Directed by Jordan Rubin
If there’s one thing that can be said about Zombeavers, it’s that nobody’s going to ask “What’s that about?” when you tell them you’re watching it. Yes – zombie beavers, folks. We’ve reached that point. Fortunately, this isn’t some Syfy or Asylum attempt at livening up the zombie genre, but a decently entertaining and self-aware piece of schlocky nonsense.
In an attempt to help her get over the recent discovery of her boyfriend’s infidelity, college girl Jenn (Atkins) is taken by her friends Mary (Melvin) and Zoe (Palm) to a lakeside cabin for a weekend of drinking, fun and heart-to-heart girl time. At the same time, a wayward barrel of toxic waste has made its way downstream and lodged, spraying its contents in the process, right against a beaver dam on the lake outside. Unexpected by the girls, their boyfriends – including Jenn’s now ex – have taken it upon themselves to attend the shindig anyway, and so the scene is set for the usual bunch of college kids besieged in a secluded cabin shenanigans.
From the off, Zombeavers is a strangely endearing piece of work. It’s obviously low budget, but relishes the fact instead of trying to hide it. The puppet/animatronic beavers are unapologetically ridiculous, and it works in the film’s favour; they really are a hilarious sight in action, busting through the planks of a raft or cabin floorboards. Even the low-rent hand puppets used to break through boarded up windows are presented in a knowingly humorous manner. There’s an irreverent tone to the majority of the film, though it does become slightly more serious once the effects of a zombie beaver bite on a human become known – and yes, that does mean that you’ll be seeing human/beaver zombie hybrids running amok (amongst other mixtures!)
Director Jordan Rubin comes across as an obvious horror fan, chucking in a few references here and there in both dialogue and action (one particular death references John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ with a subtlety that will raise a smile for those who notice it), and this apparent familiarity with the genre leaves him capable of keeping things moving at a lively pace while delivering the gore and monster mayhem. Unfortunately, the script does little with the core characters, relegating them to various archetypes with subsequent dialogue and behaviours that are so basic you could almost recite the script of any given scene without even having seen it. There’s very little surprising in the words coming out of the actors’ mouths, though the various verbal touches of humour still manage to work – but only just. What it does right, though, is the order and manner in which it offs the various characters. You’ll likely be shocked, given genre tropes, just who bites it and when.
Zombeavers isn’t great, but it is a good deal of fun, offering up a decent number of laughs, crazy situations, zany creature effects (all of the evil beaver eyes lighting up in the dark is a brilliant touch) and some nice gore. It doesn’t hang around for too long, and thus doesn’t stretch the gimmick to breaking point. A viewing would likely serve better if watched with a raucous crowd, but you’ll still need to consider your own tolerance for stupidity. Honestly, it’s a silly film about zombie beavers that comes and goes without a whole ton of impact. If you aren’t in the mood for that, then forget it.
With more work on the character and dialogue front, Zombeavers could have hit the cult classic big time, but it misses the mark too widely there to make it anything more than fluff. It does get an extra half knife, however, for the absolutely brilliant crooner-style ‘Zombeavers’ song that plays over the end credits.