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Billed as “Ted” meets “Terrifier”, the surprisingly effective “Night of the Killer Bears” is light on humor and heavy on bloody mayhem.

Night of the Killer Bears

In this Thai release, five estranged friends gather to reconnect at an isolated hideaway following an accident in which one of their group died. In the time they have been apart, some have developed dark secrets and harbored grudges that can be repressed no longer. Unfortunately, their chosen rendezvous destination happens to be Serial Killer Central, making them the next target of someone with a penchant for dressing up.

From the get-go, this is a film that does not shy away from uncomfortable moments of gore.

The use of natural sounds (animals, crickets, etc.) as a means of filling the background space is well used, with the background score kept at a subtle level early in the film. But it does start to grate on you as specific motifs are reused to establish incoming jump scares or lighter moments.

NIGHT OF THE KILLER BEARS establishes early on that it has no problem pulling the proverbial rug from underneath you in a constant attempt to wrong-foot the audience. Click To Tweet

This was refreshing and demonstrated the thought that went into differentiating this film from others in the genre. Night of the Killer Bears also succeeds in avoiding heavy exposition and instead cleverly revealing key story elements while keeping the focus squarely on the action.

Our core group of five friends is composed of standard character tropes. There is sensible Win (Patchata Jan-Ngern), his girlfriend Aim (Sananthachat Thanapatpisal), industrious Cheng (Akalavut Mankalasut), the beautiful Nan (Panisara Rikulsurakan), and the stereotypical party dude, Tony (Chanagun Arpornsutinan). This, at first, smacks of laziness. But the filmmakers wisely resist introducing the characters all at once, which does give the film time to breathe. We discover why these friends have become estranged, a point of conflict that boils over during an attempt to reconcile.

Each of the friends still carries a feeling of guilt that, of course, you know will be brought to the surface by the film’s end.

Fortunately, writer-director Kanphong Banjongphinij (along with co-writers Lee Thongkham and Sorawi Alapach) wisely limits the dialogue and pushes the film into high gear, with lots of spilled blood, as early as possible.

The film does not skimp on effects, which should delight genre fans.

Night of the Killer Bears

I don’t want to spoil any of the fun. But we get a bevy of cool kills, including a slit throat, breast reduction of the worse kind, decapitation, vivisection via axe, and machete through the mouth — all of which are presented unflinchingly and in their full gory glory.

There is a great set piece involving Nan, who is no slouch in the wielding of sharp implements. This sequence was a stand-out and alone makes the film worth a watch.

Where Night of the Killer Bears does fall down a bit is in the final act. And this is only because the expected unmasking seemed to come a little too early. On reflection, however, it was needed to be able to set the ending in motion.

The unmasking/reveal is lit with green, which really makes the actor look unhinged.

As it sprints to the climax, there are the standard chase and fight scenes. But bear in mind (see what I did there?); there is a subtle change in approach as they throw in some visual gags evoking Evil Dead 2, as well as a fight with two men and a costumed killer dressed like a bear.

Read that back to yourself and tell me it doesn’t sound ace.

This is a decent film that isn’t content to simply serve up the standard genre dynamic.

From the start, you will realize the thought and care that went into making this film, as the filmmakers work to deliver twists and turns that keep things interesting.

Doing some digging online, I discovered Night of the Killer Bears was originally titled The World of Killing People, and I’m honestly glad they changed it, as the original title doesn’t fit at all.

It’s important to note that some of the marketing, coupled with the title, suggests there is more humor running through this film than what you actually get. Apart from the bear costume, it’s pretty thin in that area and is far more concerned with gore and frights than making you laugh.

The hotel receptionist, Bob (Teerapong Leowrakwong), has probably the funniest lines, which he delivers completely straight, almost uncomfortably so.

Speaking of bear costumes, having the killer use a bear costume does add something of a bizarre nature, especially as it resembles a beloved children’s UK TV character from the 70s and 80s, which I couldn’t stop laughing at.

Readers should also note that the original incarnation of this ‘bear’ looked decidedly off until they refined his look to be more like a traditional children’s teddy bear — who walked around naked but wore PJs for bed.

It is definitely worth a watch as it delivers what it needs to keep you interested and avoids the trap of a great start mired by long stretches of talking and exposition. The direction is solid, with some efficiency and creativity in the approach. It doesn’t outstay its welcome, and there is a neat tie-up at the end that was a great touch.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 3
Night of the Killer Bears releases on digital, VOD, and DVD (U.S. and Canada) on April 18, 2023.

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