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SYFY WIRE Cocaine Bear

‘Cocaine Bear’ a hit with critics, as Elizabeth Banks flick heralded 'well-crafted horror gem' of 2023

Reviewers line up behind Cocaine Bear's killer cast, bonkers action, and sly eye for self-aware humor.

By Benjamin Bullard
Cocaine Bear (2023)

The internet has mauled us all with months of teases for what has to be the craziest horror premise this side of M3GAN: Take a 1980s-vintage true story about a bear that ate cocaine (and embellish it just a little), strand some hapless victims in its jacked-up forest haunts, and then watch the horrifyingly funny fur fly under the clever guiding eye of director Elizabeth Banks.

That’s what audiences have been promised since the first trailer for Cocaine Bear tore across the pop culture wilderness last fall — and now that reviewers have had their chance to weigh in, it sounds like that’s exactly what Universal Pictures’ fiercely feral new horror-comedy delivers.

RELATED: Look out, Sharknado: Elizabeth Banks wouldn't mind a shark sequel to 'Cocaine Bear’

Perched on its release date at a sweet 72 percent “Fresh” critics’ rating at Rotten Tomatoes, Cocaine Bear is getting big supportive bumps from critics for its non-stop mix of gore and laughs, a witty script from writer Jimmy Warden that never lets the action sag, and a gifted cast — including the late Ray Liotta in his final screen appearance — that punches well above its collective weight.

Read on to see why Cocaine Bear has the critics so keyed up, and then score your tickets to watch the mayhem unfold the way nature no doubt intended: At a theater, with friends, and smack in the middle of what’s sure to be an uproarious environment where no good snort will go unpunished. Cocaine Bear is now playing in theaters nationwide.

“This is a genuinely well-crafted horror gem with a winning cast, some nifty twists and a very good bear who betrays its CGI origins maybe 10% of the time but for the most part looks like an actual, cocaine-fueled black bear with lightning-quick reflexes, a big bite and an insatiable appetite for coke on the rocks. And in the trees. And on the cliffs.” — Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times

Cocaine Bear isn’t in the business of sacrificing antics for a greater purpose. It aims for maximum entertainment, reveling in farce and gnarly killings to create an experience that keeps you on your toes even if the details get murky upon further reflection… Cocaine Bear does, in general, a smart job of weaving real newsreels and anti-drug commercials into the narrative. They add winking humor and reminders that there’s truth to this far-out tale.” — Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter

“The film is a manic, headfirst dive into pure, unadulterated chaos. Over the course of its refreshingly succinct 95-minute runtime, the film never once feels tonally unsure of itself. It’s a confident, delightfully self-aware horror comedy that isn’t afraid to test just how far it can take its violence and vulgar humor. For some, its revved-up, slightly deranged energy may prove to be more grating than entertaining, but for others, it’ll be exactly what they’re looking for. Either way, Cocaine Bear delivers a high that’s hard to forget.” — Alex Welch, Inverse

“Categorically undefinable by design, Elizabeth Banks’ outrageously grisly comedy uses a deep roster of talent for her (clever, but obvious) cash grab, serving A-list backing with B-movie appeal. It’s neither groundbreaking nor particularly smart, but it’s 95 minutes of over-the-top fun. It’s the quick key bump the historically sleepy February movie season needs.” — Jude Dry, IndieWire

“Like the recent M3GAN, this is a high-concept horror movie that understands its own absurdity but never lets it get entirely in the way of its darker intentions. Cocaine Bear is a thrilling binge of adrenaline that you won’t regret in the morning.” — Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

“…[A] proudly ridiculous yet sincerely enjoyable exercise of putting wacky characters in the war path of a dangerous (and very high) beast. The Citizen Kane of coked-out bear movies is not perfect by any stretch but like its furry star, the film is scrappy and hungry while owning its throwback absurdity.” — Brian Truitt, USA Today