Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel “THE I IN EVIL”, and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
Stream to Scream: “ZOMBEAVERS”Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
When it comes to a film like Jordan Rubin’s ZOMBEAVERS, where do you start but with the title? Obviously, many who see the film will immediately expect FULL MOON level camp at best, especially since the world of Syfy Originals has propelled animal horror into dull parody territory over the past decade. However, don’t let the punny, funny title fool you: ZOMBEAVERS is a full-fledged monster movie, with some genuinely awesome FX work as well as a firm sense of self-awareness that never derails the narrative. And furthermore, rather than desperately attempting to be a throwback or be too referential, ZOMBEAVERS decides to tell an original creature feature story that also works as an irreverent contemporary horror comedy in its own right.
For those unfamiliar, ZOMBEAVERS follows a trio of women who go up to a lakeside cabin for a weekend following one of the women’s messy break-up with her philandering ex-boyfriend. However, unbeknownst to them, the women run into several unexpected guests, the first being their respective significant others (including the aforementioned ex-boyfriend) who crash their summer getaway, as well as locals who are less than receptive to their skinny dipping and partying. And then there’s the most unexpected guests of all: beavers who have become ravenous zombies after a toxic waste spill that happens coincidentally on the eve of our lead’s arrival.
While there is plenty about ZOMBEAVERS that is conceptually over-the-top, the film never quite treats the material like camp, instead trying to let the humor and the horror compliment one another organically. Part of why ZOMBEAVERS works so well is because the zombeavers, and their subsequent “creations,” are presented as a legitimate threat, and the film’s exceptional gore and creature FX really sells that threat. And ZOMBEAVERS also works by pulling no punches: if you think that there’s an outrageous zombie trope that won’t be adapted to fit the creature feature model, you’re dead wrong.
On a technical level, ZOMBEAVERS is also quite impressive as well, rarely resorting to CGI and allowing the more-than-capable behind-the-scenes crew achieve some frightening feats. Much credit is owed to the script by Rubin as well as co-writers Jon & Al Kaplan, who decide to go ambitious as possible with the concept within a reasonable budget, and the results absolutely show on screen to make the film feel like a well-rounded feature as opposed to a one-note sketch stretched out to fill a whole movie. The FX from Mark Rappaport, VFX from Rick Sander and make-up FX from Greg Solomon work together seamlessly throughout to really bring the movie’s bloodier and more bizarre aspects to life as well. And luckily, Rubin- who proves himself an effective and incredibly confident director- has Jonathan Hall’s excellent cinematography, on-spot editing from Ed Marx and, of course, an almost interactive score from the Kaplan Brothers to help bring his twisted and hilarious vision to the screen.
The film also works with how well the cast rolls with the concept, all of whom feel aware of the ridiculous film they’re in but never playing the concept or the insane developments for laughs. Cortney Palm, Rachel Melvin and Lexi Atkins are actually great and fully committed as the three women at the center of the film, each selling the melodrama as well as the humor and terror of the film perfectly. While they certainly have less to do, Hutch Dano, Jake Weary and Peter Gilroy jump between concerned, scared and comic relief effectively as well, while Rex Linn is hilariously on-point as the gun-toting. And in the most outwardly humorous roles in the film, Bill Burr and John Mayer set the tone for the film as incompetent truckers responsible for the toxic spill in ZOMBEAVER’s opening scene.
For those going into ZOMBEAVERS expecting something like SCARY MOVIE, THE GINGERDEAD MAN or SHARKNADO, you may be pleasantly surprised about how much director Jordan Rubin decides to subvert those expectations and deliver a rather straightforward and superb horror comedy. While the film does embrace its concept and some of the more strange twists and turns one would hope for in a zombie beaver movie, ZOMBEAVERS is also committed to being something the audience should laugh with as opposed to laugh at. And above all else, the movie is just really goddamn fun, after which I can’t imagine a horror hound who wouldn’t want to see these furry frighteners return for a splattery sequel.
ZOMBEAVERS is now streaming on Netflix Instant.