It’s strange how life works. One moment you’re getting drunk in your basement watching slasher movies thinking, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if they made a bear slasher movie,” and then two days later, you discover someone has already made a bear slasher movie called BEAR CREEK! For those of you not in the know, the bear community is a gay subculture that consists of big, hairy, body-positive guys. BEAR CREEK upends the whole trope of Ken-and-Barbie types running around the woods getting hacked & slashed, by replacing them with big beefy dudes, and I love it!
We are introduced to our core group of characters at a bear bar that seems very authentic. How is a bear bar different than other gay bar? Not much really, just the obligatory “bear pride” flag — that, and most of the guys have big bellies, hairy chests, and beards, and our cast is no exception. First there’s Blake (Elijah Barrett), who is the hot new “cub” on the scene; then we have the daddy-bear couple Frank (Paul Henderson) and John (Charlie Lanigan) who have an apparent open relationship and want to get Blake into bed with them; and rounding out the circle of friends is your typical gamer-nerd bear, Darren (Christopher Thomas Robert Brown) and his chubby-chaser boyfriend Alex (Pedro Leos). All the characters are great, their interactions and dialogue seem very genuine, and being a part of the bear community myself, I know that all these archetypes really exist and aren’t just cardboard cutout clichés.
Soon the topic of vacation comes up, and the group decides to go camping. Sure, the horror movie set-up of a bunch of dumb city folks spending a weekend in the woods is about as formulaic as it comes, but where else would you expect “bears” to go, except in the woods? It only makes sense. As night falls, they start telling scary stories around the campfire; this immediately brings to mind the classic MADMAN. The campfire tales are quickly followed by some sex scenes — they aren’t too graphic, but I appreciated the eye candy!
The next morning, there is some more butt sex, some weed smoking, and everybody wandering off separately. Gee, now if this isn’t a set up for a massacre, I don’t know what is. I mean, come on… “simple rules to survive a horror movie” time. No drugs, no sex; stick together and you might live. Then again, that would make for an awful boring movie.
Shortly into his nature walk, Alex discovers a stuffed animal bear hanging from a noose covered in blood. I’m guessing he’s supposed to be the bimbo blonde of the group, because instead of running in terror, he just grimaces and keeps walking.
Luckily for us gorehounds, this is about the same time the killing starts. Darren steps into a bear trap, a literal bear trap with rusted metal snapping through his leg, and gets dragged through the woods. The irony isn’t wasted on me. It’s funny and brutal at the same time. Soon after Darren is killed off, the killer is having his way with his boyfriend Alex, and we see that the psycho is dressed in a bear costume, like something a sports team mascot or a character at an amusement park would wear. Yes, this is extremely cheesy, but it has an ’80s vibe to it, and I can dig it.
One by one out hirsute group of friends are being dispatched in bloody ways. The gore and creative kills remind me of SLEEPAWAY CAMP III: TEENAGE WASTELAND. Everybody seems to have forgotten their cell phones at home on this camping trip, but at least there is a working CB radio in the car, and I appreciate that Frank is smart enough to try to use it — that is, until he gets chopped up mid-distress-call.
Instead of a ‘final girl,’ we have a ‘final cub,’ and Blake turns out to be a hardcore badass who brings to mind Ash from the EVIL DEAD franchise. I love discovering who the killer is. It’s a smart marriage-gone-bad story arc, and it’s not obvious from a mile away. The ending is a bit anti-climatic, but at least it’s cool that it’s left open for a sequel.
What I hate about most gay horror movies is that they forget they are horror movies, and just have shirtless muscle dudes running around acting idiotic. BEAR CREEK sets itself apart from the pack. I really can’t say too much negative about BEAR CREEK. The movie’s score was nice and simple, with a retro Italian feel. Not too much, and not too little — just right. The cinematography and scenery of the Colorado forest was lush and beautiful. Some of the acting was a bit stiff, but it was better than your average indie horror film. Best of all is that BEAR CREEK really brought the gore and brutality! If you like a slasher movie with a classic set-up, but are sick of seeing dumb teens get slaughtered, then check out BEAR CREEK — it’s gory and Grr-eat!