“Zombeavers” is a creature feature Horror/Comedy, from first time director Jordan Rubin. I’ve been anxiously awaiting this release, since I first heard about over 12 months ago. 2014 was a year that bought us low-budget gem’s like “Wolfcop” and “Sharknado 2”, but it was really Zombeavers that caught my eye. Aside from the obviously hilarious title, and the poster artwork which is now actually laminated on my wall (not kidding), Zombeavers promised the use of practical effects and animatronics. These are two of the aspects that set it apart from the ever-growing competition. Zombeavers is about a group of girlfriends, led by Mary (Rachel Melvin), who head out to a cabin on the lake for what supposed to be a boy free weekend of relaxing. The trip is mostly for Jenn’s benefit (played by Lexi Atkins), who’s going through a rough patch, with her asshole cheating boyfriend Sam (Hutch Dano). The girls don’t know that the boys plan on surprising them, but there’s been a toxic waste leak in the water that nobody knows about, which has turned the local beavers rabid. The film also stars the lovely Cortney Palm as Zoe, along with Jake Weary, Peter Gilroy and Rex Linn.
All beaver joking aside, this is one awesome idea for a horror/comedy, its genius. It helps if you understand what these types of films are about, and the intent behind them. Critics and casual movie-goers tend to judge these film harshly, for no other reason than it’s just not their thing. I can understand and respect if you don’t like it, but if your going to critique it harshly, you better be able to back those points up with facts. These films are often made simply because of love for the genre, and I think that’s what Jordan has done here. Zombeavers isn’t a huge budget film, but Jordan ended up with a great overall production value regardless. The location is beautiful, I think it’s set in the south, making for some gorgeous cinematography throughout. I don’t think people understand that you can still do a lot of things right, even in a film as silly as this. The lake, the cabin and the lush surroundings bring out the brightness of the Blu Ray quality picture. A lot of the shot choices here are really smart, and just about all of the camera work is fluent and precise. I thought most of it was going to be shot conventionally, but much to my surprise there were a bunch of really impressive crane shots. It’s not normally something you see on an independent film. Zombeavers has something we always like to hear, and that’s it’s very own cheesy as hell theme song (haha). The film opens with an original, 80’s inspired music theme, accompanied by some distinctively constructed credits. The setup for the beavers is laid out for the viewer right from the start, this doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is.
The opening scene is of a couple of guys driving a toxic waste truck. One of those men just so happens to be played by Bill Burr, one of my favorite stand up comedians. It was great to see him in another film, he’s been doing a bunch of cameo roles in bits and pieces lately. Shortly into the film we get to see some gruesome and fun practical effects, which is good because it does take a while to get to the action later on in the film. I was entertained by most of the characters that make up this group of immature young adults. It’s pretty clear this screenplay wasn’t going to revolve around character development, but given the genre I think that’s forgivable. Rachel Melvin was hilarious in the role she had in “Dumb and Dumber 2” late last year, it took me a while to work out that she was Mary in this film. She does a pretty decent job, and her character has that bit more to her then some of the others do. Lexi Atkins is pretty new to the scene but manages to hold her own, there were only one or two slightly forced reactions, everything else was good. The male cast doesn’t really have to do anything special, because most audiences are going to hate them right from the start (haha). They serve their one-dimensional purpose, with their lame bromance and constant sexual innuendo, but I guess it’s what’s required when you’re a douche (haha). It’s Cortney Palm as Zoe, the wild one of the trio, that I really enjoyed watching though. I’ve been a fan of hers since her small role in “Silent Night” and more recently, the brilliant “Reservoir Dogs” inspired “Sushi Girl”. I’ve had the chance to chat a couple of times with her and she seems lovely. I dug Zoe’s sass in this film, Cortney looks gorgeous, and I really felt that connection she had with cute little Jacky, because I know she is an animal lover in real life, (FYI Jacky’s what I’m calling the jack russell in this film haha).
Some of the humor didn’t quite hit the mark, but I still chuckled several times throughout this one. Like I said, Bill Burr’s few lines were funny and some of the beaver jokes were silly but worked. Sam thinking the beavers had some kind of agenda was amusing, along with the impromptu beaver version of Wac-A-Mole haha, easily the funniest and most random scene in the movie. The standout aspect in Zombeavers is those practical animatronic beavers. I watched the behind the scenes clip of how this idea was conceived, and genuinely surprised how good it looks. Opting for remote-controlled practical beavers keeps with the vibe of this 80’s cheese-fest. CG just wouldn’t have worked, and I’m so glad that Jordan didn’t take the easy way out. At times they look real, and at other times they look like puppets (haha), but I like that it adds a certain charm to the whole thing. The first half of the film doesn’t have much action, but the last part is where it starts to pick up. From what I could see, majority of the blood and gore effects were done practically and they all look solid. Because the comedy wasn’t as consistent as one would think, I’d hoped for some more extensive prosthetics within the kills to make up for it. I understand that probably wasn’t the intention for the film though, I just love my gore!
If you can take the concept for exactly what it is, you’ll find it very difficult to fault. I suppose the consistency in the comedy could have been better, some of the jokes are rather crass or feel to awkward and tasteless to be funny. The truth or dare game comes to mind when I think of some humor that didn’t work. The idea of humans becoming infected by the beavers is probably taking the “zombie” portion of the film a little too far. I know given the absurd nature of a film like this, the rules are limitless but I still found that plot-point kind of stupid. It did help set up some of the action in the last act, so that counts for something. I didn’t see any warning signs, or bites to one of the characters in particular which set off that chain of events. I half expected a scene showing said character getting bitten, unless it was and I just missed it?. I touched on the fact that I wanted to see more gore, and it was disappointing that most of the action sequences are left until the final act, where the ending feels really rushed. One character uses an ax in the closing stages of the film, unfortunately we don’t get to see it. That was the point where the effects team could have delivered a lot more on-screen carnage, rather than just using the sound effects to accompany the action.
I had built up Zombeavers in my head for such a long time, that I feel like there was no way it could live up to that expectation. Then I realized that it’s just that, expectation vs reality, and in reality you won’t find much better than this. It’s technically flawless and incredibly polished, made even more impressive by the fact it’s Jordan’s debut film. The characters are fun, the chemistry is natural and there’s enough gags humor-wise, and in the blood and gore to warrant recommending people purchase this one. Much like in one of my other favorites of the year “Wolfcop”, that one decision to keep it practical plays a huge part in the success and tone of the film. Who would have known that manufacturing practical, messed up looking beavers would actually work (haha). It’s quick 70 minute running time guarantees fast entertainment, watch it or don’t, either way you’ll be dammed
My rating for “Zombeavers” is 8/10