When is a movie not a movie? When it’s a season of Twin Peaks, obviously, but more to the point of this post, when it’s Grizzly II: The Revenge (aka Grizzly II: The Concert, aka Grizzly II: The Predator). Seven years after William Girdler’s Grizzly (1976), still one of the most entertaining of the Jaws (1975) knockoffs, an unrelated sequel went into production in Hungary. Principal photography was reportedly completed, but it was shelved before special effects, gore, and remaining shots of the killer bear were ever filmed. Nearly forty years later, though, the sequel has finally been released.
They never did get around to filming those missing scenes and have instead stretched it to a feature length runtime of seventy-four minutes with drone footage of forests, frolicking animals, and the cheapest possible dramatization of the inciting incident that kicks the plot into gear. So why release it at all? The opening credits answer that question as three names appear before the title — George Clooney, Laura Dern, and Charlie Sheen. It was Dern’s fifth film, but it was only the second for both Clooney and Sheen. Massive stars at the start of their careers, their presence is the reason Grizzly II: The Revenge has just hit VOD.
And all three of them are killed by the rampaging bear in the first six minutes.
A hunter shoots and kills a bear cub and pisses off its mother which quickly leads to carnage. That’s trouble for the people she’s eating and for Ranger Nick (Steve Inwood), but it’s little more than an annoyance for the park superintendent, Eileen Draygon (Louise Fletcher). She takes a cue from Amity’s mayor and prioritizes tourist dollars from thousands of incoming concert-goers over their actual lives, and it’s a decision that comes back to bite her in the ass. Nick and the Director of Bear Management (Deborah Raffin) call in the help of a renowned hunter and professional bear killer named Bouchard (John Rhys-Davies) — and this is where things get unintentionally hilarious.
To be clear, Grizzly II: The Revenge is a mess. Had it been finished as intended, director André Szöts‘ film would have been a quickly forgotten slice of animal horror with a crazily eclectic cast — it also stars Deborah Foreman, Charles Cyphers, and Timothy Spall — but as it stands the movie is a jumbled collage of scenes and footage that lacks anything even remotely resembling cohesion. Scenes and characters jump around clearly missing connective tissue causing whiplash in viewers as dialogue, interactions, and character locations fail to match up with what came mere moments before. The kills are choppy if not absent all together as they had no effects (bear or gore) to add in, and never-ending footage from the concert is wildly out of place with several minutes at a time spent watching crowds mill about and unrecognizable Europop bands rehearsing and performing. The end product is left devoid of thrills, suspense, and fun as setups, payoffs, and filler alike are left equally lacking.
It’s not completely absent entertainment value, however.
While not nearly enough to redeem the film as a whole, both Bouchard and the final ten minutes are something to behold. The bear hunter can lift trees, refers to the grizzly as a “devil bear” and “beast from hell,” and has taken to dressing like the last of the Mohicans since a bear killed his family. Rhys-Davies is unsurprisingly going to town here and chewing almost as much scenery as the bear chews people, and god bless him for it. The ending brings the bear to the concert, kind of, as the action unfolds backstage oblivious to singers and audience members alike, and while it’s as choppy as the rest of the film it’s still guaranteed to bring a smile to your face all the same. From scenes of a jeep with the frame rate inexplicably sped up — seriously, the movie needs all the running time it could find — to the clear limitations of the mechanical bear to Bouchard’s efforts to scale the creature like it’s Godzilla to the poor beast’s final shot, it’s enough to make you wish the whole movie had been this unhinged and energetic.
You can’t blame producer Suzanne C. Nagy for “finishing” Grizzly II: The Revenge and getting it released as she’s been hanging onto it since the early 80s and can’t have been pleased when the original footage found its way online a few years back. Ideally she would have raised more than ten bucks to cover the cost of new footage, post-production, and editing, but that wasn’t to be. What genre fans are left with isn’t quite worth the wait or the legend of “the lost Grizzly sequel” and is instead an unfinished curiosity. It would be irresponsible to suggest anyone pay to see this (although I will absolutely be picking up the Blu-ray), so instead I suggest you wait for its arrival on one of the streaming services. It’s been thirty-seven years, so what’s another couple months?