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June 28, 2015

Zombeavers

by Franz Patrick


Zombeavers (2014)
★★ / ★★★★

Mary (Rachel Melvin), Zoe (Cortney Palm), and Jenn (Lexi Atkins), sorority sisters, decide to have a weekend getaway at a cabin in the country. Right next to the cabin is a lake where beavers have made a dam. The girls are unaware that the beavers that swim there have been exposed to a biohazard material quite recently and this toxic compound has made the beavers rabid-looking. Soon, the girls encounter these deranged-looking beavers—which prove very difficult to kill. The hospital is about thirty miles away.

“Zombeavers,” directed by Jordan Rubin, is ridiculous, cheesy, gory, nonsensical at times, occasionally very funny—and proud of these traits. We get exactly what we expect from the horror-comedy sub-genre with a playful title. At the same time, however, I wished it had been more willing to surprise, whether it be how certain characters are treated or when it comes to the biology or physiology of these so-called zombeavers. Also, the third act could use a bit of work.

I made an incorrect assumption with respect to who the final girl was going to be. Mary, Zoe, and Jenn are not exactly the stereotypical “good” girls so it makes guessing a bit more challenging. Do we go for the girl who had been cheated on by her boyfriend, the girl who insists that they have a “no boys weekend” so they can bond, or the punk-rock girl who has something dirty or inappropriate to say every two minutes? I liked these characters. I was surprised that the screenplay by Al Kaplan, Jordan Rubin, and Jon Kaplan does not simply treat them as bodies to be slaughtered.

The zombeavers look more like giant rats than actual beavers. I was okay with this. I was never scared by how they looked like but just about each time they made an appearance, I could not help but be amused. They are obviously animatronic objects of some sort but this is preferred over CGI. I enjoyed that there is a texture to these zombeavers rather than simply looking glossy or fake. It is difficult to pull off CGI in horror films and the filmmakers here seem to be aware of such a limitation. In a way, it is good that the budget is limited. Otherwise, a less effective movie might have resulted.

The first few attacks are executed nicely. A standout involves the girls and their boyfriends (Hutch Dano, Jake Weary, Peter Gilroy) being attacked by the rabid beavers on a raft. Beavers are not only great swimmers but they are quite good at chewing wood. It is very “Jaws”-like in that we get a real feeling that there is little to no chance at escaping. The way they manage to escape is so wrong yet genius.

As with many horror-comedies, one has to be in the mood for this kind of picture. The dialogue is sophomoric, the special effects are cheap-looking, and the premise is outrageous. But why see it? Because everyone involved is willing to go all the way. Because some of it works, the ones that do not become an afterthought.

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