Saturday, March 19, 2016

Zombeavers (USA, 2014)

Let's get down to it, you can't really fault a movie with a title like Zombeavers 'cause, like what? You expect the directorial talent of Orson Welles and don't find it? You miss the thespian abilities of actors like Meryl Streep or Samuel L. Jackson? The tight scriptwriting of the Coen Brothers? Jesus Christ, we're talking about a movie entitled Zombeavers, not cinematic fine art.
With a title like Zombeavers, you know what you're getting: trash that aims to be brainless, bloody, and funny entertainment. The only question is whether the flick sucks (it doesn't) or is any fun (it is, mostly). Zombeavers might be flawed, and it isn't anywhere near as brilliant as the classic bloodbath comedies Brain Dead (1992 / German trailer), the eternally underrated Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010), or even the lesser classic Return of the Living Dead (1985 / trailer), but it is far more fun than tedious and, oddly enough, has a lot of charm. It definitely gets two thumbs up from us.
But then again, we did watch this movie a week after we tortured ourselves with another teen exploiter with an equally ridiculous title, Teenage Caveman (2002), so perhaps our enjoyment of Zombeavers was tempered by the vile experience of the earlier film. Both shared many elements aside from the idiotic titles: young protagonists, exploitive nudity, sex, bad acting, an obvious low budget, violence, and gore. But whereas the older film generated nary a laugh and left us feeling oddly filthy, Zombeavers kept us in a good mood from the go, surprised us more than once, and all its sex and nudity was so ridiculous that it worked more as a source of off-color humor than as ephebophiliac exploitation (the girls at least look like young adults). People may die left and right, but rather unlike Teenage Caveman, Zombeavers isn't really a mean movie — despite scenes like that of a bloodily bitten-off male appendage of personality-forming importance.
The plot is typically mundane: three college gal-pals of equal attractiveness but varying annoyance, Mary (Rachel Melvin of Boo [2005]), Zoe (Cortney Palm of Silent Night [2012 / trailer]), and Jenn (Lexi Atkins), depart for a weekend alone at a cabin owned by Mary's cousin located next to a beaver-damned lake. Though meant as weekend for the gals, boyfriends current and soon-to-be past, Buck (Hutch Dano), Tommy (Jake Weary of Altitude [2012 / trailer] and It Follows [2014 / trailer]), and Sam (Peter Gilroy), show up and the fodder number rises to six college students, plus two neighbors, a dog or two, and a local hunter, Smyth (Rex Linn). As for the beavers, a funny pre-credit sequence reveals their origin: the typical lost canister of some mysterious chemical.
In other words, nothing overly creative or new about the basic setting, but the fun comes with what they do within this generic framework. The opening scene leading up to the loss of the canister, for example, has some surprisingly intelligent and funny dialog culminating in a bumper full of blood. This in turn segues into a surprisingly well-made credit sequence (inspired, perhaps by the credit sequence of Catch Me If You Can [2002 / trailer]) which, combined with the prologue opening scene, does a lot to raise one's expectations.
True, when then we meet our heroines we are promptly confronted with acting and dialogue so bad that one fears that the worst expectations might prove founded, but luckily the next relatively weak 10 minutes fly past quickly enough and Zombeavers catches the curve and becomes surprisingly entertaining and enjoyable. And best of all: it is ridiculously funny without being completely stupid.
Though there are a few highpoints of gore humor — e.g., the ending of the opening sequence, a lesbian-come-on scene gone wrong, and the previously mentioned male appendage scene — Zombeavers is far less bloody than it could've been. In general, but for the prolog conversation between the two delivery men losers, the situational or visual jokes work better than those based on dialog. Logic doesn't really play all that important of a role, and all characterization is based cardboard stereotypes and archetypes, but had the film concentrated on either it would probably have been far less entertaining.
A major plus point is the total lack of CGI and, in turn, reliance on entertainingly cheesy animatronic models for the beavers, which in all truth are about as convincing as the rug-wearing dogs in the trash classic, The Killer Shrews (1959). (Unlike in that entertaining flick, however, the beavers here aren't meant to be taken seriously.) About the only times the effects don't really work on either a cheesy or gory level are in the nighttime scenes of a yard full of glowing eyes: here, the achieved look actually looks as if it were not intentional.
As a whole, Zombeavers's 77 minutes go by at a pleasant pace. The film doesn't overstay its welcome, but also doesn't feel rushed. The narrative just throws in everything expected (and a few things more) without meandering. Most of the humor won't win any awards, but as puerile as it often is, it still makes you laugh, giggle, or at least smile, even as you cringe at the thought of what is transpiring. And for being such one-note characters, a few actually become likeable; something due, perhaps, to the fact that as characters, most seem to actually care about each other.
Zombeavers: the title reveals the intelligence of the concept, but not how much fun the movie is. There are better blood-drenched zomcoms there — re: Peter Jackson's Brain Dead — but this one here is perfectly acceptable for a fun evening. Grab the beer, chips, and joint and enjoy a movie that delivers exactly what it promises. (How often does that happen in this modern world?)

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