“A bear did cocaine!”
That line is all it took for most of us to get high on the idea of one of the year’s wildest horror movies, Cocaine Bear. Universal Home Entertainment has just unleashed director Elizabeth Banks’ film on Blu-ray/DVD, and it’s packed with fun features that keep the good times roaring.
Written by Jimmy Warden and inspired by a 1985 event in which drug smuggler Andrew Thornton crashed his plane after dropping cocaine into a Georgia forest, Cocaine Bear is exactly what it sounds like; An eco-horror comedy in which a black bear goes on a rampage after doing enough coke to kill the 80s.
I had the same reaction a lot of you probably did when I first heard about this movie, outside of the immediate “oh fuck yes”. Elizabeth Banks directed this? Turns out, the actress/director behind Pitch Perfect 2 and the 2019 Charlie’s Angels is a huge fan of the genre, as we learn through an informative (and entertaining) disc commentary that features herself along with husband and producer, Max Handelman. “I love gore. I love horror movies,” says Banks. Having starred in films such as Slither and Brightburn, Banks pours all of her passion for the genre on Cocaine Bear like a bloody, cocaine Christmas.
Audiences want a bear on cocaine wreaking havoc, and a bear on cocaine wreaking havoc is what they get. While some may have approached the violence of the film a little more cautiously, Banks tears into the gory chaos with her bare teeth. Cocaine Bear has some of the best (and funniest) kills of 2023 so far. As mentioned on the commentary and other features such as a bloody fascinating behind the scenes look at the effects titled “UnBEARable Bloodbath”, Banks discusses her adoration for practical gore and in camera effects. More directors should be like Elizabeth. Despite a heavy dose of CG bear, it’s evident that the director fought to use as little green screen/CG as possible, often incorporated in small moments which she mentions that you’d never know otherwise.
Cocaine Bear is certainly an acquired taste of comedy, or snort, or whatever, that isn’t for everyone. If you went in expecting anything but a dumb bearsploitation horror-comedy, you likely drifted into hibernation and waited for it to be over. For the rest of us, there’s an unfettered joy in watching a movie like this, like warm honey dripping into our guts. So, it’s a pleasure to hear those involved give their impressions of the script in the featurette, “All Roads Lead to Cokey: The Making of Cocaine Bear”. The general consensus among cast/crew when asked what they thought of the film can be summed up as “what the hell is this,” in the best way possible. What the hell, indeed! From flying limbs to a coked-out bear to a quirky cast of characters, Cocaine Bear is the kind of film that leaves you speechless as to what you’re seeing. Sometimes there just aren’t words to describe a cocaine bear climbing up a tree to eat a man dick first.
Speaking of the cast, Banks collects a long list of good friends to appear in the film, all of whom sell their characters and keep the audience entertained, including Keri Russell and Margo Martindale. Most delightful are the duos of drug dealers played by Alden Ehrenreich and O’Shea Jackson Jr or skipping school tykes, Brooklyn Prince and Christian Convery. But I’ll tell you right now, the film’s commentary will squeeze some tears out of your eyes as Banks discusses the film’s villain, Syd, played by the late, great Ray Liotta. The director provides a couple stories of Ray on set and how wonderful it was to work with him, all of which had me wiping the coke, I mean, snot, off my blubbering face.
Perhaps most revealing from the features on the disc is what’s not said, or at least, what’s implied. Banks mentions a few times that there were more heartfelt moments which were shot and/or in the script (one of which appears in the deleted scenes), that added greater emotional depth to the characters. But, with a hint of salt in her voice, says it became clear the audience just wanted to hurry up and get to more bear. Clearly, there were discussions about cutting those moments that Banks probably isn’t happy with, and it’s easy to understand why. For such an absurd flick, Cocaine Bear has a strong theme of parenthood at the center of it, which ties into Cokey the bear, as well. After all, the bear isn’t actually the villain of the movie. “You can’t blame nature for turning around on us when all we’re doing is fucking around with nature,” says Banks. Truth! There’s a strong heart that beats at the center of Cocaine Bear, and it would’ve been beneficial to see more of that.
Regardless, Banks’ first horror feature as a director is a wild rush of gory carnage that has me begging to see her claw into the genre again. Banks’ love for horror is expressed all throughout a honeypot of special features that includes reveals of characters who originally died in the script, plus an alternate ending that teases one suspected corpse as still very much alive; Informative commentaries; And perhaps my favorite, “Doing Lines,” a gut-busting compilation of cast/crew reading ridiculous lines from the script like Vaudeville performers and barely holding it together. Considering how bare most discs released by major studios are these days, Universal Home Entertainment’s Maximum Rampage Edition of Cocaine Bear is a win for fans and collectors alike.
The "Maximum Rampage Edition" of Cocaine Bear is now available on Blu-ray/DVD from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Check out the full list of special features below!
By Matt Konopka