Cocaine Bear is a rabid rampage of gore-filled fun

by Gordon Shelly

There are an abundance of movies that mix genres and never actually settle on one particular mode of storytelling. Are they a comedy? An action movie? Maybe a horror movie? Or a romance? Are they an action-comedy-romantic-horror crossover? Some movies can simply never decide what they want to be, or try to be too many things, and the storytelling ends up suffering because of it.

Navigating outside a genre norm, or tackling multiple genres, can create more problems than a 95-minute movie can solve in most instances.

Cocaine Bear does not suffer from this identity crisis. It knows exactly what type of movie it wants to be. And, as Elizabeth Banks continues her foray into directing, this is by far the auteur’s best directorial effort to date.

Banks gives us the movie we want, hope for, and expect. A bear does cocaine. The bear likes cocaine. The bear goes on a murderous rampage while high on cocaine. Most importantly, there are plenty of good kills (maybe not to satisfy the hardcore slasher fans, but this movie is bloody).

However to call this something “based on a true story” is a bit silly. In the 1980s, a bear did an excessive amount of cocaine and died as a result. The rest is fiction.

Is this the an example of a cinema master course? No, but it is an example of a movie so uniquely on point, so fun, so gory, and so intense, that it will be imitated for years to come, and may even spawn a killer bear franchise. Who knows?

Cocaine Bear mixes genres, yes, but it doesn’t try to be all-encompassing. It’s a surreal horror comedy and never tries to pretend it’s something else. It hits the action notes, it delves into horror, and it has a unique blend of situational comedy too. It doesn’t try to be more than it is, but that is when movies often make a statement, and while intentional, the statement Cocaine Bear is making, is not one that passes judgement or isolates potential viewers.

Cocaine Bear is fueled by the drug excess of the late 20th century and the hypocrisy of the “Just Say No” culture that it spawned, and clearly influenced by the slasher films of the same era, with the bear serving as the relentless killer.

Akin to those slashers of the 80s, we are rooting for the bear. Most of the characters are forest fodder, awaiting a grizzly death or injury, sometimes by bear, and sometimes by sheer stupidity.

When all is said and done, we want the bear to win. And this movie does. It wins.

Gordo’s Grade: B+