I'm going to approach this review in a couple of different, slightly strange ways. It'll explain why it hit me so hard when we were going through the viewing.
First off, the basics - it's funny. I mean really funny. The story is a group of friends go into the forest where there are black bear to be found. A couple of minutes in, they meet the Narrator of the Forest, who tells them, and us, the rules for entering into the realm of the black bear. Of course, our characters are far too self-involved and slow-witted to get it at first, but they learn through experience.
Experience that leads to showers of blood, gore, and viscera.
Yeah, it's THAT kind of comedy.
The first time I watched it, I took a Formalist view of the piece. The production values are strong, everything done with the utmost care to enhance the comedy. The Black Bear outfit hits hardest when it first shows up. It's not realistic, and that actually makes it more terrifying when it starts to attack (unless it's just defending its territory, we're never quite sure...) and the acting is over-the-top deadpan. Read that phrase again - "over-the-top deadpan'. Those words together only make sense in a world that is far madder than ours, where superheroes may, in fact, dwell. These folks might be such, only not the top of the card supers we tend to experience.
The second viewing was one of a Post-Modernist. We're shown a nature safety video gone too far. In structure and effort, it is more closely related to Red Asphalt or Blood on the Highway than any Disney nature doc, and that's how it is teaching. The use of a non-natural black bear is actually meant to make us less scared so that we may better import the actual message as you're not dealing with a terrifying actual bear. It's effective teaching.
Third viewing (and during viewing, it's not unusual for a screener to watch a movie three or more times) I watched it as a piece of absurdist art. It is bizarre, weird, and some of it flat-out makes no sense, until you start to synthesize the fact that there are so many Nietzsche quotes sprouted by the characters. These make you realise why every character reacts the way they react, and how strange the natural world is, and how little meaning there is in life, death, pain, or intelligence.
Then again, I may have just been reading into things a bit much. All you really need to know is that it's funny, gory, fun!
Klaus at Gunpoint
A Film Journal dedicated to all film.A segment of Office Supply Publishing.