Inspired by the 1985 true story of a drug runner’s plane crash, missing cocaine, and the black bear that ate it, this wild dark comedy finds an oddball group of cops, criminals, tourists and teens converging in a Georgia forest where a 500- pound apex predator has ingested a staggering amount of cocaine and gone on a coke-fueled rampage for more blow… and blood.

Cocaine Bear stars Keri Russell (The Americans)

O’Shea Jackson, Jr. (Straight Outta Compton)

Christian Convery-Jennings (Sweet Tooth)

Alden Ehrenreich (Solo: A Star Wars Story)

Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family)

Brooklynn Prince (The Florida Project)

Emmy winner Margo Martindale (The Americans)

Emmy winner Ray Liotta (Goodfellas).

Directed by Elizabeth Banks (Charlie’s Angels, Pitch Perfect 2) 

Screenplay by Jimmy Warden (The Babysitter: Killer Queen)

The movie that is going to get people banned on social media for talking about it is finally here, COCAINE BEAR. Yes, fragile little people are going to have posts removed on TikTok for mentioning its title. Facebook’s AI’s are going to blindly throw jail sentences around like, well, coke in the 80s. And I think it’s great. But how and why has a movie with a simple title captured the hearts of movie goers?

First, I would have seen it for a second time last week, but an active shooter incident at the Mall screening I would have gone to prevented the excursion. No one was hurt, thank God, but a trash can was taken out by the errant bullet. What didn’t surprise me was the film’s ability to maintain its foothold on theater goers. COCAINE NEAR retained its box office and held on to the second spot for 2 weeks in a row, based on the number of screens shown, with $23 million. Our Sunday early evening screening was filled.

A few things surprised me about this film. After Elizabeth Banks’ awful turn on the CHARLIE’S ANGEL remake, she’s shown her skills as a skilled director, learned from that experience, and grown. Jimmy Warden’s script is almost perfect. It sets up the violence, humor, and gags throughout. Thematically it’s about Family and Momma Bears and rearing your children and how vice addictions can have an adverse effect on the family unit. The cast is full of broken families, but it’s the assertive Momma bears that hold it all together.

COCAINE BEAR is also a satire of 70s and 80s Animals Gone Awry horror. But thanks to films like DEADPOOL, off color and over the top gore humor has been seeing a resurgence. Part of it is what I call the FINISHER EFFECT. 

In pro-wrestling finishers are a wrestler’s iconic, marquee move, much like a finishing move in MORTAL KOMBAT games. These moves evolve over time, and what was once a finishing move may be a lesser move with another wrestler. Take the DDT, Jake The Snake Roberts’ classic finisher. When he innovated the move, it was unique and devastating (in the pro-wrestling world). As other wrestlers used the same move, it became less and less effective by the copycats. By comparison, comedies like DEADPOOL have shown us what Middle America’s can stomach has grown to tolerate and perceive as humor.

And that includes splatterpunk. The term, famously coined in the Eighties by author David J. Schow, was used to categorize a sub-sect of horror fiction. Violent, gorey, often sexy but always with some sort of social message, splatterpunk pushed the envelope of horror fiction in print. It’s long been a beloved subgenre of horror, much like the NWOBHM is to fans of hard rock and heavy metal, or the Attitude Era of World Wrestling Entertainment is to wrestling fans.

As a result of films like DEADPOOL and James Gunn’s SUICIDE SQUAD, and television like PEACEMAKER, the once fringe splatterpunk movement is becoming mainstream. What separates Splatterpunk from its sister sub-genre, Extreme horror, is its content. Extreme horror exists to push the boundaries or what is normal, and break taboos. FIlms like  A SERBIAN FILM and MARTYRS fall into this category. Splatterpunk, by contrast, is laden with wry, dark humor, an ethical message, plus plenty of rolling heads, guts, and blood soaked titties to get that message across.

Here’s a list of 10 influential Splatterpunk Films you might also enjoy if you like COCAINE BEAR:

AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON – Perhaps the seminal modern splatterpunk film, filled with wry humor, sex, blood, guts, and plenty of werewolf gore. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON is as important to the genre as the seminal splatterpunk novels: Nancy A.Collins’ SUNGLASSES AFTER DARK and Skipp & Spector’s THE LIGHT AT THE END..

EVIL DEAD 2- More humor, more evil… dead than the first one. The cabin in the woods and the discovery of the lost magical books that summons the titular entities. Both a remake and a sequel to Sam Raimi’s original, ground breaking movie. Quirky and gorey, it established Raimi’s franchise, setting up THE ARMY OF DARKNESS, a 21st century re-imagining, a short lived television series, an episode of Shudder’s CREEPSHOW, and now a re-launch sequel with EVIL DEAD RISE.

THE CROW – The tragic story based on the James O’Barr graphic novel. This one was even co-written by the guy who created the term splatterpunk, David J. Schow (alongside Sci-Fi master and Blue Oyster Cult lyrical scribe John Shirley). A classic revenge story with a revenant protagonist, showing that often the monsters in a splatterpunk book or movie are the heroes, it’s people that are bad.

NEAR DARK- Erik Red and Kathryn Bigelow’s western vampire movie is violent, gritty, sexy, and nihilistic. The cast is most everyone from ALIENS except Sigourney Weaver and Michael Biehn. The Anti-LOST BOYS, it features one of the most violent bar “fights” put on film. 

FROM DUSK TIL DAWN- It’s not a vampire movie, it’s a gangster movie that happens to have vampires in it, and fundamentally a western at heart. And that is a staple of splatterpunk, the blending of genres and the story. It’s not the supernatural element that drives the narrative, often its the characters.

BUBBA HO-TEP- Another classic splatterpunk story adapted to the big screen, from one of splatterpunk’s sage’s Joe R. Lansdale. Directed by horror film master Don Coscarelli (PHANTASM, BEASTMASTER), it features Bruce Campbell as Elvis in a convalescent home. Everything is fine, except his pecker has a oozing sore, and, oh, yeah, an Egyptian Mummy has arrived and is sucking the life out of his neighbors. So it’s up to Elvis, with the aid of JFK (played by Ossie Davis), to unravel the mystery and save the day.

THE PROPHECY- A Quentin Tarrentino-esque take on the classic War in Heaven trope, it features Christopher Walken as an insane Gabriel seeking the evilest soul on Earth to end the war. It also has what many consider the best portrayal of the Devil on screen through Viggo Mortensen’s fallen angel Lucifer.

TRUE ROMANCE- Speaking of Tarrentino, I could list his body work as splatterpunk essentials, but it’s the Tony Scott directed TRUE ROMANCE, from Tarrentino’s screenplay, that fits the bill the most. Supernatural element… check (see BUBBA HO-TEP). Violence… check. Fucked up shit going on… check, check, check…

SAW- One part Police Procedural, one part splatter gore fest, with a message about being nice to your fellow man. It launched a franchise and is still one of the best horror movies ever made. Featuring a brilliant cast, locked in a secluded lavatory with a dead body. The set up and premise are brilliant, as is the film. 

SE7EN- Dark, grimy, and gritty in the daylight, David Fincher’s SE7EN is at once a hard-boiled detective Noir Police Procedural, and a gorefest filled with uncomfortable imagery. Like many of the splatterpunk films I’ve listed, it’s secured itself in film and trivia history with one line. “What’s in the box?”

HELLRAISER- Again, with Clive Barker I could suggest any of the adaptations of his works, especially RAWHEAD REX or NIGHTBREED. But it’s the written and directed by Barker HELLRAISER’s iconic puzzle box and the Cenobites that stand out. Based on the short story THE HELLBOUND HEART from Barker’s acclaimed BOOKS OF BLOOD, it’s a BDSM nightmare with, um, heart. Lots of hearts.

For splatterpunk novels, I’m going to suggest the following, but I’m not going to tell you anything about them. Seek them out and devour them! Just know they span all eras of splatterpunk over the last 40ish years.

WETWORK by Phillip Nutman

THE SCREAM by John Skipp & Craig Spector


CABAL by Clive Barker


THE GIRL NEXT DOOR by Jack Ketchum

SAVAGE SEASON by Joe R. Lansdale

THE RISING by Brian Keene

BRAIN EATER JONES by Stephen J. Kozeniewski 

WOOM by Duncan Ralston


Now, as much as I love COCAINE BEAR, later this week I’m seeing a film I’ve had a hard-on for since learning it existed. And I’m not talking about SCREAM VI… 65!!! (And yes, I know I gave 11 films and 11 books… um… cos my tastes are much like Spinal Tap’s amps.)

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