“Roar” or The Completely Expected Results of Living With Hundreds of Lions – A Review

27 May

RoarIt is customary for me to show the trailer to the film I am reviewing at the end of the post. Here, however, it’s probably best if you watched it before continuing.

Yes, this film exists. It is not CGI. It is not faked. I only hope Orson Welles saw it before he died; he would have been equally impressed by the ingenuity of Roar and the batshit insanity of its director, Noel Marshall.

That is probably the best description of this film: batshit insane. You don’t watch Roar, you experience it, as if it were happening in real time, as if at any minute poor Melanie Griffith will get her head bitten off thereby creating a parallel universe in which Molly Ringwald would star in Working Girl and marry Don Johnson. Roar is as close to a snuff film as possible without actually being one.

And on certain – technical and superficial – levels, Roar is a good film. On other levels it’s completely batshit insane.

That batshit insanity stems from the background to the film. Noel Marshall and his wife Tippi Hedren wished to make a film that would shed light on poaching and animal cruelty. So they made a movie – over eleven years – in which dangerous wild animals roamed freely with humans. In fact, Marshall, Hedren, Melanie Griffith, and Marshall’s sons, John and Jerry lived with wild animals at their estate north of Los Angeles for years – all without cameras filming.

The plot of the film – a thin tendril really – concerns Noel Marshall living in his house in Africa with all his animal friends. When his family arrives to visit, they discover Marshall not at home, but they are still not alone. What follows are several sequences of Hedren & Clan running from, hiding from, being swiped at, mauled by, licked, and generally assaulted by dozens of lions and tigers.

Now let me ask you a question: what is the scariest movie you’ve ever seen? Let’s say it’s Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, a film that also starred Tippi Hedren. It’s a great film, but like many movies in which humans are attacked by nasty critters, it’s faked.

Roar is not fake. And that takes the fear to a level I’ve never quite experienced, and why I think of it as almost a snuff film.  Roar is a twisted version of a generic thriller where the obviously dangerous pets become even more obviously dangerous in the most obvious ways. Think Jurassic Park but with lions; then think of Grizzly Man, and the real life batshit insanity of an individual who believed he could live with wild beasts.

Here are just a few scenes that actually happened in Roar: someone decides it’s smart to hide in a refrigerator (from a lion, so it’s probably not the worst idea); a lion rides a skateboard; Tippi Hedren’s face is covered in honey, said honey is than licked off by a lion; an elephant (oh, did I mention there are elephants?) picks up poor Tippi Hedren by its trunk; Melanie Griffith’s face is mauled.

Because of all this, and much more, Roar is a shockingly tight thriller. It is scary because the actors are literally in mortal danger at all times. Still, one has to wonder why no one went to jail for this.

The plot of Roar is almost nonexistent, mostly involving the family under constant threat, a couple of poachers who you just know will get their comeuppance, and Marshall not being able to drive a boat. The message of the film – for there is one, and it is pretty damned overt – is that we shouldn’t be afraid of what we don’t know, specifically wild animals. Late in the film we see a montage of the family – reunited at last – living happily with their leonine brethren. Melanie Griffith is cuddling a giant lion in her bed, which may be one of the most disturbing images in the film.

While Marshall’s anti-poaching philosophy is praiseworthy, the idea that wild beasts can live under the same roof is, let’s see – um – Batshit Insane. Hell, most of the movie is spent showing that lions and humans will never get along. And that might be the strangest aspect of this film: not that lions are allowed to terrorize a family, but that the director thought any of this made the animals more loveable.

The move is watchable for the insanity of the situations, but it is served very well by certain technical achievements. Cinematographer Jan de Bont (who was scalped) shoots a stunning film. Gorgeous vistas, magic hour sunsets, interiors that are dark and menacing with just the right dappling of sunlight peaking in. Even more, here’s a film in which half the actors cannot be directed, and yet the action scenes flow together as seamlessly as in any Hollywood big budget shoot ‘em up. This is most certainly not a B-movie. It’s well-made and crisply edited. The acting is nothing to write home about; still the most direction any of them probably needed was: “Just be fucking scared of the lions coming to eat you.”

One does not see Roar as a movie, but as a curio, a vanity project gone completely off the rails. It is playing in very limited release, but if it comes anywhere near you run towards it like an entire pride is coming after you.

Final Grade: WTF.

One Response to ““Roar” or The Completely Expected Results of Living With Hundreds of Lions – A Review”

  1. Timaydub May 11, 2016 at 22:44 #

    L’Г©crivain morts gisant sur le sol, le crГўne fendu, le corps rouГ© de cou cytotec se compra farmacias Un dernier coup d’Е“il au Uzdal, un espoir pour une sorte de soutien, et effexor vendo viagra capital federal Mais pas avant un an aprГЁs, quand elle Г©tait sur le point d’assumer son moduretic costo

Leave a Reply