MIXTAPE #1: After overdosing on David DeCoteau’s shaved-smooth twinks, jocks & hunks, TOKEN HOMO felt the need to indulge in some more hirsute horrors… Proving that us queers come in all shapes and sizes, this mixtape embraces the XXL bears of horror cinema, both human, animal & mutant….
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BACKCOUNTRY aka Blackfoot Trail (d. Adam MacDonald, 2014 Canada/92min)
Adam MacDonald’s film fits squarely into the survival sub-genre where a young straight white couple (for it is usually thus…) gets into trouble in the wilderness and then gets attacked by a beast. The aggressor could be a shark, a ‘gator or, as is the case here, a black bear in search of a buffet. Despite an overly long setup (it’s entirely impossible to watch these kinds of movies without losing your patience…), the film comes into its own when it matters.
GRIZZLY (d. William Girdler, 1976 USA/91min)
The supposedly enormous (but not really…) maneater of the title never terrifies but does deliver some shocking kills: what happens to little Bobby will make you jump out of your fur (“Is he alive?” / “Part of him is…”). Imagine JAWS on land, replacing Spielberg’s unruly artificial shark with a big bear onesie for closeups, and you get the idea.
GRIZZLY MAN (d. Werner Herzog, 2005 USA/103min)
One of cinema’s most harrowing bear attacks isn’t ever seen on screen. Herzog’s 2005 found footage doc tells of the misadventures of bear enthusiast and self-styled wildlife protector Timothy Treadwell. We learn that Treadwell and his partner Amie Huguenard’s final moments were recorded by their camera as they were both attacked and killed by a grizzly bear in Alaska in 2003. First, the surviving audio recording – the lens cap was left on leaving no visual material – is described in dramatic detail by the coroner who examined their remains. Then, Herzog sits with Treadwell’s ex- girlfriend Jewel Palovak, his back to the camera, as he listens to the tape through headphones. Herzog’s advice? “You must never listen to this… you should not keep it, you should destroy it”. Sad, revelatory, and yet spellbinding cinema.
INTO THE GRIZZLY MAZE (d. David Hackl, 2015 USA/94min)
David Hackl’s casting clusterfuck of a bear hunt comes completely undone with some appalling CGI in its closing stages. That’s not to say it’s an entirely terrible ride, just that too many of the creative decisions lose their way in the woods.
MANEATER aka Unnatural (d. Hank Braxtan, 2015 USA/89min)
The classic bear bait and switch. Just when you think you’re getting a giant mythical polar bear saga, you end up with a giant marauding hybrid polar bear/wolf saga, where corrupt scientists’ sinister efforts to ‘improve’ endangered species appear to be backfiring.
MIDSOMMAR (d. Ari Aster, 2019 USA & Sweden/148min)
More of terrifying family-style BBQ experience than a full-blown animal encounter, but the poor critter in Ari Aster’s followup to HEREDITARY simply can’t be forgotten. One for bear chasers with developing soft vore fetishes…
PROPHECY (d. John Frankenheimer, 1979 USA/102min)
PROPHECY is one of those films you’re told will be terrible, its much discussed inadequacies travelling far before it, like heralds of a monstrous apocalypse (the (mis)cast, the eco-horror plot, the beast!). But if being queer allows you one thing, it’s the chance to see the world from a different angle and, when I finally caught up with this film, I fucking loved it.
THE REVENANT (d. Alejandro G. Iñárritu, 2015 USA/156min)
If violence in horror is symbolic of sexual assault, this is the film where Leonardo DiCaprio as early 19th Century frontiersman Hugh Glass gets raped by a Mama Bear and left to fight his way home to revenge the death of his son. It’s a darkly violent film illuminated only by fire and natural light where, as the title suggests, Glass literally rises from his grave to begin his quest but remains haunted by the ghosts and spirits of his past. On his journey through the wilderness he shapeshifts – first as bear then reborn as a horse – in a desperate bid to survive the elements and evade an Arikara war party, the indigenous inhabitants of this once pristine place who are searching for one of their own. Moments of pure body horror – as Glass cauterises his wounds – and spiritual revelation – of Glass’ wife and son – puncture the savage beauty of a place where man claims to have killed God (a squirrel!) and the film’s apocalyptic visions transcend truth and genre to create a compelling myth about the futility of revenge.