Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Funky Pretty Pictures and Co-Writer/Director, William J. Stribling for allowing me early access to his Comedy/Creature Feature “Bear With Us”. Bear With Us centers around Colin Dense (and no the irony is not lost on me), a hapless, love struck guy (played by Mark Jude Sullivan) who orchestrates an elaborate proposal via a trip to a cabin in the woods with love of his life, Quincy Adams (Christy Carlson Romano from The Girl In The Photographs). Joining the young couple are their respective best friends, Harry (played by Collin Smith) and Tammy (Alex McKenna). Colin’s somewhat secretive plan starts to fall apart when the foursome receive a warning on the radio about a bear loose in the area. This is just the first of a series of unfortunate events that place the group in a life or death situation. The film also stars Cheyenne Jackson (American Horror Story), Kevin Carolan, Curtiss Cook and Alice Ripley. The following review will be based upon my one viewing of the film (which was a few weeks ago mind you). Ideally I’d liked to have re-visited it before this write-up, but with limited time and an infinite amount of content to sort through, this will have to suffice.
The aspect of Bear With Us that stands out most and perhaps separates Stribling’s “creature feature” from most others, at least aesthetically speaking, is Alex Gallitano’s black and white cinematography. Said foundation was initially what caught my eye, and from there I did some inquiring to learn a little bit more about the film. At the crux of Bear With Us lies an offbeat comedy amidst a creature feature. That said, the meta approach to the cabin in the woods formula mixed with the situational dark comedy, makes for an interesting, albeit, somewhat uneven blend. On Gallitano’s cinematography, it’s simple but smart and drives most of the films seemingly high production value. I love the handful of tracking shots, particularly the opening one that closes in on Colin and Quincy as they enter a restaurant for their anniversary dinner. All of the framing is neat and there’s intelligent editing where Raymond Fraser (the credited editor) utilizes some slick transitions, particularly in the first act. For the most part, the audio is natural and consistently clear in the mix. While I don’t feel that all Dylan Glatthorn’s score worked, I commend him on his ability to use bass to evoke similar tones to that of a Coen Brothers picture (some of their more light-hearted works). I found several of the quirky pieces of music extremely effective for matching the films desired atmosphere.
Each of the on-screen performances are more than serviceable. As a whole, the cast certainly have a mixed bag of experience, but everyone, at the very least ,has reasonable comedic timing. The two most consistently funny characters here are Harry (Smith) and Hudson (Jackson). Harry is Colin’s harmless and significantly less mature buddy. He’s the guy Colin bounces his ideas off of, and more importantly, he’s the only one who knows about the proposal, offering up his Aunt’s cabin for the big day. Collin Smith has got the feel of a Fran Kranz (from Cabin In The Woods) meets Tom Green (Freddy Got Fingered), and it works for him. The back and forth that develops between him and Sullivan makes for some good dead pan gags throughout the film. In a film called “Bear With Us, you’d expect plenty of bear puns but there’s also some funny situations that arise over the course of the film. Example being, Col will question Harry and he’ll reply with “I’ll spare you the details” (to then proceed to go straight into the details). The “This is a test, this is not a test” line got a good laugh, in addition to the repetition of “When did you have time for this?”. Most of the comedic highlights center around Smith in one way or another. I like that Writers, Russ Nickel and William Stribling seemingly take inspiration from a more dry sense of humor that comes out of the UK and Australia (rather than some of America’s in your face content and toilet humor). Christy and Alex get time to showcase their comic sensibilities in an awkward but funny intervention for Tammy. Cheyenne Jackson’s, “Hud”, whose a local hunter/tracker, comes in all guns a blazing, and in turn, Jackson runs with some of that sporadic delivery. The film is nicely set up and built around the differences between men and women in relationships. We get both sides of the conversation and I enjoyed the way it played out in tandem.
During the introductory credits there’s some random imagery of schools of fish swimming in a river (and some not so good-looking CG ones jumping out of the water), I’m not sure what relevance that had as a lead in. Maybe it was just a visual representation of the classic saying “There’s plenty of fish in the sea”, in regard to relationships and the Colin/Quincy dynamic. The film is not without its patches of ADR (additional dialogue recording), though that’s natural on independent films (even though I’m never going to be a fan of it). Some of the science fiction themed sound design threw me for a loop, given that all the events taking place in Bear With Us are grounded in reality. Once again, maybe it’s just a nod to the creature feature era and 50’s b movies, I’m not too sure. Speaking of creatures, I’m usually all for practical effects even if their incredibly cheesy (which they are here). In this case I’ve got to warn you that the bear is literally just a guy in a suit, and not a very convincing suit at that (which is fairly quickly revealed haha). If there was an inconsistency in the acting department it was the forced nature of Chief Ranger Stewart (voice over). I know the part was supposed to be played for laughs but I thought the dialogue was weak and translated poorly. A couple of semi insignificant points bothered me as well, such as the name Quincy, which sucked. Was it intentionally a horrible name to perhaps give the audience a little insight as to what type of girl she might have been? (e.g a ball buster) Each time Colin called her name out (or somebody else for that matter) it grated on my nerves…. I know that’s silly, but still.
There were a handful of other script specifics that I didn’t care for either. I can’t remember which character was involved, but at one stage someone bellowed out at the top of their lungs for what felt like forever. There’s an overly long, rather self-indulgent scene in which Hud boasts to the group about a tale of his heroics. Once again, I understand that the intention was to play it for laughs, but I personally just didn’t find it all that funny. There’s also a poorly staged, impromptu sex scene in the latter part of the film, it leads to a revelation between Harry and Tammy though it wasn’t really necessary and just feels perverse. Sullivan handles the lead role really well and looks quite comfortable in front of the camera but I found it difficult to have much sympathy for the guy. Most of the time he just comes across as a sap who wreaks of desperation, and therefore it’s hard to engage. Sure, his heart is in the right place and I suppose that’s somewhat relatable. It’s just that deep down you can see through the charade and she clearly isn’t in the same place as he is emotionally speaking, and that makes for more awkwardness than you’d care to witness. The film suffers from some average pacing in the middle act and by the time it’s drawing to a close you’ve lost track of where everyone’s loyalties lie.
Bear With Us is a quirky Comedy/Creature Feature presented in glorious black and white photography, seemingly for no other reason than its specific aesthetic appeal (but I dug it!). Nickel and Stribling’s script blends something like “Cottage Country” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/cottage-country-review/ with the more recent “Better Watch Out” (to a lesser extent). I dug the camera work, the audio and a sizeable amount of the score. The performances are of a high standard, Harry and Hudson provide most of the films comedy and there’s enough funny puns and good one liners to keep you entertained. The first half of the film is tightly cut together but unfortunately it eventually loses its way. However, I do like the dynamic between the two pairs of friends, as well as the depiction of the differences between men and women in relationships. The opening credits were a little obscure, not all the music fits and the bear costume looks average to say the least (probably intentionally). Quincy annoyed me, sadly even the name did and the character on occasion too. Certain scenes wear out their welcome and some weren’t really required at all, on top of that, Colin is a difficult character to engage with and that can work against a film of this nature. Bear With Us certainly isn’t perfect, it stumbles here and there, and while it’s probably not the first of its kind that I’d go in for, I do think it’s a pretty well made product and certainly worth a look. Check out the trailer below!
My rating for “Bear With Us” is 5.5/10