cocaine bear

Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers for “Cocaine Bear.”

“Cocaine Bear” marks a return to campy, off-the-wall horror movies with insane premises. This movie knows what it is; it knows viewers are there to see a completely overdramatized story about a bear who becomes addicted to cocaine — and blood.

“Cocaine Bear” loosely tells the true story of a bear who got into some cocaine in under 100 minutes. Except instead of dying within hours, this bear gained super strength and speed as well as a bloodlust for cocaine. 

How did the bear get cocaine? A skydiving drug dealer threw it out of a plane before knocking himself out and falling to his death, obviously.

With a cast of eight main characters and six minor characters across three storylines, the first act of the film can seem like a lot. Though the character introductions are all fairly quick and effective, some storylines do feel a bit extraneous.

If this seems like a lot to keep track of, don’t worry — only about half of the cast makes it to the end, but the story manages to weave three stories together fairly well. Scenes rarely have more than three or four characters. Sari, Henry and Dee-Dee are resigned to their own storyline for most of the movie, and initially, the bear is only a driving motivator for half of the characters. 

While sporting a very mom-core tracksuit, Sari (Keri Russell) is looking for her daughter Dee-Dee (Brooklynn Prince). Dee-Dee herself is kidnapped by the bear after skipping school with her friend Henry (Christian Convery), like a bad after-school special. That being said, Sari does lose mom points on account of bringing Henry with her to find the bear.

Dee-Dee and Henry themselves are surprisingly real compared to most depictions of children in media. They aren’t entirely believable, but the kids playing them do a great job of delivering preteen banter. I’m still not convinced either of them would easily decide to eat cocaine.

This film also marks Ray Liotta’s last project prior to his passing. The film pays tribute to this in the credits. There’s something poetic about the star who became famous from the crime/thriller film “Goodfellas” concluding his final performance as the kingpin of a coke operation.

Margo Martindale plays park ranger Liz, who seems like she belongs in a DMV. Martindale’s character is impressively self-serving, and she manages to bring a sort of animated quality to this performance. She runs into the bear while trying to track down three adult men dressed as teenagers.

There is plenty of blood, missing limbs and innards being consumed by the bear. For those squeamish about this type of content, maybe wait for the potential “Cocaine Shark”? There aren’t too many creative deaths in this movie — at least nothing you wouldn’t already expect out of a coked-out bear.

The cocaine bear herself looks pretty good in a lot of shots. Granted, close-ups on her face leave a bit to be desired. While it’s not bad, her face does seem a bit oily. There are only a handful of these scenes, but it’s odd that the shots where the bear is further back or smaller in frame seem more thoughtfully created.

This might be because the bear was created using CGI after actor Allan Henry performed the motion capture for the bear. Henry learned to mimic bear movements from various movies and nature documentaries. Sporting an all-black bodysuit with stilts on his arms and a bear snout extended about two feet from his face, Henry would run on all fours behind actors. 

One can tell the budget went into making the bear and camera equipment used. Much of the movie is surprisingly well shot for a B-horror movie. It’s nothing revolutionary, but certainly better than you might expect. The scenes in the dark are a bit hard to see, even in theaters, but the film only spends about 10-15 minutes in the dark.

Overall, “Cocaine Bear” is a really fun time. You might not see it twice or think too much about it after, but it makes for a great watch with some friends on a Friday night after a long week. 

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