The resounding success of Jaws famous paved the way for a blast of animal attack horror movies. One of the most egregious scams is also one of the best scams, and it’s coming to Shudder next week. Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the woodshere is the terror of grizzled!
Certainly, “terror” is a generous descriptor. Contrary to Jawsin which Stephen Spielberg took the time to create suspense (with an assist from John Williams‘ thrilling score), 1978 grizzled seems well aware that everyone in the audience has seen Jaws and therefore knows exactly what to expect. This gives us a bizarre rogue predator of nature who suddenly begins attacking an unsuspecting human population. It also gives us an even nastier figure in the form of a government official who selfishly/greedily/devilishly sabotages early efforts to keep as many people safe as possible.
Basically, it succeeds in lifting entire character types and story beats from Jaws-that worked so well for a reason – with a change of scenery that facilitates just enough novelty to keep things interesting. There is also the fact that grizzled was made on a smaller budget with less prestigious talent behind the camera. It’s a gold mine for viewers willing to appreciate the (mostly unintended) humor contained in its dialogue, which is extremely 1978 and contains absolute howls.
Whereas Jaws linked its action to a specific island resort community, grizzled keeps things much vaguer, bringing us to a geographically unspecified “national park”. (A few local landmarks give away its filming location as North Georgia, but it’s never mentioned except in the end credits.) We meet Chief Park Ranger Michael Kelly (Christopher George, whose other credits include Lucio Fulci’s city of the living deadclassic slasher graduation dayand the immortal Rooms), a type of hurt badass who drifted into the gig after a painful divorce. Characters in his orbit include macho helicopter pilot Don (The city that dreaded sunset‘s Andrew Prine), who calls women “fillies” (and uses even grittier language to describe the enemy soldiers he fought in Vietnam) and gets the Quint moment where he tells the story of a terrifying past giant bears; wacky naturalist Scotty (Richard Jaeckel, whose many credits include another Jaws riffs, Mako: Jaws of Death), who, according to Kelly, “knows all the bears in the forest personally”; and Allison (Devil times five‘s Joan McCall), a photographer who is mostly there to trade barbs with Kelly but disappears from the story once the action becomes strictly Man Versus Bear. We also meet Kittridge (Joe Dorsey), the park supervisor, who hopes to somehow use his position to further his political career; he clashes with Kelly early on and their relationship largely consists of “You listen!” “Nope YOU Listen!” sorts of arguments.
And then, of course, there is a real star of grizzled: the bear himself, said to be 15 feet tall and weigh 2,000 pounds, but represented mostly by hidden POV shots and a team of hardworking noisemakers, who load the soundtrack with heavy breathing, sniffling, growling and moans. Every once in a while we’ll get a paw slipping on something, and as the film enters its final stretch we’re rewarded with some real bear footage, albeit very carefully framed in shots that keep the furious beast away from the real human actors. It’s a way to avoid Jawsstyling prop malfunctions, though dealing with a live bear undoubtedly brought an entirely different range of behind-the-scenes woes.
Anyway, if you saw Jaws-or are even slightly familiar with its plot-you know what awaits you in grizzledwho teases his threat in a surprisingly memorable theatrical poster created by comic book legend Neal Adams. Once the bear starts munching on campers, hikers, park rangers (including one played by Penthouse model Vicki Johnson, whose character strips out of her ranger uniform for a topless romp through a waterfall before being devoured), and a small child and his mother, it becomes a whim between Kelly and Kittridge to close the beaches – uh, the Park-before the body count increases. Choice dialogue along the way includes quotes such as “Remember, we’re probably not looking for a full body” and “That thing seems to know what we are thinking!” grizzled too knows what we’re thinking, because he knows we’re anticipating his every twist, but he’s moving fast and his conclusion is even gloomier (but no less, shall we say, explosive) that the end of Jaws.
The same day he adds grizzled to its streaming selections, Shudder is also rolling out animal daya sort of thematic sequel to 1977 made by grizzled director William Girdler and starring grizzledis George and Jaeckel. It’s also an animal attack movie, but it leans much more vigorously into science fiction, imagining animals (including humans) turning into violent maniacs at high altitudes thanks to the depletion of the ozone layer. By the way, Girdler was something of a Spielberg prodigy in his own right – Spielberg was 27 when he directed Jawsand Girdler was 29 when grizzled came out of. Unfortunately, we never got the chance to see what else he could have done in his career. his last film was 1978 The Manitoureleased posthumously after his death at age 30 in a helicopter crash.
grizzled and animal day hit Shudder on June 20.
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