After a relentless grizzly starts to wreak havoc on a small town, the sheriff heads into the forest to find his ecologist wife but instead crosses paths with his estranged, ex-con brother. They soon find themselves on the run from the massive killer bear. The hunted become the hunters in this edge-of-your seat thriller about the power of nature and the smell of blood.
In the film, INTO THE GRIZZLY MAZE, Beckett Moore is a small town Sheriff in townt located within the Alaskan Wilderness. Moore, whose family has always been nature enthusiasts, have had respect for both the animals, and the land in which they live(his father was a wilderness guide). And so, he is always doing his best to preserve it. Up until this point, his biggest nuisance has been of course, bear poachers. However, soon, the tables turn when news spreads within the town that a bear has gone rouge, and smells blood. With his ecologist, wife(whom is deaf), now deep within the wilderness conducting research, while the bear is actively on the prowl, Beckett must wade the jungle terrain in search of her. In his search, not only does he discover his wife, but he also crosses paths with his ex-con brother, Rowan(who has just returned from a seven year prison stay) and a life long friend/adversary named Douglass, an outspoken bear hunter, who has been hired by Beckett's partner, Sully. Sully hopes that Douglass will be able to successfully take the bear down, has he often has. However, this is no ordinary bear. It's much bigger, smarter, and seems to be one giant step ahead of them at all times. With the group's life in desperate danger, in the end, it's up to all of them to band together if they hope to survive the ultimate battle of "man versus nature".
When it comes to this film, the David Hackl (SAW V) directed, INTO THE GRIZZLY MAZE, would appear that it is a film that had been in pre-production for quite some time. Rumored casting and script changes are evidence of this. At one point, Actor Adrian Brody had shown interest in the film(which was then titled RED MACHINE), and even tried to convince pal Gerard Butler to join him on the film, which the two to portray the two brothers, "Beckett" and "Rowan". And on the female front of the film, one actress who auditioned for a role was "Rookie Blue" star, Missy Peregrym(coincidently, who went on to star in a similar film called BACKCOUNTRY). While neither three ended up in the film, other rumored participants included Chad Michael Murray and Hayden Christensen and even the late Paul Walker. After what seemed to have been a rocky start, the filmmakers did eventually secure a cast, and a script, which resulted in this film.
Retitled INTO THE GRIZZLY MAZE, which refers to a wilderness labyrinth in the film, which bears dwell, is a tale of survival, which mainly centers on the relationship between two estranged brothers with a bitter history. Of course it's the typical setup. The two brothers have ill will towards each other, but when faced with a monster bigger than their estrangement, they must "bury the hatchet" in order to live. Although the story as a whole is very basic in structure(complete with the typical sub-plots; the deaf wife, the former lover, the bear obsessed hunter, etc.), it is clear that the filmmakers had bigger plans for the film. The film, which features a rather noteworthy cast(which includes Thomas Jane, James Marsden, Billy Bob Thornton, Piper Perabo and Michaela McManus), and top notch production value and direction, seems to have been aimed for possibly a much wider theatrical release. It's all in place here, however it's pretty clear as to why it did not gain the type of release that the filmmakers had hoped. But this is not to say that INTO THE GRIZZLY MAZE is a "bad" film by any stretch. I think that it has more to do with the fact that there is now an abundance of so many of these films, these days(thanks SYFY channel), than anything else. Yes, we are no longer living in a time where a film like JAWS is a rare thing. So many of these films come along, and many of them fail to compare. Thank God that JAWS came along when it did.
But again, when it comes to INTO THE GRIZZLY MAZE, it's not a bad film. In fact, it is a pretty fun one, actually. The cast are all on point, making the most out of their given roles, and even most of the grizzly action is pretty entertaining in itself. The cast lends a hand in keeping things interesting, while the "bear attacks", when they occur, are pretty "smile-worthy". But while the film is mostly entertaining, it's not without it's faults. With what possibly could have been one of the reasons that the film didn't make its seemingly intended bigger release, is that some of the dialogue scenes run a little too long, and become a little too "soapy", and more in the vein of a TV production, rather than a theatrical one. Also, seeing as the special effects featured in the film were so well achieved and so brutal in nature, I would have personally liked to have seen more of the bear carnage. What we do see is great stuff, there should have been more, there isn't enough. However it does seem as though the filmmakers might have been holding back a little. I'm not sure, but it was probably due to some kind of budgetary restriction, i'm guessing.
However, with that said, as is, the film is still a good time. It is definitely a step up from many of the many generic offerings we always see. Having a well seasoned cast of veterans does raise the film up above your average "bear in the woods" flick. Both Marsden and Jane create a likable pairing as the two brothers(Jane as the tough, do-right Sheriff, "Beckett" and Marsden as "Rowan". the lost wayward soul, who longs for redemption), the two make the film better. Also adding energy to the film, is the always great, Billy Bob Thornton. Thornton, who has always been one of my favorite actors, brings his brand of "good 'ol boy" humor, and a little bit of insanity to his role as he portrays "Douglass". Douglass is obsessed with hunting big game, especially bears. He is essentially the total opposite of what the Moore bothers are all about. Whereas, while they kind of respect nature, Douglass is a man who dives right in for the attack, in hopes to always win the battle against "man versus nature". The film's three primary stars are supported by a round of equally great performances. I especially enjoyed Piper Perabo as Beckett's deaf and mute wife, "Michelle". Perabo, whom I have loved since first seeing her in COYOTE UGLY. She has proven herself to be a great actress no matter the film, or role - big or small. Here in this film, she also does very well. As she here portrays someone who cannot hear or speak. Much of her performance is delivered by emotion and expression. She is as cute as she can be, and is totally endearing. So that when she is confronted by the bear at one point, we as viewers really feel for her, which was obviously the point. It's well played. Also here is Michaela McManus, from "One Tree Hill", and most recently, "Aquarius". McManus is also good as a counterpart for the "Rowan" character. Over time, it's revealed to us that they two of them had once shared a bit of a relationship, and that she still very much harbors these feelings for him. This of course adds to and further aids the emotional arc of the film. While it isn't necessarily a necessity for the story, McManus does well with what she's given. Not to mention that she brings the film up to 2 for 2, when it comes to the beautiful women ratio for the film, which is a good thing. I also could not leave off, without mentioning the involvement of Scott Glenn, who is Beckett's comrade in the film. Here, Glenn is "Sully", a senior Police official who's nearing his retirement. He seems to be an all around good guy initially, but as the film later reveals, he may, or may not have a hidden agenda. A very likable and entertaining showing from the veteran actor. As mentioned, collectively, the cast, here, work together to create something that is above your average Creature feature, and for the most part, I enjoyed it.
With its scenic setting, and competent direction, along with it's performances and well plotted bear action(However, do wish there had been a little more), I feel that INTO THE GRIZZLY MAZE is one of the better films of its kind.
IMPRESSION OF THE FILM
Going into the film, the story didn't really stand out from the rest, but I knew that with the cast, it had the potential to be better than the standard offering. And this is true, in that while, the story itself is truly nothing to behold, both the cast and the approach that the filmmakers chose to take on with the bear(the bear is even a star, and is credited as such in the film. His name, "Billy the Bear" is even trademarked) in the film, all make the film worthwhile, as the film does have the '70s Drive-in, B-Movie feel going for it. Whether this was the intention or not, I am unsure, but fans of films B-Movie Creature Features such as GRIZZLY(1976) and ORCA(1977), should feel right at home with INTO THE GRIZZLY MAZE.
This film will be released on DVD on August 4, 2015.