Killer grizzly bear movies are a thing.
Sure, maybe not as widely known as the killer shark genre, thanks to JAWS (1975) and the SHARKNADO movies, but they’re still a thing. Probably the most famous of these flicks is GRIZZLY (1976), which while a complete rip off of JAWS, is still a lot of fun in spite of its low budget and total lack of originality. It was also wildly popular in its day, making a ton of money when it was released, and it’s also quite gory for a PG rated movie.
Then there’s my personal favorite, THE NIGHT OF THE GRIZZLY (1966), a western in which a rancher played by Clint Walker has to protect his family and farm from a giant marauding bear. This is an exceedingly entertaining film. There are a host of others as well, and probably my favorite movie scene with a killer grizzly is from THE REVENANT (2015). The fight between Leonardo DiCaprio’s character and the bear is as intense as it gets.
Which brings us to today’s movie, INTO THE GRIZZLY MAZE, a horror adventure available on Netflix which I chose to watch because… well, yeah, because there was a grizzly in it. I was curious. Fight me!
Anyway, let’s get right to the point: INTO THE GRIZZLY MAZE is… not as intense as it gets. Not even close. It’s also not among my favorite grizzly bear movies, nor is it much of a horror movie, which I guess isn’t its fault. The film doesn’t appear to be advertised as a horror movie, but it did show up on Netflix in their horror category. So, there’s some false advertising in there somewhere!
INTO THE GRIZZLY MAZE is the story of two estranged brothers, Rowan (James Marsden) and Beckett (Thomas Jane). Rowan has returned to their small town after leaving under controversial circumstances, which doesn’t sit well with his older brother Beckett, since he’s a deputy for the sheriff’s department and thinks his brother is up to no good. But actually, Rowan’s a stand-up guy, a tracker, and he’s back to track someone lost in an area of the woods known as the grizzly maze, an area in which his and Beckett’s dad had taught them all about.
But there’s a new bear in town, and he’s stalking the woods and is hungry for humans. Everyone in the woods is in danger, so it’s up to Rowan and Beckett to put aside their differences and take down the killer bear.
That’s pretty much it for plot. There are more subplots involving other characters, including female characters played by Piper Perabo, Michaela McManus, and Kelly Curran, but none of these three ever take center stage. Scott Glenn plays the sheriff, and in the most intriguing bit of casting, Billy Bob Thornton plays a grizzly bear tracker and hunter.
Sadly, he’s not a particularly good grizzly bear tracker and hunter. That should give you a clue about his fate in this movie.
James Marsden, who plays the lead role, younger brother Rowan, is probably best known for playing Cyclops in the original X-MEN movies. He also starred in the recent THE STAND (2020-21) miniseries.
Thomas Jane, who plays big brother Beckett, played the lead role in THE MIST (2007), and he also played Frank Castle in the 2004 version of THE PUNISHER.
Both actors are decent here, as is the entire cast.
The biggest problem with INTO THE GRIZZLY MAZE is that its story isn’t so hot. The screenplay by Guy Moshe and J.R. Reher gets the set-up right. The characters are all introduced well enough, and the story of the murderous grizzly in the woods is intriguing, but the payoff just isn’t all that exciting. In fact, most of the grizzly scenes disappoint.
Director David Hackl is handed the perfect setting but doesn’t do a whole heck of a lot with it. The grizzly scenes just never go for the jugular.
Which brings us to the grizzly. Hackl used a real grizzly bear here, which should have been a plus, a step above CGI in the realism department, but for some reason, the bear here just doesn’t come off as all that terrifying. I’ve seen Winnie the Pooh look creepier.
The story may be about a vicious grizzly bear, but his actions as captured on film here are all rather tame.
So, if you’re looking for a horrific grizzly-bear-on-the-loose monster movie, you’re going to have to dust off that old JAWS-on-land chestnut, GRIZZLY, because you won’t find it here with INTO THE GRIZZLY MAZE.
Instead, you may find yourself stuck in a grizzly daze.