The horror genre has a proud tradition of movies conceived, produced and sold based entirely on a title. As that goes, you’ve got to admit that ‘Zombeavers’ is a damn good title. Thankfully, the movie that longtime comedy writer and first-time director Jordan Rubin delivered actually almost lives up to it.
No, ‘Zombeavers’ is not art, and yes it’s fairly derivative, but dammit, the movie offers a lot of fun. It was clearly made by people who would love to see a movie called ‘Zombeavers’, for an audience who aren’t too embarrassed to watch a movie called ‘Zombeavers’. If the title makes you giggle enough to consider a viewing, you should enjoy the hell out of the delightfully wacko creation that Rubin and company have cooked up.
On the very slim chance that the title and marketing materials for ‘Zombeavers’ didn’t already give away the tongue-in-cheek tone of the movie, that’s immediately established when comedian Bill Burr pops up to play a dingbat truck driver who is thoughtlessly responsible for dumping radioactive goo onto a beaver dam. From there, we’re introduced to a collection of randy twentysomethings (including Rachel Melvin from ‘Dumb and Dumber To’, who is quickly establishing herself as a master of dumbbell heroines) heading out to a cabin in the woods for a good old-fashioned sex, booze and drug party where nothing could possibly go wrong. We also meet a handful of local rednecks who will soon be bloody carnage fodder. Before you know it, a zombeaver pops up in the cabin and bites one of the sexy young things. From there, the cast has to fight off a number of zombeaver attacks. In a clever twist, if they any of them get bit and infected, they also start to resemble zombified beavers themselves. Cue a slapstick bloodbath filled with jump scares, gore effects and plenty of laughs.
Co-writer/director Rubin is clearly a fan of low-budget horror schlock and knows exactly what tone to pitch his ridiculous movie at. Make no mistake, this comedy-horror film isn’t meant to be taken seriously for a second. And yet, unlike so many irritating and failed horror comedies, it’s also wise enough to know just how much to play straight and how much to play silly. The actors rarely perform like they’re cartoon characters in a parody. They try to lend the film as much reality as possible in such a silly endeavor. While that might lower the laugh count, it helps the movie as a whole.
There’s no danger of this redonkulous romp giving you nightmares, but it’s played just straight enough for the shocks and jumps to work. You’ll laugh hysterically at the excessive nature of everything on screen, but you’ll also find yourself invested enough to get a couple shocks and feel like you’ve watched a real horror movie. It sounds very simple, but that balance is actually very difficult to achieve. Rubin and his team may not have set their sights particularly high when they set out to make a movie called ‘Zombeavers’, but they committed to the concept and made it the best that something called ‘Zombeavers’ could possibly be.
Production values are fairly slick. It’s a stylish little movie, if not something that feels sumptuously stylish like an ‘Evil Dead’ entry or one of Peter Jackson’s early flicks (which were clearly massive influences on this insanity). ‘Zombeavers’ serves up the type of exploitation nonsense defined by the ‘Sharknados’ of the world, only it’s been made by people who actually like horror-comedies and want to make the best damn zombie beaver movie they can. The makeup and prosthetic effects are all quite good, finding just the right balance between campy corniness and genuinely impressive grue.
‘Zombeavers’ is no masterpiece or even a new genre classic. However, it’s one of those rare title-driven monster movie cheapies that will actually give audiences everything they want and a little extra cleverness for good measure. This is a true B-movie that’s far better than it has any right to be and will hopefully seduce enough trash-loving gorehounds into falling for its weirdo charms. If Jordan Rubin sets his sights a little higher than the bottom of the barrel next time, he just might make a genuine cult movie like the ones that so clearly inspired him to get into directing in the first place.