Clobirch Industries, headed by genre legend Ray Wise in a role that barely counts as a cameo, are publicly researching and monitoring climate change. Privately they are carrying out experiments to genetically alter animals, including the particularly aggressive polar bear of the title. When said polar bear escapes, seemingly by just sneaking out at night, an isolated lodge and the irritating inhabitants within provide the nearest food source.
Maneater contains nothing you will not have seen many, many times before and stylistically is little more than a routine SyFy Channel release. Following an age-old premise so perfectly delivered on by Jaws, Braxton keeps his creature hidden for much of the film. As the terrorised human characters, including hero-in-waiting survival expert Martin (Remar) and dodgy scientist Hannah (Fenn), are picked off one by one by the bloodthirsty bear, Braxton tries and fails to utilise that premise in order to build the tension. That you never really care who lives and who becomes the next inevitable victim removes any remote sense of trepidation, and the weak plot contains so many holes and “eh?” moments as to never hold together on any narrative level. Perhaps this is a case of taking the film too seriously, but when that central eco-message is so bluntly and humourlessly handled, Maneater deserves close scrutiny. The humour that does exist is entirely accidental as nothing is delivered with a knowing tongue planted firmly in an ironic cheek, and as such the film peters out into dull weariness.
There will always be a nostalgic demand for creature features, but these films need to understand what they are. Alongside the monsters, gore and genre stereotypes there must be a sense of fun; of being entertaining first and foremost and letting the message, if there needs to be one at all, reveal itself without the need for clumsy lecturing.
If there is nothing else on, nothing on any of the many channels at your disposal, then Maneater may be worth a look, if only for one of the worst pay-off lines you will ever hear. The chances are there will always be something else on.
MANEATER / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: HANK BRAXTAN / SCREENPLAY: RON CARLSON, ARCH STANTON / STARRING: JAMES REMAR, SHERILYN FENN, RON CARLSON, GRAHAM GREENE, RAY WISE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW