Monday, April 10, 2023

‘Night of the Killer Bears’ Review – Thai Slasher Is a Highlight Reel of Gory Kills

The bizarre Thai slasher Night of the Killer Bears is a mixed bag filled to the brim with blood and guts, so storytelling miscues are easier to stomach. Kanphong Banjongphinij’s directorial debut comes with the tagline “Ted meets Terrifier,” which I want to get ahead of — there is no walking, talking Thunder Buddy that slaughters victims. “Killer Bears” are merely goons in oversized costume heads with weapons, like if You’re Next adopted furry mascots. It’s a zanier type of massacre spree that lacks storytelling coherency in favor of glorified death scenes, which succeeds because the kills are so dang fun (makes me think of Timo Tjahjanto). We’re saved by juicy decapitations and vicious bodily bisections that stress gonzo midnighter entertainment.

An overarching story follows five friends who meet at a homestyle bungalow campground — think “hostel meets hideaway” — only to be hunted by a killer in a bear mask. Aim (Sananthachat Thanapatpisal) and Win (Patchata Jan-Ngern) are inseparable lovers, Tony (Chanagun Arpornsutinan) the pot-smoking party boy, Nan (Panisara Rikulsurakan) the struggling actress, and then there’s sourpuss Chang (Akalavut Mankalasut). There’s talk of secret romances, murderers on the loose, and a dead sixth friend — elements revealed in an odd order. Whatever the details of this planned reunion are, fates become more evident as the night progresses. Someone wants all attendees dead, and they’re wearing a fuzzy outfit you might see cheering your school’s sports teams on from the sidelines.

An alternate title, “The World of Killing People,” better describes Night of the Killer Bears and helps highlight its narrative flaws. Banjongphinij plunges his characters into an environment filled with psychopaths — cafe employees, bellhops, and more — without extreme attention to continuity. Bodies mount as we gasp at each slaying, but the interchangeable nature of who’s doing the killing becomes a guessing game of plot advancement. The bear head crew has a gang aspect, while others merely operate as maniacs of their own volition. It’s a fun twist at times and keeps violence at a randomized premium, but those who desire storytelling tighter than piano wire will find this savage spree out of tune.

Luckily, Banjongphinij’s special effects department is working overtime to enhance visual excitement through merciless imagery. A blend of digital and practical mutilation harmoniously revolts as heads are severed without the camera pulling away, or blades are shoved through agape mouths. A heavy flow of crimson carnage hangs with the best slasher flicks, which is confidently captured without having to lean on off-screen workarounds because executions deliver the goods. I’ll be the first to champion practical prosthetics over computerized gore effects, but only when there’s a lopsided usage of animation over warehouse creations. Night of the Killer Bears finds the sweet spot between steel plunging into rubbery eye sockets and neck stumps oozing pixelated blood, never at a detriment.

Tonal readings bounce around from teenage party comedies to murderous thrills emphasizing dumbass kids being dumbass kids. Tony’s only ever thinking about getting high or bedding Nan, while others start fights or ignore big-eared figures standing in the background. Characters inhabit a scrappy jungle oasis where fog rolls and exotic foliage provides an alluring backdrop, which might stand out more if the balance between horror and comedy held steadier. The swings from serious confessions about past sins to fight sequences where bats bounce off gigantic bear costume heads to strike the user back come with a sense of whiplash. That might be a struggle for those who value immaculate scripting over all else.

Night of the Killer Bears is a highlight reel of slasher kills that gets lost in its berzerk storytelling ambitions — but not enough to sabotage what attention-grabbing craziness exists. Kanphong Banjongphinij emphasizes all the gratuitous style of a sleazy slasher that sacrifices enough bodies for the cause, and displays behind-the-camera confidence that weathers more turbulent coherency hiccups. You’re here for the slashin’ and the slayin’, and that’s what Night of the Killer Bears does best. It gets even more fun when the costume comes off and villains make themselves known, as long as you’re alright with some proper B-movie nonsense that thrusts audiences forward without caring if it all makes crystal-clear sense in the end.

The post ‘Night of the Killer Bears’ Review – Thai Slasher Is a Highlight Reel of Gory Kills appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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