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Grizzly: Jaws In The Woods

Let’s start this review by getting the obvious out of the way. Grizzly, released in 1976 (just one year after) is a cheesy ripoff of Jaws. Referring to it as “Jaws in the woods” would be very accurate.

Here’s a chart:

With that out of the way, that isn’t to say this can’t be an enjoyable low-budget, 1970s era B-horror movie.

The film opens when two female hikers (both wearing bell-bottom jeans while hiking 10 miles deep into the woods for some reason) are suddenly attacked by a very large, unseen grizzly bear. Soon after, the park ranger and main character, Michael Kelly, is joined by photographer (and presumed love interest) Allison Corwin to check in on the whereabouts of these two girls (later identified to be Margaret Rogers and June Hamilton) who were supposed to be back by nightfall. Once arriving at their camp, they discover two mangled corpses -- most notably the partially buried remains of Margaret Rogers.

After taking the bodies of the girls to the hospital, a medical examiner informs Michael Kelly that the girls were killed by a bear. After hearing this news himself, Charley Kittridge (park supervisor, and all-around dick) falsely blames Michael Kelly and naturalist Arthur Scott for these attacks -- as the brown bears in the area were supposed to not only be identified and accounted for, but should have been moved out of the park long before tourism season even began. During an over-the-top and poorly written argument between Kelly and Kittridge to decide if the park should be closed, it’s ultimately decided to move all hikers off the mountain while allowing (dumb) campers to remain in the more supervised lowlands.

While searching the mountain for any bears, park rangers Gail and Tom split up (naturally, as this is a B-horror movie) and Gail ultimately decides to “soak her feet” for a few minutes while taking a break next to a waterfall. After taking her clothes off for some reason, Gail is then viciously mauled -- seemingly unaware of the grizzly bear that has been lurking at the base of the waterfall this whole time. With now three confirmed kills and mounting pressure, Kelly recruits retired military helicopter pilot Dan Stober to assist in the search of not only any bears, but for Arthur Scott, who has yet to check in. Flying above the forest, Kelly and Stober see what they initially believe to be a large animal -- and they land the helicopter. Soon after landing, they discover Arthur Scott covered in some sort of bear skin costume. The three men then have a 3 minute conversation outside of the helicopter, as Scott managed to convince both Kelly and Stober that the animal responsible for these deaths is in fact an 18 foot tall grizzly bear. No further discussion is seemingly required.

Meanwhile, at the now very busy lowland campground area, the camera goes into first person POV bear mode -- as the grizzly bear is about to commit murders 4 through 6.

The camera follows a woman named Sally Walker, who wandered away alone from her campsite (naturally, as this is a B-horror movie) as she enters her tent, but she is immediately mauled by the grizzly bear. The next morning, now outraged in a very similar manner to Chief Brody’s plight in Jaws, Michael Kelly once again insists to close the park, but Charley Kittridge is hesitant to cause panic and turn away potential tourists. These attacks have now become a national news story, and to combat this -- Kittridge (also very similarly to Mayor Vaughn in Jaws) agrees to allow various local drunks to hunt the animal.

Very shortly after, park ranger Tom (who left Gail by the waterfall earlier) is now tracking the bear in the outskirts of the park. You know he’s about to die, as the camera goes into first person POV bear mode again. Able to get away from the grizzly bear’s initial attempt at a mauling, Tom climbs up a fire lookout tower high in the mountain, but soon hilariously falls off the structure (a Wilhelm scream is even heard) as the grizzly bear manages to destroy the tower and Tom fatally fell to his death.

After a brown bear cub is found dead about midway through this movie (presumably another victim of the grizzly bear), Arthur Scott -- becoming frustrated by the politics of this situation -- sneaks away to track the grizzly bear on his own, towards the south border of the national park. Scott concluded that only male grizzly bears are known to be cannibalistic, and tracked the bear to the south region -- as the attacks have followed a north-to-south pattern.

During this time, a mother and child (the child’s name is Bobby) are camping alone in the south region of the park -- coincidentally, the same location where Scott is tracking the grizzly bear (naturally, as this is a B-horror movie) -- and they are in imminient danger. We know this, as once again, the camera goes into first person POV bear mode. While the mother is brutally mauled by the grizzly bear (and subsequently bear hugged), Bobby somehow manages to survive, although severely mutilated. With the death count now at six, park supervisor Charley Kittridge finally agrees to close the park.

Somewhat randomly, Michael Kelly and Don Stober are shown gathering all the munitions they can fit into their helicopter, and they venture deep into the forest to locate Arthur Scott who they believe via radio has located the grizzly bear. Before nightfall, unable to locate Scott, Kelly and Stober setup a trap by hanging a deer carcass from a tree. Quite miraculously, it only took 2 minutes of film time before the camera once again transitioned into first person POV bear mode -- suggesting to both the viewer and to Kelly and Stober that the grizzly bear is nearby, but as soon as they arrive to the trap, the deer carcass is long gone.

Once again somewhat randomly, the next morning Kelly and Stober receive good news via radio that Arthur Scott is indeed alive, as he located their missing deer carcass while tracking the bear via horseback deep in the south region of the park, and that he plans to haul the carcass to a nearby trap (this was some very clunky storytelling, by the way). While attempting to drag the deer carcass via horse, the camera goes into first person POV bear mode -- suggesting that it is in fact the grizzly bear, not Arthur Scott who has set the trap -- and immediately the horse is mauled by the bear, causing Scott to fall off, rendering him unconscious. In the very next scene Scott regains consciousness only to find his lower torso buried, and then immediately -- the camera goes into first person POV bear mode -- and the grizzly bear finishes off the naturalist (William Girdler, the film’s director clearly was in a hurry to finish this movie, as this all took place within about 2 minutes)

Later that day, Kelly and Stober come across Scott’s mutilated body, and decide to ultimately attempt to track the bear via helicopter. Once airborne, they circle back to the area of Scott’s last known whereabouts, soon able to discover once again a visual on the grizzly bear. In a strange plot twist, a rocket launcher has been on board this helicopter this whole time -- and they both realize that if they lower the helicopter, they might have a chance to get a clear shot at the grizzly bear. While attempting to obtain a stable and appropriate height for a kill shot, the grizzly bear then ATTACKS THE HELICOPTER, swiping at the vehicle, throwing both occupants out. The grizzly bear immediately goes after Dan Stober, killing him via a bear hug. This took about 10 seconds of film time. Still in first person POV bear mode, Michael Kelly is then seen frantically reaching for the rocket launcher from the downed helicopter. However, before being mauled himself, Michael Kelly -- without any known formal training whatsoever -- not only is able to operate a rocket launcher, but successfully blows up this infamous grizzly bear using one.

The film then immediately ends with Michael Kelly seen sadly staring at the remains of the grizzly bear he just blew up, the helicopter wreckage, and his friend Dan Stober. Roll credits.

Grizzly: low-budget, 1970s era B-horror filmmaking at its finest