1. The 10 Scary Bear Movies That Will Make You Fear the Great Outdoors More
The success of Jaws led to a stampede of animal-themed horror films. This enduring subgenre experienced its Golden Age in and around the late 1970s as ecological concerns weighed on society and fueled writers' imaginations. Over time Mother Nature has deployed almost every critter under the sun when punishing humans for their reckless behaviors, but in terms of unbridled damage, the bear is one of her most effective warriors.
Bears don't always get the same attention as, say, sharks do in the horror genre, but these massive land predators are capable of major damage when they're given a starring role. Encounters with sharks are statistically more common, but run-ins with bears have a higher chance of ending on a fatal note. This fact, however, hasn't quite stopped people from loving the bear, flaws and all. From toys to mascots, these creatures are seen more as lovable icons than messengers of death. Nevertheless, bears bring extraordinary pain whenever they're pitted against mankind.
Bears pop up from time to time in the wide world of "natural horror," and as the following films demonstrate, they make for some of the most terrifying beasts to ever grace the big screen.
It just wouldn't be right to talk about bear horror and not bring up this blatant Jaws ripoff. Grizzly wasn't the first time a bear came after humans on film — the western The Night of the Grizzly beat it to the punch by a good ten years — but it is the first one of the horror persuasion. Grizzly delivers unmerciful mayhem at a steady pace, and despite crude editing and effects, it packs plenty of vicious kills. For curious completists only, an incoherent sequel called Grizzly II: The Predator is also available. The production history of the notorious and delayed follow-up is more interesting than the actual film, though.
John Frankenheimer's 1979 film doesn't care for subtlety. In this somewhat overlooked eco-horror entry, an EPA employee (Robert Foxworth) and his pregnant wife (Talia Shire) get caught up in the struggle between an Indigenous tribe and a logging company somewhere in Maine. Prophecy is unique in the realm of bear horror, and despite its schlock value and glaring greenie messaging, the film is highly watchable. It boasts a few memorable set pieces — the sleeping bag death comes to mind — and a talented cast. Quentin Tarantino has helped renew interest in this cult film in recent years, and anyone keen on seeing the Two-Face of bears stalking hapless city slickers and crooked capitalists should seek it out sooner than later.
Unoriginality notwithstanding, this 1977 horror oddity has a tad more going on in the story department than Grizzly. Claws leans on stereotypical Indigenous mysticism when explaining the origin of its killer bear, however, this decent idea never reaches its full potential. If this hard-to-find example of regionally shot Alaskan horror does one thing well, it's the tense and final showdown between Jason Evers' character and the vengeful bear.
What this 1987 Utah-shot slasher lacks in straightforward bear action, it makes up for in absurdity. The little-known Berserker has since been unearthed and restored by Vinegar Syndrome, and anyone who caught this one back in the day is realizing it was no fever dream. The uninitiated will be drawn to the concept of young fodder doomed to die at the paws of a marauding bear, but there's more to the story. A lot more. Berserker bucks convention, grinds out '80s rock tunes, and features character actor George "Buck" Flower as a mildly Scandinavian landowner whose property becomes a battleground between ancient forces.
6. The Edge
Bart the Bear's character may not be the main focus of this 1997 survival film, but he is a big draw. Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin's characters are thrown into an extraordinary situation as the two are pursued by an unyielding Kodiak out in the Alaskan wilderness. Setting their differences aside in the meantime, while never completely abandoning their ulterior motives, the two protagonists are somehow never outshined by their colossal co-star. The '90s was a momentous era for big-budget and action-packed thrillers, and The Edge should be remembered as one of the best. Not only is the human drama compelling enough to fill an almost two-hour runtime, but the bear sequences also entertain without becoming excessive or misplaced.
7. Yellow Fangs
Also known as Remains: Beautiful Heroes, this 1990 Japanese film is loosely based on an historical bear attack in a Hokkaidō settlement. In 1915, an Ussuri brown bear killed seven settlers and injured a few others over several days. Yellow Fangs, directed by actor and martial artist Sonny Chiba and special advisor Kinji Fukasaku (Battle Royale), indeed takes creative license when recounting the Sankebetsu incident. Still, this occasionally campy film achieves some stunning cinematography and fierce action sequences. Hiroyuki Sanada (Ringu) pulls double duty here as the film's lead and the music composer; his character hunts down the insatiable bruin with a preference for young women. Supporting Sanada is Mika Muramatsu, who won a Japanese Academy Award for her performance.
8. Grizzly Park
More teens meet the business end of a bear claw in this obscure dark comedy. Grizzly Park follows the diverse misfits assigned to a weekend of community service in a national park, all while under the supervision of a jaded park ranger (Glen Morshower). This breakfast club is soon picked off by wolves and the film's furious namesake. While it's nothing more than a brainless creature-slasher filled with obnoxious stereotypes, this 2008 film at least offers inspired death scenes.
This 2014 Canadian film plays out like a sad cautionary tale told around campfires. Missy Peregrym and Jeff Roop play the sympathetic urbanites whose off-trail hike goes straight to hell once they get lost. Making matters worse is the territorial black bear following them. Backcountry is frustrating to watch as this bickering couple makes a series of unsound decisions, all after failing to take their environment seriously. In the end, Peregrym hands in a wonderful performance, and the film serves as a brutal reminder to respect nature.
10. Into the Grizzly Maze
James Marsden, Thomas Jane, Billy Bob Thornton, Piper Perabo and Scott Glenn star in this intense thriller set in an Alaskan forest. As two estranged brothers reunite, a ferocious Grizzly terrorizes the land. At its worst, the film is weighed down by ineffectual character writing, and the bear is afforded too much plot armor, but between its cast of familiar faces and higher-than-average production values, this 2015 film (originally called Red Machine, later Endangered and Grizzly) will undoubtedly attract a broader audience.
Unnatural (also known as Maneater) is unique for its use of a polar bear, an animal hardly ever seen in the horror genre. Similar to Deep Blue Sea, morally questionable science creates a nearly unstoppable monster. Casualties occur once the lab animal gets loose and preys on a cabin full of models and their photographer. It's a run-of-the-mill "B" movie from After Dark Films, but on the plus side, Unnatural moves at a solid pace, practices suitmation in an age polluted by chintzy CGI, and features the talents of the magnetic James Remar.