in blood, but Mary changes all of a sudden, so Zoe hits her repeatedly with an ax. Zoe eventually gets run over by the same guys in the hazardous waste truck as before.
Be sure to wait through the outtakes to hear the closing theme song.
It's a different kind of cabin-in-the-woods story. The zombie beavers are one thing, but the human-turned-beavers are really something. The makeup on Jenn-beaver is really good. I thought it started off pretty lame, but once Jenn became a beaver, it all got more interesting quickly.
It's dumb, but another of those so-dumb-that-it's-pretty-entertaining films.
Directed by Luis Llosa
Written by Hans Bauer, Jim Cash, Jack Epps.
Stars Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Jon Voight, Eric Stoltz, Jonathan Hyde
Run Time: 1 Hour, 29 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
When a film crew seeking a lost tribe in the Amazon encounters a hunter obsessed with a gigantic snake, bad things happen. It's entertaining but kind of a dumb movie-- a fun kind of dumb. The CGI is obvious but forgivable, and the practical effects are good. We give it a thumbs up overall.
We're told in scrolling text that anacondas are "badass" as credits roll.
A poacher desperately tries to radio for help, but something is attacking his boat. He shoots at the thing below him. Out of fear, he shoots himself in the head.
Terri Flores answers the door in the Amazon jungle of Brazil; Dr. Steven Cale has returned to talk about his grant. He's gotten the money to find a remote tribe in the jungle, and Terri's the best director he knows for the expedition.
We cut to Terri and cameraman Danny boarding the chartered boat with Steven. Mateo runs the boat, and he's sleazy-looking. Warren Westridge arrives, and he's the pompous host of the documentary. Production Assistant Denise is there, as is Owen Wilson, playing the same character as always, but this time he's named Gary.
The boat departs, and the rainstorms soon start. They soon encounter Paul Serone, a hunter who's stuck with his ruined boat. He says he catches snakes for a living now but doesn't like the word "poaching." Elsewhere, we see a giant snake kill and eat a large panther.
Paul leads them right to the area where the lost tribe is said to live, and they see a big snake totem. He tells about a legend, but Steven knows he's wrong and may be lying about everything. Paul doesn't appreciate being doubted.
Denise and Gary sneak off into the woods to make out that night. A wild boar chases them, but Paul shoots it.
A rope gets caught in the propeller, so Steven goes down with his diving equipment to cut it loose. He chokes on a deadly, poisonous wasp that's hiding in his mouthpiece. Paul cuts his throat open to do a tracheotomy. Mateo reports that the boat's radio doesn't work. Paul shows them a shortcut that will cut down their time to a hospital. Danny doesn't trust Paul, but Terri says they don't have any choice.
There's a wall blocking the river, so Paul opens a big bag of dynamite. "That wall must be there for a reason," Denise argues. If they want to get to the hospital, they have to blow it up. Paul and Gary set the dynamite, and the bridge blows to bits, covering the entire boat in snakes. One of them tries to eat Warren's finger. They also lost most of their fuel barrels in the explosion.
They soon come upon the poacher's boat, the one who died at the film's beginning. We see that Paul knew the dead poacher. They grab a few things and leave, but Mateo gets eaten by a huge snake on the way back to the main boat. Paul says it was probably an anaconda, and then he describes what that's like. He says he'd love to capture it alive; "It'd be worth a lotta money."
By morning, Paul has convinced Gary to help him catch the snake. Gary tells everyone else that it's the best way to proceed since the whole "tribal documentary" has been ruined. Not long after, Paul hooks a gargantuan snake on his line. It breaks the line, but Paul shoots it with a tranquilizer. Gary and Denise wind up knocked into the water, and the snake crushes Gary. Terri picks up a rifle, and Paul yells, "It's no good to me dead!" as he hits the gun and ruins her aim.
Paul orders Warren to do things and then slaps him around when he refuses. We cut to the snake, which has a humanoid bulge protruding from its belly. Terri later tries to seduce Paul as a distraction, but he's got a one-track mind, and it's not her. It doesn't matter because Danny and Warren whack Paul over the head and tie him up. Paul later admits that the whole thing has been set up, even the wasp.
The boat hits a sandbar, so Danny suggests they can winch their way off. This involves everyone getting into the water and tying off ropes. Meanwhile, Denise pulls a knife on Paul. He manages to choke her to death using only his legs. He kicks her overboard and then uses her knife to cut himself loose.
The snake attacks and Warren climbs up a waterfall. Paul stabs Danny in the leg. The snake gets Warren while everyone's busy fighting. It also knocks a big tree down onto the boat in the process, so they aren't going anywhere soon. The snake grabs Danny but starts chewing on Denise and lets him go.
Paul gets the drop on Danny and Terri, but Steven wakes up and tranquilizes Paul. Somehow, they get the boat moving again, and they come to an old mine. They need fuel, so they stop to check it out.
Paul returns and ties up Terri and Danny. Then he douses them in monkey blood. Soon enough, the giant snake comes in after them. The snake ends up getting Paul instead. It crushes his bones and eats him head-first, still mostly alive.
The snake then chases Terri and pukes up Paul, who winks at her.
Danny pins the snake to the dock with a pickaxe and then pours fuel all over the snake. The fuel explodes, and it looks like the snake is toast. It's badly burnt but alive when it hits the water. Of course, it jumps back up, and Danny kills it with an ax.
Danny, Terri, and recovering Steven refuel the boat and head back to civilization. On the way, Steven gets a look at the lost tribesmen, so the trip isn't a complete waste of time for them.
Jon Voight has an accent like "Scarface," but he says he's from Paraguay, not Cuba. You can tell by how he holds his mouth that he's Evil with a capital E. His overacting is probably the worst part of the film. That wink after the snake regurgitates him makes it all worth it.
Jonathan Hyde, as Warren, is channeling Tim Curry here, and Curry was, in fact, approached for the role.
They're always walking through chest-high water in the Amazon, and we all know nothing nice lives there. Even without a 90-foot snake, the small ones are bad enough.
The ending is a contrived set piece, but overall, it's a pretty fun movie.
Directed by William Girdler
Written by Harvey Flaxman, David Sheldon, Andrew Prine
Stars Christopher George, Andrew Pine, Richard Jaeckel, Joan McCall
Run Time: 1 Hour, 31 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It's just one bear, but it is a big one, and it causes a surprising amount of chaos and drama. The film moves at a steady, if a little slow, pace and seems dated, but overall, it was a decent watch.
A pilot flies some men in a helicopter over a forest, and he talks about the national parks and keeping things as they always were in nature. Credits roll.
We cut to people walking around outside a vaguely-unnamed "National Park." Michael Kelly is the head forest ranger, and he tells his team that they have a larger crowd of backpackers and hikers than they've ever had before.
Allison talks to Corwin, the man who runs the local resort; he's losing a bunch of money and has a pile of unpaid bills. She's a nature photographer, and she and Kelly go out together.
A couple of girls complain about walking so much today as they approach their campground. They hear something in the woods! It's okay; it's just a ranger on horseback who warns them not to get off the trail and be careful. He leaves, and we cut to something big, growling in the woods nearby. A bear brutally rips off one of the girl's arms, and the other runs away into a tiny cabin. The bear tears the place apart before mauling her.
Ranger Tom mentions to Kelly and Allison that there are two missing girls, so they all go looking. Kelly soon finds the body of the girl in the shack. They know it's a bear right away, and soon, there are dozens of men searching the woods at night.
Kelly is confused. The bear shouldn't have come down from the mountain, and they generally don't eat people, but this one did. Word gets out, and most of the hikers head out-- in a hurry! Kelly calls in Arthur Scott, a wildlife expert.
One of the forest rangers, in the middle of the search, decides to get undressed and go for a swim. There's a predator stalking her from the bushes, and not the usual kind. She's soon torn to pieces.
Kelly starts to take it personally, wondering if he's cut out for the ranger biz. The next morning, Pilot Don takes Kelly up to search from the air, and they spot a bear in a field. No, it's just Scott in disguise. Scott reports that it's not a big brown bear; it's a grizzly, and it's at least fifteen feet tall and two thousand pounds. It might even be prehistoric.
We cut to a huge group of families camping. The bear tears up a woman right in front of all of them. The park supervisor, Kitteridge, blames Kelly and doesn't like Scott.
The next morning, dozens of bear hunters converge on the woods and spread out. Kelly, Scott, and Don spot the hunters in the woods and don't like it. One of the hunters sees the bear, drops his gun, and runs away, but the grizzly takes offense and chases him away.
Kelly is ready to go out searching again, and Allison wants to go along with him, and she won't take no for an answer. Three sleeping hunters are surprised by a bear, but it's just a little black bear cub. One of them wants to use the cub as a lure, thinking the big bear's parental instincts will kick in to rescue it. Instead, the grizzly eats the cub. Scotty later says that cannibalism is a male trait, so the bear is male. Scott has been developing a new tranquilizer shell that he wants to try.
Scotty and Don argue about who's a bigger idiot, and it looks like Scott wins. Tom gets assigned to the lookout tower to act as a spotter, and sure enough, the bear spots him up there. The bear attacks the tower, and he's big enough to give it a good shaking. He eventually knocks the whole tower over, and Tom is dead by the time the hunters arrive.
Kelly and Kittridge argue some more about politics, and Kittridge fires Kelly. Scott says he's going to get that bear.
A little kid plays in his backyard, in town, as the bear approaches. The bear mauls the kid and kills his mother.
Don and Kelly go up in the copter again, and Scott goes out on foot. Kittridge finally gets everyone else to leave the area. The bear smells food and closes in on a deer, but it's a trap set by Kelly. The bear takes off, and the two men chase after it. The bear circles back and gets the deer later. Everyone camps for the night.
Morning comes, and the bear mauls Scott. Don and Kelly talk about their dead friend. Suddenly, they spot the giant grizzly from the air and swoop down to shoot it. They land, and the bear attacks the whirlybird. Don shoots it a couple of times, and then it charges him. Kelly shoots it a couple of times as it kills Don.
As the bear comes after Kelly, Kelly digs out the rocket launcher from the back of the copter and pulls the trigger. The bear explodes... explosively. That bear is NOT getting up again.
It's essentially "Jaws" with a bear in the woods. It's a fairly by-the-numbers animal attack movie. It tries to have interesting characters, but no one else gets enough screen time to develop other than Christopher George.
There are several simple but effective gore shots that show what a monster this bear really is. There's not really an explanation for the man-eating bear other than it's an old species, but what more do you need?
It's slow, and a little dated, but it's not bad for a fairly low-budget film.
Directed by Joe Dante
Written by Richard Robinson, John Sayles
Stars Bradford Dillman, Heather Menzies-Urich, Kevin McCarthy, Keenan Wynn, Dick Miller, Barbara Steele
Run Time: 1 Hour, 33 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It's a good one that still holds up for entertainment value. There's a little humor with a faint aroma of satire, but it's mostly serious horror. The effects are effective, there's a decent body count, and the story - if a little far-fetched at times - moves well.
A couple hikes through the woods at night; they seem lost. They climb under a fence and walk to the building that isn't on his map. "Maybe it's a secret," he says. They go inside and find a huge tank of water. There's no one around, so they get naked and jump in. Something bites the guy, but she says it wasn't her. Something in the water soon eats them both. Credits roll.
Maggie McKeown, a "skip tracer," talks to her boss, Earl, about flying out to find the missing teenagers. Meanwhile, Paul Grogan talks to old man Jack about life in the country as they drink... a lot. Jack talks about how he loves the river; all he needs is the river and his dog.
Later, Maggie comes to Paul. She wants his help to find the missing teenagers. He's surly and unhelpful but does mention an old army test site up the mountain that closed five or six years ago. They break into the place and find the missing teen Barbara's necklace next to the pool.
They find warm coffee and electricity, so the base can't be too abandoned. They find all kinds of strange experimental creatures as well as the other teen David's backpack and clothes. They can't see the bottom of the pool, so Maggie decides to drain it. She hits the drain switch, and the caretaker comes out of nowhere to attack them.
An alarm sounds, and Paul and Maggie beat the crap out of the caretaker, who is only doing his job. Paul notices that the water probably drains out to the river. The caretaker steals their car and drives away, leaving the duo alone at the lab. He passes out from his concussion and wrecks the car.
The man wakes up and talks about "razor teeth" and "you've let them out," but he won't say anything specific. Maggie wants to sleep with Paul, but he's clueless. The next morning, they board a raft to take the injured caretaker to help. Paul talks about his daughter at a summer camp on the other side of the lake.
We cut to a bunch of kids next to the lake. Little Suzy is afraid of things in the water. The leader of the camp, Mr. Dumont, acts like this is a boot camp, not a summer kids' camp.
We cut to Jack, sitting on the dock next to his dog, with his legs dangling in the water. The dog looks at the water and whines. Suddenly, trillions of piranhas attack Jack's legs.
Back on the raft, the caretaker wakes up and warns them to stay out of the water. He says he's Dr. Robert Hoaks, and now the water is filled with carnivorous piranhas that she let out when she drained the pool. They pull up to Jack's dock because his dog is barking, and they soon find the old man legless and dead. Dr. Hoak tells that the government paid him to breed and "improve" the piranhas in "Operation Razor Teeth." They can live in cold water and breed very quickly.
We cut to a father and son out net fishing. Their canoe tips over, and the father gets eaten. We then cut to the summer camp, where all the kids are kicking and screaming in inner tubes.
Paul and his group come upon the fishing boy, balancing on the back of his canoe, but it's sinking. Hoak dives in to save the boy, and the piranhas quickly go after him. They both get out of the water, but Hoak is badly chewed up and quickly dies. Under the surface, we see the piranhas working to chew up the ropes that lash together the raft's logs. They feed the dead doctor to them as a distraction, but the raft still ends up coming apart. They all just barely jump to shore.
Paul runs to the dam to warn them not to open it, that'll flood the lake with deadly piranhas. We hear a TV commercial about the new lakefront resort.
The army arrives. Dr. Mengers and Colonel Waxman claim they don't believe the story, but it's quickly verified. That's OK; they brought a whole bunch of piranha poison with them, which they pour into the river. Paul shows the colonel that there is a way that the fish could bypass the dam using a side stream.
Paul calls Dumont at the summer camp and warns the sleeping man about the killer fish. Dumont thinks Paul's a hopeless drunk and hangs up on him. They talk to a policeman next, but he knows for a fact that Paul's a hopeless drunk. The cop arrests them and gets his orders from the colonel. Next, the colonel calls Buck Gardner, who owns the resort that's opening tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Maggie figures out a way to break out of jail. At the "Aquarena," Buck makes a speech to the huge opening day crowd at the lake. On the other side of the lake, all the kiddie campers line up for the big swim race. Dumont orders Suzie to get into the water, but she runs and hides instead.
As Paul and Maggie race to the camp, we watch the piranhas heading toward the campers. Suddenly, all the kids start screaming, and it's not from the exciting race. There's a lot of screaming. Most of the kids get out, but one of the counselors gets eaten.
Paul gets to the resort just as the action is winding down. Maggie phones the resort, but Buck's been warned by the colonel about the "piranha pranksters" and hangs up on her.
We cut to the resort, where everyone is enjoying the water. Buck talks to Dr. Mengers and the colonel, who is a financial backer of the resort - which is why he wants business as usual. We watch as scuba divers and water skiers become lunch. Then the piranhas attack the main beach, and that goes... badly. People panic, and the colonel ends up in the water as fish food.
Paul remembers that there's a waste treatment place down the river. "We'll pollute the bastards to death." The plant is flooded and underwater, but Paul ties a rope to himself and dives in.
Paul swims underwater into the control station and finds the release valve. Outside, the piranhas arrive as he turns the valve. They soon start biting and pecking at him, but he keeps working. He releases the poison just as Maggie counts to 100 and drives the boat away, pulling him outside to safety.
The reporters ask Dr. Mengers what the next step is. She says there's no chance the piranhas could make it to the ocean, but we already know they have been adapted for saltwater...
Steven Spielberg called this "the best of the Jaws ripoffs." Other than being about killer fish and a resort, there really aren't that many similarities in the plot. There's a bit of humor here, but it's far from a comedy. I'm still not sure what was in the pipe that Paul opened at the end, but there'd have to be a lot of it to affect fish in a lake of that size.
The gibbering-chittering sound the fish make is really fairly effective. There's a lot of blood and one or two good gore shots, but it's mostly just people splashing in the water as something pecks away at them down below.
The acting is good, the pacing is good, and it's all pretty effective.
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