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The Teddy Bear's Picnic
(a stupidly short article for your Halloween pleasure)
It's not a proper Halloween if you don't watch a movie about people getting killed by something out in the woods. I don't know why, but early slasher films (which would really give birth to the 1980's Horror genre as we know it) were almost obsessed with killing folks in the great outdoors. Honestly? I've never been camping. I've never known anyone who went camping. My pet theory is that camping is something that most people only know about in movies and TV shows...kind of like that statistic that the same number of people who actually go hunting each year is more or less the same as the number of people who collect stamps. Sure, people do it but most of us don't. Prophecy (from 1979) is a film that, for a change of forest-murdering pace, does NOT involve killing teenagers for having sex in the woods. Instead, it's a monster movie with an environmental message. It's SO much a monster movie that that's actually the title of the film: "Prophecy: The Monster Movie." You know, as opposed to "Prophecy: The Tampon" or "Prophecy: The Inflatable Sandwich." Also....there's no prophecy in Prophecy: The Monster Movie. There is a monster though so maybe reading the whole title is necessary here. There's not a lot to the movie but since it's Halloween I figured I'd give you a quick walk through. After all, there just aren't enough killer bear movies out there. (My favorite killer bear movie is still Grizzly...it's too boring to review but it does end with a man using a BAZOOKA against a Grizzly Bear. Which is awesome...and the only cool thing in the movie. But Bazooka versus bear? That wins. Prophecy doesn't have that explosive a finale but the rest of the movie is a worthwhile ride, trust me.
Don't confuse this with the Christopher Walken movie: The Prophecy (known as God's Army here in Europe). While that flick does have a prophecy in it, there's no killer bear. It's a subtle difference but one you should notice after the first hour of the movie if you pay close attention.
Meet Dr. Verne. He's a socially conscious scientist working for the Environmental Protection Agency and it's his job to make sure everything's kosher with a logging company in the middle of nowhere. He's got a wife who's secretly pregnant who sits for most of the film actively not telling her husband that there's spawn inside her. That's kind of literal, but I'm giving away the big twist (no I'm not) of the ending. When he arrives, he finds the road blocked by a line of Native Americans who hate the White Man. It's kind of weird because a lot of the actors, even if they are Native American look just as freaking Caucasian as the rest of the cast. The lead Indian is almsot Baldwin-esque. Is the Baldwin family Native American? I'mg etting sidetracked here. The theme of the movie (besides the killer bear which I'll get to in a bit) is Lumberjacks versus Indians.
If you've ever wanted to see a Lumberjack with a chainsaw fight a Native American with an axe in deadly one on one combat, this is the movie for you. It really reminds me of that old Star Trek episode where William Shatner and Spock wail on each other without actually hurting one another. That's kind of the case here but since CHAINSAWS WINS the Indians curse the White Man and run back to their land. There's a theme about how the Native Americans are all drunks while the logging company must be poisoning the land...turns out that the latter is true. The logging company is actually polluting the river with mercury which has polluted the entire ecosystem, causing brain damage and horrible birth defects. The characters don't know this but there are some clues as the film progresses:
I would say a giant freakish tadpole is a pretty good clue. It's not as entertaining as a raccoon having a seizure though.
I really should sort out how to upload video (and the legal ramifications of that) sometime. Dr. Verne opens his cabin door to find a raccoon freaking the hell out and breakdancing on his front porch. After spazzing out for a full minute, the thing launches itself inside the cabin....
...where it promptly assaults Dr. Verne's wife....
...until he takes a canoe paddle, beats it like a red-headed stepchild (apologies to beaten red-headed stepchildren out there), and then THROWS IT INTO THE FIRE. When the first heroic act our protagonist does in the film is throw a psychotic raccoon into an open fireplace, you know you're watching something special.
Now I'm skipping over the slow build-up of this film...mostly because honoring that would make this a damn boring article to read. Dr. Verne's wife ate some polluted fish so she's got the mercury in her system so her baby is going to be mutant...she doesn't tell her husband which is dramatic because of who joins the cast for a fair-sized chunk of the remaining film:
Say hello to baby fetus freak bear. The Doctor finds this little guy barely alive (and with a dead sibling) in a fisherman's net. Needing proof to show people what the logging company is doing he takes the baby bear (and the other baby bear corpse) with him. What sounds wrong with this idea? I don't know much about bears but I do know not to screw around with a mother bear's cubs even if they are evidence of criminal pollution. Then again, how bad could Momma Bear be?
Holy Crap, that's pretty terrible. Momma Bear is a HORRIBLE HORRIBLE THING who promptly slaughters half the cast upon her first appearance. The movie actually has a decent understanding of how suspense should work...we have scenes where we expect the killer bear to pop out...instead it's the crazy Indian who thinks the mutations are a sign of the old ways returning. And then, the moment you relax and know it's not a mutant bear coming out of the bushes a MUTANT BEAR COMES OUT OF THE BUSHES. It's actually pretty scary as far as any giant mutant bear movie is allowed to be. It's still ridiculous but if you're a sucker for monsters jumping out and surprising you, you'll like/hate this movie.
Fun Fact: This is actor Kevin Peter Hall's first film. You don't know who he is but Giant Killer Momma Bear is played by the same actor who would portray the Predator, Harry from Harry and the Hendersons, the Monster from Monster in the Closet, and the Gorvil from Mazes and Monsters. So most horror folks are familiar with his work if not his name. And it all started with a rubber deformed bear costume. Classy.
The best is when the cast finds a jeep and slowly drives through the forest keeping their eyes open. The scene seems to go on forever... in fact some of the characters start having a heart-to-heart conversation. Of course the moment that gets interesting....
...giant Momma Bear knocks over the jeep and starts eating people. The characters escape by swimming across a lake (because apparently no one in the cast thinks bears can swim). The crazy Indian mentioned offers up the most hilarious shot in the movie. While the rest of the cast swims away, he stays behind to talk to the ancient mutant bear God that apparently Native Americans believe in. What does this mean for you the viewer?
You get to watch a man in a rubber bear costume swing a stuffed dummy around in slow motion. It's hilarious.
Eventually the bear corners them in a cabin, rips open the wall (and kind of changes size a couple times but who's paying that close attention). Let's take a quiz, instead of me walking you through the final scene...shall we?
A giant 10-foot tall mutant bear is chasing you. What do you do?
A) If balls are huge and you want to be the most stereotypical Native American of them all, you attack it with a bow and arrow. And yes, you must have huge testicles to think this is going to work.
Answer A) is, of course, very, very Wrong. Mutant Bear > Bow & Arrow. The arrow does piss it off though.
B) You let the giant bear grab you because you're the main God-Damn character and you know that it won't auto-kill you as it has everyone else in the film it's touched.
B) is of course the right answer. Now that everyone is dead (except for Dr. Verne's wife who is pregnant now with deformo baby) the good Doctor goes crazy, pulls the arrow out of the bear's chest/mutant stomach flaps (scroll back and look at the picture if you don't remember that charming detail), and begins to stab it to death.
It's a terrible screenshot but that's the doctor jumping kamikaze-style off a dock to jump-stab the killer bear as it floats in the lake, mortally wounded. The bear is, at this point, just a costume floating in the water and it's very, very obvious as Dr. Verne goes all berserker on it. Grown man stabbing a stuffed animal awkwardly with an arrow? Surreal.
...and that's pretty much the end of the movie. The doctor just stabs the thing with a dull arrow tip until it calmly says "Sure, I'll die for you". I'm paraphrasing, but it's kind of funny how the monster gets killed more by Dr. Verne's acting than anything he physically does to the thing. Go figure.
As the credits begin to roll, we see the doctor and his wife (looking worried: remember the freak baby growing inside her) leaving in a plane. We see the plane fly over the serene forest and....
BOO! It's Daddy Bear! The End!
I hope you've enjoyed this brief look at one of the few killer bear movies around. It's worth checking out as it's not as dated as you'd imagine...the film's actually put together pretty well for its time. That still doesn't make the costume any less silly but the suspense more than makes up for it. And if mutant bears don't do it for you, check out Grizzly. Like I said Bazooka versus Bear. Now if we could only find a movie about people making giant deformed bears explode we'd have a masterpiece on our hands.
"who refuses to celebrate his 100th Article with a quickie about mutant bears, hence this article coming from THE FUTURE and being number 101. Don't look at me like that. I can number these things however I like."
Copyright 2008 Jared von Hindman or maybe just Jared Hindman. It depends. Any images used that are not Jared's are used via Fair Use review purposes and belong to their respective owners....who are nice people that don't want to sue me.
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