‘Cocaine Bear’ Ending, Explained: What Happens To The Bear? Is The Film Based On A True Story?

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Elizabeth Banks’ comedy-horror film “Cocaine Bear” is just outright hilarious at its best moments, pushing the ridiculous to absolute limits. The film is an extended answer to a ludicrous but engaging question: what would happen if an apex predator like a bear somehow consumed an exorbitant amount of cocaine? Actually, based on a bizarre real-life incident, “Cocaine Bear” is exactly what it seems like, with over-the-top action and gore as a deadly black bear gets addicted to cocaine and kills anyone standing in the way of its next batch of the drug.

Spoilers Ahead


‘Cocaine Bear’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?

The film takes place in 1985, beginning aboard a small private plane, as a man dances to loud music and prepares for a rudimentary escape plan by putting on a parachute bag. He keeps throwing out of the plane numerous similar-looking red duffle bags, and soon we are shown the contents of these bags. They are filled with pouches of cocaine, also explaining the man’s unusual excitement at a moment of such high risk. He then puts on a heavier-looking duffle bag on his own body and prepares to jump out too. But right on his way to do so, the man hits his head on the doorframe and falls out of the plane instead of being able to make a precise jump.

In the Chattahoochee National Forest of Georgia, a hiking couple, Elsa and Olaf, spend loving moments together, discussing their future while enjoying nature’s beauty. Hearing a noise nearby, the two cannot believe their luck at being able to see a black bear from so close. Olaf starts to take photographs of the animal quickly, but through his camera’s viewfinder, he realizes that the bear is moving closer to them every second. Soon enough, the bear is too close to the couple, with the animal clearly looking aggressive and its mouth and face covered with a whitish powder. As is evident to us viewers, and not the couple, from the chain of events, the bear has surely managed to consume some cocaine thrown out of the plane earlier. Despite black bears generally backing down whenever a human or animal they attack fights back, this cocaine-drugged bear chooses otherwise. Chasing the couple through the forest, it eventually kills Elsa, while Olaf hides and manages to survive.

That very same day, the private plane and the body of the man who had jumped out of it were found in Knoxville, Tennessee, with cocaine packets worth millions of dollars in the bag that was on his body. A police detective named Bob arrives on the scene, along with his assistant officer Reba, and identifies the dead man right away. A known drug dealer by the name of Andrew C. Thornton II, the man had been working for a drug lord named Syd White, who had ties with Colombian drug rings and sold their product in the USA. Although no cocaine is found in the debris of the crashed plane, Bob has a hunch that there must have been more drugs aboard. Meanwhile, the drug lord Syd White calls up his trusted henchman Daveed after seeing the news of Thornton’s death on the news and orders him to retrieve the remainder of the drugs that had gone missing. Thus begins a journey into the forests of Chattahoochee for both sides while the drug-fueled bear continues on a killing rampage.


Why Did The Other Characters Go Into The Chattahoochee Forest?

Till now in the film, “Cocaine Bear” has established the reason for the existence of the cocaine in the middle of a forest—Andrew Thornton was working for Syd White, and realizing that his plane was going down, the man had thrown out all the drugs in it before himself jumping out. But his parachute had not opened, and Thornton had died from the fall. Syd knew that the man must have thrown out the rest of the cocaine while flying over the Chattahoochee National Forest, as was the protocol among the drug ring. This was to ensure that the gang would know where to search for their drugs if their transport plane crashed and could therefore retrieve them before authorities found them. This is exactly why Syd also sends his men, and he, himself, too, goes to the forest in order to find and retrieve his drugs.

On the other side, the police detective Bob also reaches the place in search of the drug gang after he receives news from an informant about hearing two men at a restaurant in Georgia talk about the missing drugs. These two men were indeed Syd’s henchman Daveed and his own son, Eddie. Eddie had recently lost his wife to cancer and was still extremely grieved and rather moping about it. Understandably, the man was finding it difficult to imagine life without his beloved and had even abandoned his young son Gabe at Syd’s house out of his grief. Eddie is also not on very good terms with his father, for although he used to work for Syd in his drug business, the son had refused to work in such a harmful and illegal profession in recent times. Syd believed that it was actually Eddie’s wife who had convinced him to stop working with his father, and now that the wife was dead, Syd wanted Eddie back on his side. For this, the drug lord sent Daveed to first meet with Eddie and then take him along to Chattahoochee in order to retrieve the remaining cocaine.

In the local neighborhood of Chattahoochee, Georgia, a woman named Sari lives with her young daughter, Dee Dee. Working the profession of a nurse, Sari has to stay away from the house throughout the day, and Dee Dee makes use of this time to go on her mischievous adventures. Seemingly excited by nature and the great forest nearby, Dee Dee’s recent obsession has been to reach the exact location of a secret waterfall and paint a picture of it. On this particular day, the girl takes along her best friend from school, Henry, on an adventure into the forest. Later in the day, the school informs Sari that her daughter has skipped school, and the mother finds a map of the National Forest among Dee Dee’s belongings. Knowing her daughter well enough, the mother rushes to the forest in order to find and bring Dee Dee and Henry back. Some distance into the woods, the two kids come across packets of cocaine inside the bushes. It is quickly revealed, though, that they are not the only ones to have found the drug, as the same black bear seen before now attacks the children, intending to get hold of the cocaine packets. While Henry manages to hide and protect himself, Dee Dee is chased further into the forest by the bear. After Sari eventually finds Henry and the two manage to avoid the bear, the mother goes on a desperate search deeper into the forests in order to save her daughter, and she takes Henry along to ensure his safety too.

The forest ranger Liz waits in her office for Peter, the wildlife inspection representative, with whom she seems to have a romantic interest. When Sari first arrived at the National Forest visitors center, she met with Liz and Peter and asked them to help find her daughter. The three of them together went inside the woods in search of the missing children, but Liz seemed rather disinterested in the matter. By the time they found Henry, they had also come across the cocaine packets and the aggressive bear. The animal severely injures Liz, but she manages to survive by shooting her gun while Peter falls onto another bag of cocaine and gets the drug all over his body. The bear is obviously attracted to the drug more than anything else, and while Peter climbs up a tree, he is torn apart by the bear.

The forest also had three troublesome teenagers living in the area, calling themselves the Duchamps gang and attacking tourists for money and goods. The three teenagers come across Daveed and Eddie when the two arrive at the forest. Not knowing who he was, they try to attack Daveed, even stabbing him with a small pocket knife, but they are easily taken down by the gangster. Eddie then finds a packet of their cocaine on the bodies of one of the teenagers and wakes up one of them, Stache, to enquire about where they had found it. Stache says that the gang had found more packets of the drug inside the forest and had hidden them under a gazebo to retrieve them later and sell them for money.

Daveed and Eddie make Stache take them to the location of the gazebo, but by this time, police detective Bob has also found the drugs in the place. The two sides face each other, to hilarious effect, and then the situation is intervened by the bear itself, which falls asleep on Eddie. When a packet of cocaine is cut open, the bear wakes up instantly and tries to get hold of it in a drug-crazed frenzy. Bob realizes the animal’s wild addiction to the drug and distracts it away from the gazebo. Around this very moment, though, Syd makes his entry by shooting Bob fatally. The police officer Reba also soon appears at the spot, much to the relief of Bob, only to then reveal herself as a corrupt cop on the payroll of the drug gang. As Bob is left to die alone, Reba accompanies Syd, Daveed, and Eddie to find the rest of their drugs.

Before this situation pans out, though, the cocaine-addicted bear also had run a rampage at the visitors center when Liz returns to the place after she had been attacked by the animal earlier. The remaining two Duchamps gang members had also come to the visitors center in order to call an ambulance after being attacked by Daveed. The bear follows Liz to the place too, and in the frenzy of trying to put it down, Liz shoots one of the teenagers dead. The bear then attacks the other boy, beheading it before chomping on his body inside one of the rooms at the visitors center. Soon, an ambulance responding to the earlier call now rushes to the spot, and as things pan out, the two attendants are attacked by the bear as well. One of them manages to rescue Liz and drive away in the ambulance as the other attendant also jumps aboard, but the bear chases the ambulance, too, determined to take it down. The animal eventually does reach the vehicle and kill all three humans, either directly or through an accident it triggers by distracting the driver.


‘Cocaine Bear’ Ending Explained: What Happens To The Bear In The End?

During their search for Dee Dee, Sari, and Henry come across the fazed hiker from before, Olaf. The man is still shocked and disoriented from the attack of the bear, which killed his partner, and he now tells Sari all of this. He then also takes them to a bear cave, saying that he had seen Dee Dee run into the cave, but he refuses to accompany the woman and the boy inside. Sari obviously chooses to enter the cave to find her daughter, and she does eventually reunite with Dee Dee, who is relatively unhurt. There are also two bear cubs inside the cave, along with a duffle bag full of cocaine, and the cubs are also hooked on the drug by now.

On the other side, Syd rather forcefully convinces Daveed, Eddie, and Reba to go along with him to find the remaining drugs, and the group manages to find the bear cave as well. Reba now wants to leave, abandoning their plan, but Syd does not want to let this happen. He aims his gun at the woman, but Daveed intervenes by standing in his way and letting Reba escape. Eddie had already been against his father, and for some time now, Daveed, too, was turning against Syd. Daveed also wanted to escape the place, owing to the dangerous nature of the cocaine-addicted bear, but it was because of Syd that he had to put himself in more danger. The three eventually find another of their duffle bags too, but the bear has returned to the cave by now. Being a mother to the two cubs, the bear is viciously protective of her offspring and attacks the three men. Sari, Dee Dee, and Henry sensed the danger and decided to take the only possible escape route—by jumping from the waterfall (this was also the secret waterfall that Dee Dee always wanted to visit) into a flowing river underneath. Seeing the three jump and also survive the fall, Eddie and Daveed now follow, abandoning Syd at the cave. Syd shoots the bear and injures it fatally, and then tries to retrieve the remaining drugs, too, dropping one packet in the process. As the packet falls and bursts open on a rock, the cocaine scatters all over the place, and some of it drops on the injured bear as well. This is enough to revive the animal as it regains all its strength and climbs back up on the rocky platform. Spitting out a bullet in a hilariously heroic style, the bear goes on to kill Syd and live happily ever after with its two babies and a bagful of cocaine.

Sari, Dee Dee, and Henry are able to safely return home, while Eddie and Daveed also survive. Daveed’s injury is treated by Sari, and Reba ensures that the police do not find Daveed and Eddie at the place. The fate of Olaf had also been shown, as the man was crushed to death by the bear outside its cave. The police detective, Bob, had earlier left his pet dog with Reba, and the woman now gives the dog to Eddie. Making an instant connection with the animal, Eddie adopts it and takes it to his son Gabe. One of the teenagers from the Duchamps gang, Stache, who had survived the whole ordeal, had managed to take away another bag of cocaine. He is seen hitchhiking towards New York and is careful enough to not leave the drugs with a herd of sheep being transported at the back of a car he takes a lift in. The film then claims that none of the other bags of cocaine were found by the authorities, keeping the possibility open that other animals could have also consumed cocaine and gone on a similar drug-fueled rampage. “Cocaine Bear” then ends with a mid-credits scene in which the craziness of animals is maintained, as Eddie’s new pet dog is seen chewing into the severed fingers of Daveed, which the man had kept in his pocket after losing them earlier in the film.


Is The Narrative Of The Film Based On A Real Incident?

As bizarre and ridiculous as it may sound, “Cocaine Bear” is loosely adapted from a real event that took place in 1985, in the very locations shown in the film. Andrew C. Thornton II was a real drug smuggler who had thrown off bags of cocaine into the forest before jumping out of a crashing plane. Thornton had died from the crash in Knoxville while he had dumped the drugs over the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia. While the incidents until now are exactly shown as the same as reality in the film, the part about the bear going on a drug rampage is fictional. A black bear had indeed eaten up a large amount of cocaine, but unlike in the film, the bear had actually died after this. The animal had indeed passed away because it had consumed such an unnatural chemical substance, and a post-mortem found that its stomach was full of cocaine. It had also been found that around 3 to 4 grams of the cocaine had entered the bear’s bloodstream, but what it might have done before dying remains unknown. The bear’s body was then taxidermied and preserved, and it is still kept in a shopping mall in Kentucky, where it is literally named “the cocaine bear.” According to director Elizabeth Banks, her film is a sort of alternate possibility of real events, highlighting the revenge of the bear, which was, in a sense, killed by the negligence of human beings.


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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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