[FrightFest 2014] Review: Zombeavers

2014/08/25 16:27:42 +00:00 | Becki Hawkes

Zombeavers is a film about murderous, undead beavers, and very few people would go to see a film about murderous, undead beavers expecting a subtle cinematic masterpiece.  What the film’s knowingly ludicrous premise does call for is cartoonish gore, hordes of mutated rodents, and as much “beaver” innuendo as possible. Luckily, first-time director Jordan Rubin delivers on all these counts.

The film opens with a lovely, tongue-in-cheek cliché: a rogue canister of neon green toxic waste, escaping downriver. Fast forward a few days, and a trio of Sorority sisters, Jenn, Mary and Zoe, head to a remote lakeside cabin. Before long, the girls are joined by three male counterparts: cue lots of nudity, sex, and “beaver” jokes. The first encounter with an actual beaver comes after one of the girls, Jen, finds a particularly savage specimen lurking in the bathroom. The beast is swiftly dispatched and its body left outside in a trash bag. But the next morning, the “definitely dead” beaver has disappeared, and a trail of tell-tale beaver prints lead way from the bag…

Zombeavers is a gleefully silly film, strong on visual humour. The beavers themselves are absolutely ridiculous to look at – think hairy hand puppets, with glowing, nuclear eyes; think taxidermy experiment gone very, very wrong. In one scene, a man reaches down to stroke his faithful dog, not realizing it’s been replaced by one of the rabid-eyed rodents. The moment might not sound that funny out of context. But, when you factor in the scheming appearance of the beaver, it becomes absolutely hilarious.

Zombeavers is among a slate of recent movies trying to cash-in on their ridiculous premises – everything from Dinocroc to Sharknado 2. But it’s clear that director Rubin has a lot of love and affection for the schlocky Eighties flicks the film recalls; it’s definitely more homage than parody. (Eli Roth’s first Cabin Fever, while nowhere near as silly, had the same feel to it.) Horror movie buffs will also enjoy the many sneaky horror references packed into the film, from Jaws to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

Palm, who plays Zoe, is one of the film’s strongest assets. A self-declared “bitch”, she’s a sort of knowing “anti-final girl.” Whipping her top off at the earliest opportunity,  proclaiming her love of sex, and doing everything girls in horror films aren’t supposed to do,  she subverts every stereotype,  turning the film’s Eighties homage into something much more modern and interesting.

Rubin’s film is far from flawless, of course. While the movie is great in terms of gore – it’s body-part munching beavers are everything one could wish for – it could have done with some more jumps, silly scares and tension. The pace is sometimes uneven, and, at points, it feels like the film-makers were running out of ideas: throwing in twists for the sake of twists, and extending sequences purely to fill time.

That said, Zombeavers is still a lot of fun. It might not be a perfect movie, but with its colourful, exuberant comedy and over-the-top gore, it’s a “dam” near perfect late night movie. By the time the credits start rolling and the film’s Zombeavers theme song starts to play – “say goodbye to your golden retrievers, it’s zombeavers” – most people will have raised their eyes, laughed, and happily succumbed to beaver fever.

Movie Score: 3/5