[review by JA Kerswell]
|NIGHT OF THE KILLER BEARS features, er, killers in bear masks.|
NIGHT OF THE KILLER BEARS largely squanders any goodwill with a scattershot plot and faltering action. A group of friends reunite after some years at a remote hotel in the jungle. Only to find themselves hunted by someone wearing a giant teddy bear mask and carrying various sharp implements. Beautifully shot and blessed with some very effective gore, the attempt to merge black comedy with hand-wringing sincerity doesn’t really work. However, the second half of the movie does achieve some suitable Grand Guiginol intensity.
Young couple Win (Patchata Jan-Ngern) and Aim (Sananthachat Thanapatpisal) travel to meet with friends they haven’t seen for a number of years. First to arrive at the hotel after them is the playboy Tony (Chanagun Arpornsutinan), who has brought a large supply of weed with him. He hooks up with Nan (Panisara Rikulsurakan), an actress who has just arrived from an audition. Last to join the group is Chang (Akalavut Mankalasut), who berates them for not paying tribute to their late friend Keng - who died on a dive some years previously.
As the group splinters, someone in an over-sized teddy bear head begins to hunt them down one-by-one …
|NIGHT OF THE KILLER BEARS has a healthy dose of 80s style slasher movie gore - but there's little else to enjoy here.|
NIGHT OF THE KILLER BEARS has all the elements for a good slasher movie. The killer’s disguise is suitably ridiculous and the film displays a gleeful zeal with its largely digital, yet pretty effective, gore scenes. The trouble is that it is all so all over the place. In the opening scene - at the same hotel - we see the concierge menaced by a customer, who returns at night and ties her up. At first, we presume that she is in danger, but it turns out that she has manipulated the situation and tricked her assailant into killing her boyfriend. Then someone in the bear mask turns up and causes more havoc. It’s a fun opening scene until you realise later on it really has nothing to do with the rest of the film. Similarly disorientating is the choice for one character to be revealed as an insane murderer - only for that same character not to be behind the murders plaguing the hotel. The audience is then also invited to have sympathy for that character as they are menaced by the bear-headed killer. Equally confusing is the hotel’s receptionist, who is also revealed to be a sadistic monster - but doesn’t appear to be in cahoots with the murderer either.
The film's comedic tone - which ends in bloody slapstick towards the end - is very much at odds with some of the violence. Especially a scene where a random woman has her breast graphically sliced off by the killer whilst she showers. With the tone so all over the place, it is pretty difficult to fully engage with the protagonists and their plight. Admittedly, some of the comedy may be lost on a non-Thai audience, but it didn’t really work for me at least. The use of the bear motif is never fully explained. Although, as the title suggests, there is more than one killer - and in an admittedly novel approach it is revealed that there is a small army of them at one point. Outside of the gore, the killer(s) are not in the least bit threatening and stumble around the hotel complex making monkey noises. It was a choice, I guess.
The makers of NIGHT OF THE KILLER BEARS have said that the film was inspired by 80s slashers. It was released to Thai screens in September 2022. The original Thai title of THE WORLD OF KILLING PEOPLE was changed for its North American digital release - with the promise of “TED meets TERRIFIER”. When the director was asked why he chose a Teddy Bear mask for the killer(s), he told Thai media it was “cute and scary”. Ultimately, it seems the movie didn’t work for Thai audiences, either, as it flopped on its release - with a measly $85,000 at the domestic box office. I can’t say I’m shocked.
female: 3 / male: 13
1) Male found dead
2) Male decapitated
3) Female decapitated
4) Female stabbed through her breast
5) Male seen dead
6) Male chopped in half with an axe
7) Male stabbed through mouth with a machete
8) Male stabbed with a knife
9) Male killed with an axe
10) Male killed with an axe
11) Male stabbed with a knife
12) Male stabbed with a knife
13) Female stabbed in the back with a machete
14) Male beaten to death with a mallet
15) Male stabbed in the eye
16) Male dies of a bullet wound
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