A group of university friends set out on a weekend camping trip and come across a mysterious figure. Little do they know that a chance encounter is actually an intricately plotted psychotic plan in the horror film The Bear.
A few weeks ago, we reviewed one of director Victor De Almeida’s previous productions, The Order. The Order was a hugely enjoyable fan film based on the Harry Potter franchise; it had an interesting story based around Harry’s dad James and his school friends Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew. The effects were great, the story thoroughly interesting, and the total package garnered it an incredibly positive review. Now De Almeida brings us The Bear and, while the two films do share some superficial similarities, they really couldn’t be more different.
The Bear is an old-school slasher film that begins as many old-school slasher films do, with a group of young people going on a camping trip in the woods. If this all seems a little familiar that’s because it is. One of the most cliché places you can set a horror movie is in the woods, as it has been done thousands of times over the last fifty years. Of course, that isn’t to say there haven’t been some really great films based in woodland, there have been some genuine classics that have taken place there.
Although De Almeida doesn’t break any new ground with his slasher film, at least he tries to parody the best. There are influences of famous horrors scattered all over the place, the biggest one undoubtedly being The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, particularly in the dialogue between the group of friends, the stranger who they pick up midway through the film, and the house they all eventually stay in. But you can pick out the nods towards any number of films like The Wicker Man, Blair Witch Project, and of course Friday The 13th.
There is an overlying sense of unease that permeates throughout the film, helped by the cinematography from Korsshan Schlauer; he manages to give the film a strong visual style that apes the look and shot choices from the 70s and 8’s slasher film boom. Unfortunately, De Almeida doesn’t quite get everything right with The Bear, he does try to create suspense, but some of the scenes fall a little flat while other moments are just not believable at all. His script also tends to rely far too much on the audience’s suspension of disbelief. But in defence of De Almeida that doesn’t just happen in low-budget horror movies, it also happens in cinema-released horror movies.
Despite the best efforts of Paola Cantachin’s musical score, which manages to create some tension, The Bear doesn’t quite reach the heights it needs to in order to stand out, but it was made in 2017 and, in comparison to the much more recent The Order, it comes across as a film from a director early in his career. On a more positive note, though, De Almeida’s direction and storytelling are far more assured in The Order, so The Bear was certainly a successful training exercise.
That is also not the only positive we can take from De Almeida’s efforts, as he does his bit for diversity by presenting us with a gay couple and a mixed-race couple who take centre stage, which gives his horror a definite modern-day feel. He also manages to create a creepily effective villain with a memorable gimmick. Therefore, if you go down to the woods today, you’re in for a big surprise. The Bear is a solid effort.