Impressions: Cocaine Bear

By now, many people have at least heard the title, if not a little more, about the recently released Cocaine Bear. You likely know that it’s a horror movie (horror-comedy) loosely based on a true story. And by the way, the movie does not try to trick the audience; it’s pretty clear about “loosely” being a key factor. I would say that it’s actually more based on a true story than many horror movies that claim the same… but that’s more of a call out of other movies than a credit to Cocaine Bear. Anyhoo, the movie has been experiencing quite a bit of hype, at least in the horror fandom, and frankly, I was already on board. So I went to see it, and really, it pretty much delivers on what is promised.

So the true story roughly goes that a drug smuggler in a small plane ended up ditching most of his cocaine cargo before jumping from the plane as well. He died when his parachute failed. The cops, upon finding his body, began a search for his likely dumped cargo. While doing so, they found most of the containers had been opened, the contents (cocaine) scattered, and close by was a dead black bear. It was determined that the bear had eaten almost all of the cocaine, sadly causing his death. The bear was taxidermied and is on display in Kentucky.

The sort of “running joke” on the internet when people hear about or share this story is that while the bear didn’t realize it, between the time that they ate the cocaine and it made their heart “explode” – as nearly 75 pounds of cocaine will do – that the bear was the scariest animal on the planet. I am guessing that mindset is where the idea of this movie first started.

As I said, the movie is “loosely” based on these events. It starts with the smuggler ditching his cargo, his parachute failing, and the search begins for the drugs. That is pretty much it, though; from there, it’s just a wild ride. Cocaine Bear has a lot of different groups and characters that all end up in the woods with the bear, and over time the situation drives many of them together. Our main players, though, are Sari, played by Keri Russell, who is looking for her daughter. Also, Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich) and Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr) who are looking for the drugs for Eddie’s father Syd, played by the late great Ray Liotta.

While different characters are moving throughout the woods, they are all at various points confronted by the bear, which is scary enough in and of itself, but then notice that it is not behaving… normally. Slowly they work out, mostly via actually seeing it first hand, that the bear got to the cocaine and is now both on a coke-fueled rampage but also jonesing for more. The movie plays out with a lot of humor and a ton of gore.

This movie is really designed for a certain kind of horror fan. Ones who will laugh at the over-the-top gore presented tongue-in-cheek style, while also enjoying the goofy and often times immature humor. The movie does not hold back, it knows that the premise is ridiculous, and it is willing to lean in. It’s not afraid to show what a massive bear could do to a human body. It’s not afraid to be silly about the bear’s newly formed habit. Also, has a willingness to have raunchy humor because if you are going to have a movie that goes for it in these other ways, why not lean in entirely?

It also has a decent amount of heart, though. Eddie is struggling with personal grief and his desire to leave the life that his father has forced on him. Sari is well done as a mother who is, of course, filled with extreme worry for her daughter but is more than able to toughen up to find her while also protecting her daughter’s friend, Henry. Many of the characters in the movie are basically canon fodder and a way to up the body count, but that’s the nature of the movie. They get some good lines/moments either before or even while being destroyed by the bear. This isn’t really a complaint; it’s what a lot of horror does, especially in terms of slashers and creature features. It does make the ones that are more developed stand out, and mostly in good ways.

That being said, the movie is not without flaws. The pacing feels a bit off at moments. Like everything coming to a screeching halt kind of off. These moments which are designed more for the humor or for exposition to develop the narrative more and can drag and really throw things. For the most part, when this happened, there was good enough humor to carry the audience through, but not always. The climax does this and gets a bit awkward and fumbles it. It eventually brings it all back, but there was about five minutes during that scene where I was thinking, “what happened?” The movie also doesn’t really land several key reveals and moments with the story.

I find this to be a common problem with any form of media that tries to do a lot, and this movie is trying to do a lot. It could have easily removed certain characters and minor plotlines, even though I liked many of them. Still having so many added to the muddiness of the narrative, which adds to the poor, at times, pacing. Of the criticisms, I am seeing this is the one that resonates the best with me. Either a lot was cut from the story to make the movie short – a choice I entirely agree with, by the way, this movie could not be much longer and still work – or it just wasn’t fleshed out enough. Some say they should have added more, but I say they could have cut more. Being short and straightforward is a great thing for this type of movie.

Other criticisms that I just don’t get knock the movie for being silly, immature, and yeah, but that’s a good thing. Because at the end of the day, while I did notice issues, overall the movie is just damn fun. It is a ridiculous popcorn horror movie. That’s what it said it was going to be, and that’s what it is. And a good one at that.

So bottom line? I highly recommend this movie… to the right type of audience. My sister and father were talking to me about it, and I hard noped the idea of them seeing it. I did, however, also tell my sister that I thought her husband would like it. Because that’s what it boils down to. If you like raunchy humor, gory creature features, and wacky horror comedies, I really think you’ll like this movie. Everybody else? I think it might be too much. I had a lot of fun with it, and I think a lot of people will too. And honestly can’t wait for it to be on streaming services because I’d love to watch it again.

Rest in Peace, Ray Liotta

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9 thoughts on “Impressions: Cocaine Bear

  1. Haven’t seen it and don’t want. Is anyone thinking of the poor bear going through the drug induced suffering it went through? Only good part of the movie I can think of is the drug smuggler didn’t make it either.
    Megan’s Mother


    1. That’s fair! It is sad that a real bear died. Thankfully the movie is pretty kind to the bear in it. There isn’t an emphasis on hunting the bear down or anything, just surviving it and gtfo


      1. Meanwhile I don’t know if you have seen the trailer for the Machine. It looks so funny I can’t wait to see it. I never expected a movie to be made based on a story a stand up comedian made. And Mark Hamil’s in it!


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