Let the Sunshine In
The film’s confidence comes in part from the acceptance of the things that can’t be known.
First, and foremost: "Zombeavers" is exactly what it sounds like, a stoner-friendly horror-comedy about undead beavers. This needs over-stating since high-concept humor doesn't get higher than this. Rest assured, "Zombeavers" could have been great—for what its title promises. If you give money to see a film "Zombeavers," you will get what the title promises. For some, that may be enough. I confess: it is a wacky concept. But you can only bask in the warm glow of a silly concept for so long, and that's saying something given the 77-minute runtime of the flesh-eating aquatic mammal opus in question. "Zombeavers" is the kind of comedy whose greatest innovation is in its title, a play on words that suggests both a flesh-eating dam-builder, and a deathless female body part. That joke is tellingly flogged like the proverbial dead horse throughout "Zombeavers," a comedy that sounds much funnier than it actually is.
It's all down-hill after two Cheech-and-Chong-esque schlubs, played by song-writer John Mayer and comedian Bill Burr, make inane (but funny, in an unclean, midnight-movie kind of way) small-talk about, amongst other things, their dalliances with homosexuality ("I hear a lot of myself in this story"). They then have an accident, and a canister of hazardous chemicals is accidentally let loose on an unsuspecting population of beavers. Shortly after this, a trio of bratty best friends, including Mary (Rachel Melvin) and Zoe (Cortney Palm), retreat to a nearby cabin in the woods in hopes of helping one of their own—Jenn (Lexi Atkins), the sympathetic one—get over her unfaithful boyfriend Sam (Hutch Dano). But Sam catches up with Jenn, and brings along Buck (Peter Gilroy) and Tommy (Jake Weary), Mary and Zoe's respective boyfriends. Then zombeavers strike.
You can't really get mad at "Zombeavers" for having a wispy plot, and insubstantial characterizations. Not immediately, anyway. The film's biggest mis-step is a pseudo-shocking twist that requires you to think of a barely-there character as more than just a place-holder protagonist. But for the most part, "Zombeavers" isn't really about human characters. If anything, it's a waste of perfectly good monster puppets. The film's creature effects are its best selling point, all claws, buck teeth, and milky-white, pupil-less eyes. They're not consistently well-used though, especially in scenes where they're lurking in shadows, waiting to attack. The first time this happens, they look like off-brand Muppets. But each time they repeat this visual gag, they look...well, the same. Nothing changes, and that's kind of a problem in a movie whose main strength is its novelty.
Unfortunately, novelty is also "Zombeavers"' only strength. The film's tongue-in-cheek "Night of the Living Dead"-esque scenario is lazily sketched-out, and the film's creators fail to do anything memorable with gun-toting neighbor Smyth (Rex Lynn), or the film's secluded, lake-side setting. The one time the film perks up is a nasty but effective scene of animal cruelty. The rest of the time the film flirts with, but never really commits to a concern with the sisterly ties that bind its heroines. Since Sam and his guy friends are programmatically obsessed with sexing their girlfriends, and avoiding zombeaver bites, the film burdens Mary and her friends with carrying the film.
Preliminary scenes where the girls bond suggest that the film's creators have either never talked to girls, or simply do not relish their company. One pointed exchange ends with a girl lamenting "Why are girls so attracted to such assholes?" Another ends with the women cursing their lack of social media access: "I haven't gone more than 25 hours without Instagram since before there was an Instagram." These clueless exchanges don't look benign once Ben and his friends establish that "beaver" is another way of saying "vagina," thereby giving them a mandate to titter at, and endlessly set each other up for jokes about furry wood-munchers. These jokes would be funny if they weren't the stuff that frat boys' dreams are made of.
But that's pretty much the long and short of "Zombeavers," a tedious comedy with a funny title. The film's animal attack scenes aren't suspenseful, the human characters are boring, and the jokes aren't funny. It's a gross-out comedy that works on that level, but does nothing else right. So instead of renting or venturing out-of-doors to see "Zombeavers," remember: you don't have to do this. There are a myriad other forms of goony-looking entertainment available to you, and many of them are as silly as "Zombeavers." Might I suggest "Food of the Gods?" Or perhaps Peter Jackson's early comedies, particularly "Dead Alive" and "Bad Taste?" 77 minutes may not seem like a major time commitment, but trust me: you can do a lot better than "Zombeavers."
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