May 3, 2015
My first reaction to the end of Roar was that I had just watched one of the funniest and most terrifying movies I have ever seen. Seriously, this one movie encapsulated both of those things that seem like they would not have anything to do with each other. Beyond that, this is not a horror movie. It may feel like it has horror elements, but it would be much more accurate to toss words like comedy, drama, and thriller at it.
The trailer for the Drafthouse Films re-release contains quotes like “It is like Walt Disney went crazy and filmed a snuff version of The Swiss Family Robinson,” “It is like watching a live action Lion King while Mufasa holds a switchblade to your throat,” and “It feels dangerous just watching it.” All of them are quite accurate.
Roar does not have much of a plot. You could simply call it the movie where Tippi Hedren and Noel Marshall (her husband), not to mention her daughter (Melanie Griffith) and his sons live with dozens of untrained wildcats and try to survive. The plot it does have involves Tippi (as Madalaine) and the kids going to meet up with her husband, Hank (Marshall), on the wildlife preserve where he is studying large cats. Of course, as he goes to pick them up at the airport, they have already left and arrive at the home before he does. What follows is Hank trying to get back to the house and Tippi and the gang trying to survive the multitude of giant cats around the house.
The movie is really funny at times, at other times it is prone to inducing nervous fits of tension breaking laughter, then there is the terror of watching the cats tackle the cast. That last bit usually ends up with somebody bleeding. Watching it feels not so much like a movie, but like an event. I kept waiting to see what the cats would do next.
Roar held my attention all the way throughout. It is a strange film that appears to have been a nightmare to have made. It did take over a decade to complete, from the initial conception, through dealing with the cats and the injuries, plus the flood in 1978 that washed away the sets and took the lives of a few of the big cats.
It is an amazing film that needs to be seen, then go and read about the injuries they endured. Director of Photography Jan de Bont, in his first big picture, was nearly scalped. Assistant director Doron Kauper was nearly killed, not to mention the injuries to Tippi Hedren, Melanie Griffith, andd other on camera members of the cast.
It is also pretty interesting to think about how they had to shoot this. It is not like you could redo shots and have the cats repeat their actions. Also, there is no way you could shoot single camera. Marshall employed five cameras, with their operators in cages, or otherwise hidden. The cameras then had to be camouflaged so as not to be seen by the other cameras. Then you have the waiting for the cats to do something, or being quick enough to catch spontaneous moments. Nothing about this movie is not interesting.
Roar is filled with fascinating moments, like Marshall racing a giraffe while he rides a motorcycle, a young elephant destroying a rowboat, and the lions tackling Marshall off a motorcycle. The list goes on and on. Then there is the great character Mativo (Kyalo Mativo), who seems to be the only one with any real sense to stay away from the big cats.
Overall, Roar is an amazing experience that needs to be had. You will laugh, you will grip the arms of your chair, and you will shake your head in amazement at what you are experiencing. I have never seen anything quite like it.
Posted by Christopher Beaumont at 5/03/2015 03:18:00 PM
Labels: 1980s, 1981, Comedy, Drama, Horror, Melanie Griffith, Movie Review, Noel Marshall, Theatrical Release, Thriller, Tippi Hedren
Chris has been an avid movie watcher for decades, getting into the writing game in 2004. Since that time he has contributed to a number online publications as well as running CriticalOutcast.com. In addition to movies, Chris is a big fan of music, particularly metal, and will never give up hope on his beloved Mets.