I saw Cocaine Bear on the 27th and rather than just giving my thoughts on it by reviewing it. I figure I’d also talk about the genre it fits into and why this is a fantastic example of comedy horror.
Spoilers ahead, but I will try to keep them to a minimum for those who haven’t seen it yet.
Going into this, I honestly thought this was going to be more of an extremely violent comedy. I’ll be damned, though if there weren’t moments when I was genuinely on edge. Now, that could be because I only saw one trailer of it, but I didn’t want to know too much going in.
With that being said, this movie does all the tropes well. You got the couple at the beginning meant to establish what a threat the monster is by one of them getting killed by it. You got the kids that come across it and try to warn people, but they aren’t believed. Although, this one is resolved fairly quickly.
You even have an incompetent authority figure. In this case, a park ranger who is responsible for one of the funniest parts of the movie. Another thing this movie does well is having a lot of subplots going on and yet having them tie in together well. Nothing ever felt forced. What’s funny about them is they all vary in terms of how innocent the goals wanting to be achieved are.
They range from a little girl just wanting to paint some waterfalls to drug busts and people getting shot. Needless to say, the differences are extreme, and at the heart of it, all is the star of the movie herself, Cocaine Bear. I should mention that the real-life bear the movie is based on ended up overdosing on the drugs it found. That’s more of an aside, but I thought I’d mention it for those who didn’t know. The exact opposite happens in this movie.
That bear is both hilarious as well as terrifying and there are many scenes that highlight this. My personal favorite is when Henry, played by Christian Convery, and Peter, played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson are up in separate trees with the bear sniffing them out. Now, I do have to say that the trailer I saw did spoil this part for me. I think it would have been funnier if they left that part out. With that being said, though I still laughed like hell when I saw it.
For the sake of discussion, let’s say I never saw the trailer prior to viewing the film. Up to that point, the movie has been pretty violent so it wouldn’t be a child being killed in it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility. If I saw the bear high off her ass, climbing the tree that Henry’s trapped on with no way out. I imagine that I would have been pretty tense, witnessing that moment for the first time, especially when she begins trying to bite him. Then at the last second, he gets saved because before the bear came back, Peter accidentally stumbled into some cocaine.
When I saw that bear stop and start sniffing, I felt bad for what was about to happen to Peter, but I also thought it was funny as hell. Seeing that bear jump from Henry’s tree and then practically run up Peter’s like a cartoon character was phenomenal. If I had to describe the horror in this movie, it’s like seeing a video of someone doing something really stupid and severely injuring themselves. Even though I have that empathy pain while seeing it, I can’t look away and it still tickles my funny bone. Something else I think the movie does well is having fairly likable characters, for the most part.
The only real villain was Syd played by Ray Liotta and I guess those three teens, Daveed, played by O’Shea Jackson Jr. beat up. However, I consider that to be more kids doing something dumb. Anyway, the fact I didn’t want most of these characters to be killed but knew if they did it would be in really funny ways is what drove the comedy and horror of this movie for me. That’s the key to the genre I feel. It’s to have characters you fear for and yet would still laugh if something did happen to them because it’s in such a hilarious way. That’s not the only thing that can make it work, though.
If a movie like this wants to work, it can’t pull any punches when it comes to violence and man are the deaths in Cocaine Bear brutal. It has no shortage of people being torn apart, limbs being tossed away like half-eaten turkey legs, and people being left as bloody carcasses. What makes this even funnier is that some deaths aren’t even entirely the bear’s fault. My favorite moment involves the park ranger, Liz, played by Margo Martindale, and two of the delinquent kids who attacked Daveed. Earlier the bear almost killed Liz, but this time she had her gun out.
I won’t spoil what happens next. However, I will say that particular scene doesn’t end well for those involved. That brings me to the last thing that can make or break a comedy horror and that is how characters react to danger. The movie does this well by showing how bad of a choice people make in highly stressful situations. A case in point is the scene with Ranger Liz. The way she drops the ball leaves both a harrowing and hilarious result.
The only complaint I have about the movie is a character gets mentioned, but they never show up so I didn’t see the point in even having them. If they’d been cut out, the movie would have still been fine unless they’re planning a sequel which as far as I know is not the case. Other than that, I’d give this movie a solid recommendation. I don’t want to give too much more away so I’ll just say see it if you haven’t yet.