It’s that time of year again! Time to celebrate the Resurrection with a weeklong plunge into all things zombie! Here’s the history: In 2008, Dr. Girlfriend and I decided to spend a week or so each year marathoning through zombie films that we’d never seen before and I would blog short reviews. And simple as that, the Easter Zombie Movie Marathon was born.
Well, Friday night began with a couple of misfires. The first film we watched, The Last Light, had been grouped with zombie films on Amazon and sounded sufficiently zombie-oriented, but instead it was a cliché-ridden meditation on death and dying with nice cinematography and good performances from the likes of Edward Furlong, Ed Quinn, and the always excellent Jeff Fahey. Writer/Director Andrew Hyatt could have made this a bit less predictable, but instead, it’s obvious almost from the start what’s going on. It’s still worth a look if you like existential angst and the never-realized threat of monsters roaming the earth.
Anyway, there were no zombies. So that was 90 minutes wasted for this project!
Then we tried to watch Collapse, but the first ten minutes were riddled with poor sound and while it might be interesting, we just weren’t grabbed by it. This despite being written and co-directed by someone called Insane Mike Saunders and featuring an guest appearance by Scream Queen Linnea Quigley. The opening was very, very serious and we just weren’t in the mood for serious. We’ll probably come back to this one in the future.
So we called an audible and queued up a film that we thought would probably be awful, but should at least be fun. As it turns out Zombeavers may be the most fun we’ve had this Easter and isn’t awful at all.
Zombeavers comes from the creative minds behind Silence! The Musical and the series of Schwarzenegger musicals that found their way around the internet over the past few years, Jon and Al Kaplan (here’s a link to their YouTube channel legolambs) along with first time feature-film director Jordan Rubin. Rubin has written a ton of things for television over the past fifteen years, and the trio put their heads together to come up with a zombie comedy like no other (although New Zealand zombie sheep film Black Sheep comes close).
The film opens with a scene that I feel like I’ve seen before. I don’t know from where, but it was very familiar. What wasn’t familiar was the surprise guest appearance of John Mayer making his film debut as creepy trucker Luke. His banter with Bill Burr, another welcome surprise, was foul, perverse, and perfect. And thanks to an unfortunate deer in the road, a barrel of toxic shit bounces free from their truck, landing in the river, where it ends up lodged in a beaver dam.
Cut to three incredibly cute, if a little on the skinny side, twenty-somethings on their way out to a cabin in the woods for a boy-free weekend. Guess what lake by a cabin is filled with toxic-waste-transformed animatronic zombie beavers?
Honestly, if you’re put off by the classic exploitation elements of titties and gore and young people being massacred, then just keep walking, because this is a gumbo of those things with a gaggle of animatronic zombie beavers thrown in for flavor.
If you noticed, yes, I am repeating animatronic zombie beavers again and again because these ain’t no silly CG monsters. We’re talking physical puppets and robots that interact with the actors in real life on-set.
That’s the shit right there.
I understand that CG is fairly cheap these days, depending on what you’re doing (blood splatter, exploding heads, etc.) but there’s way too much reliance on it for a lot of stuff being made these days. It’s incredibly refreshing to see some animatronic zombie beavers alongside some half-naked (and sometimes naked) young ladies covered in liberal amounts of blood and gore.
It takes me back to my youth (except for the beaver part).
So while there’s not a lot to say thematically about the film, as most of its runtime is spent giving us the gift of skinny girls in bikinis and a ton of sexual innuendo (and not so innuendo); eventually, boys show up and then there’s sex, guilt, emotions, and stuff that actually works to make us care, if only a bit, for the characters. In fact, there’s an interesting emotional complexity to a few of the characters and it really works well.
Then people start turning in zombie were-beavers and I was in heaven.
Ultimately, Zombeavers ends up being an interesting take on sexploitation horror and gives us an unexpected Final Girl that forces us to reevaluate some more shallow characterizations from earlier in the film. There’s some love and devotion on display before everything plays out, which was nearly as refreshing as the animatronic zombie beavers.