Main Cast: Rachel Melvin, Cortney Palm
Director: Jordan Rubin
I’ve been a bit at loose ends the last few days, so I toddled off to the harbor to spend a little time on the yacht.
Captain Drew was kind enough to run Normy and I out to Santa Catalina for a couple of days. Normy has been clambering the hills with a digital recorder gathering wild goat noises for his new concerto for ruminants and symphonic harp and I spent a couple of restful days at the beach and doing a photo shoot for the spring VickiWear catalog using the famous Casino as a backdrop. We have some stunning new swimwear designs for the maturing, full figured gal based on the costumes from SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical. I do so like to keep my product lines up to date.
I’d just come in to the lounge from a busy afternoon in a simply devastating Pineapple Under the Sea beach kimono and sun hat combination when Captain Drew informed me that there was an important call on the ship to shore radio. It was Joseph, my manager with exciting news. Apparently, my sensational performance as Maria in West Side Christmas Story had come to the attention of Steven Spielberg and I am now the front runner for Maria in his remake of West Side Story. Of course, it’s not likely to be as entertaining as my musical mashup with all those delightful holiday elements but it is Spielberg and I told Joseph to let them know I would cut my little holiday short and be happy to meet with them next week. A star of my magnitude no longer must do something as common as an audition but meetings to determine whether our visions of a project gel and to discuss appropriate costars are always apropos.
Normy came back from his little mountain trek and I told him the good news, so we decided to celebrate with a little Glenlivet on the rocks and then settled in with the television and a film. We turned on the Netflix and zipped through the offerings. I wanted a horror film, something to cause a little frisson and he wanted a comedy. In the end we compromised with a sort of hybrid, a horror-comedy-oddity with the unusual, but fitting title Zombeavers. I had vaguely heard of this film when it was first released in 2014 through friends who are horror film aficionados but had never had a chance to actually view it.
Zombeavers springs from the minds of writers Al and Jon Kaplan and writer/director Jordan Rubin. It apparently began life as a title that then required a movie to match. The film they devised begins with a couple of feckless technicians (comedian Bill Burr and musician John Mayer) hauling a load of toxic waste through the wooded countryside. Distracted driving, a wayward deer, and a couple of tangential tales lead to them losing a barrel of poisonous goo into the local waterway where it eventually ends up spraying green sludge all over a beaver dam. We then cut to three sorority sisters (Rachel Melvin, Cortney Palm, and Lexi Atkins) headed off to a lakeside cabin for a weekend away from boyfriends and cares, unaware that something is happening with the beaver population of the lake. They are shortly joined by their three frat bro boyfriends (Hutch Dano, Jake Weary, and Peter Gilroy) and there is much snogging followed by a relaxing dip in the lake. It doesn’t take our randy young cast too long to figure out that there are crazed glassy eyed beavers all around who chew through lake rafts, walls, telephone cords and the neighbors (Brent Briscoe and Phyllis Katz). Who will survive? Who will turn on their friends? Will the strange hunter who pops up in the woods (Rex Linn) come to the rescue in the nick of time? If you’ve seen a couple of randy young people in an isolated situation horror flicks in your time, you should be able to determine the tropes and where they’re likely to head.
I was prepared to laugh at Zombeavers as being horribly bad but ended up being pleasantly surprised. The young people are, for the most part, relatively decent actors, sketching in their stock characters with a number of endearing quirks. They all seem to know what sort of film they’re making and manage to walk the line between comedy and drama relatively skillfully. They’re helped by the script which keeps things moving along, not allowing any one scene to get too long or giving us too much time to worry about any lapses in logic, physics or biology. Jordan Rubin’s direction is also relatively fine, with subtle parodies of all sorts of horror clichés in his setups and shots. The auteurs have also added an end credits song, sung by a Sinatra impersonator, that perfectly captures the tone of the film and must be heard to be believed.
The gore (and there’s plenty of it) is treated with a certain amount of ghoulish humor. It’s not every film at which you’re inclined to giggle at an amputated foot. It’s also semi-realistic and not the over the top technicolor red blood bath you often see in slasher films. The effects are also relatively decent. The major disappointment, however, is the beavers. The majority seem to be played by a series of hand puppets and animatronic radio controlled moving fuzzballs. They’re neither especially scary or especially funny. The film works best when we don’t see them too clearly or when we see their clouded over eyes glowing in the dark around the house. I imagine that this was a concession to a miniscule budget.
Zombeavers was also notable for a brilliant viral marketing campaign where a brief YouTube video trailer was viewed more than a million times prior to its release. Unfortunately, it did not translate into much in the way of box-office in its initial release but it has found a second life in cable showings and streaming services. While there may be a market for horror comedy, those with somewhat suggestive titles don’t seem to get booked into American multiplexes. You can, however, enjoy them in the privacy of your home. I wouldn’t necessarily search this one out, but if it happens to come on one night, there’s a lot worse ways to spend ninety minutes.
Lack of cell service. Gratuitous bathroom humor. Weird neighbors. Rearing bear. Fallen trees. Gratuitous genitalia chomping. Pickup truck driven through house. Post credit bees.