Just about everything you need to know about Zombeavers is right there in the title. Zombie beavers (should) sound ridiculous, and so it’s a ridiculous movie that follows, strangely capturing your attention for some 70-odd minutes of bloody shenanigans.
The story is lifted from a horror template: a group of co-eds are joined by their obnoxious beaus at a cabin retreat where toxic waste has infected some local rodents, and thus mayhem ensues. That’s it. So it is with equal parts earnestness and absurdity that Zombeavers declares itself a feature film, dedicating itself to actual characters and a simple plot while trying to maintain a straight face with antagonists in the form of killer beavers.
It starts hilariously enough, as a pair of truckers exchange snappy, vulgar dialogue while not at all paying attention to the road. Rather, the driver isn’t giving heed, and when an accident occurs, there goes a barrel of precariously unsafe toxic waste into a nearby stream, at the end of which a beaver’s dam awaits.
Cut to a trio of slender co-eds making a trip to a rural house on a lake adjacent to this soiled habitat, and we quickly have a low budget film in the vein of Shark Night and Lake Placid that The Cabin in the Woods would make fun of (while simultaneously embracing).
All the boxes are checked. We’ve girls swimming topless, jock dudes being insufferable, friends teasing each other, and then lots of gore and running and jumping and screaming and fighting. The sextet of potential victims is all made by rote too. There is a raunchy harlot, the prude, and the nerd among the women, while for the men there is the alpha bro, the apologetic cheater, and another one who just fades into the background.
They are all unknown young actors and actresses in the main roles (though Cortney Palm was the titular characters in Sushi Girl, which also screened at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival). You really hope though that one of them will make it big though, just so we can look back on the start of a career that saw them run from possessed beavers.
What’s most rewarding in this entertaining, outrageous creature feature is that Zombeavers actually tries to develop characters, albeit in very tightly-laced stereotypes. What it allows to happen is the creation of alliances so that the audience can get behind one character or another and root for them to not die – because after all, most of these kids are goners.
Jordan Rubin directs this ludicrous film with what is clearly a shoestring budget. The zombeavers look pretty well ridiculous and fake (granted, they seem the hardest to pull off), but the effects seem to get better towards a wild finale, and there is plenty of blood and gore along the way. This isn’t the Evil Dead remake by any means, but blood will flow and beavers will bite.
It doesn’t ask for a lot of time, but Zombeavers does hold your attention throughout, and would definitely be buoyed by joining in with a large viewing audience. There is surprisingly more than a bit of wit to the dialogue, even though the characters are forced to say some incredibly dumb things and offer exceedingly banal exposition. Rubin writes the film alongside brothers Jon and Al Kaplan, which begs the question: it took three people to write this?
Zombeavers does have its moments, but those are more in barbs and silly asides that really don’t fit in the film, while every conversation about relationships is cringe worthy. And of course, there are plenty of sexual puns about the titular rodent.
Thankfully, mercifully, Zombeavers does go to some outrageous places aside from the obvious title implications. Just when it seems like it’s about to stall, it becomes a genuinely action-packed and bloody thriller that leaves you wondering who will fight to the end.
That it can draw you in, that you actually sort of believe in some of what is happening, is an incredible triumph by the film. It’s a clear and present B-horror comedy, but just seems both so hard-working and so sincere in what it is trying to do, in part because it can’t really get to the levels it wants to reach. It’s like a cute puppy that tries to overcome an obstacle but entertainingly keeps falling back down.
A puppy, yes, Or a beaver, I suppose.
Zombeavers is both outrageous and genuine; well, mostly. It takes its simple premise to the furthest possible conclusion, offering laughs, blood and surprises along the way.