Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #459
Number of Views: One
Release Date: April 19, 2014 (Tribeca Film Festival), March 20, 2015 (United States)
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 77 minutes
Director: Jordan Rubin
Producers: Evan Astrowsky, Chris Bender, Christopher Lemole
Screenplay: Al Kaplan, Jordan Rubin, Jon Kaplan
Special Effects: Greg Solomon, Yoshimi Tanaka, Antonio Carrillo
Cinematography: Jonathan Hall
Score: Al Kaplan, Jon Kaplan
Editing: Ed Marx, Seth Flaum
Studios: Armory Films, BenderSpink, Canal+
Distributor: Freestyle Releasing, Epic Pictures
Stars: Rachel Melvin, Hutch Dano, Cortney Palm, Lexi Atkins, Bill Burr, Jake Weary, Peter Gilroy , Rex Linn, Brent Briscoe, Phyllis Katz, Robert R. Shafer, John Mayer
Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫
 Official feat. Nick Amado “Zombeavers”
 Euel Box “I Feel Love (Benji’s Theme)”
 Official feat. Nick Amado “Zombeavers (Reprise)”
It seems that you can’t so much as fart publicly nowadays without attracting the attention of a zombie. George A. Romero may have thought he was doing us a favor when reinventing the undead for Night of The Living Dead and he did such a bang-up job that few attempted to follow in his footsteps. His movies were rich in social commentary, particularly his opening trifecta, and there appeared to be real method to his madness. However, somewhere along the line, zombies began to trend and, for the past decade, we have been constantly pummeled with all manner of knock-offs and affectionate nods. Edgar Wright’s Shaun of The Dead gained a wide audience and focused more on the light side of our predicament, pleasing Romero infinitely in the process. However, the floodgates were new open, and every aspiring filmmaker on the planet decided to follow his lead.
Occasionally, they get it right. The Walking Dead continues to infect thrill seekers the world over after six seasons, whereas Kiah Roache-Turner’s Wyrmwood: Road of The Dead and Marc Forster’s World War Z both fared particularly well, when offering their vision of the zombie apocalypse and its aftermath. Scientists now believe it is possible and, in our lifetimes, it is expected that we will face some kind of outbreak should we fail to heed mother nature’s numerous warnings. While this could have dire repercussions, let’s not forget that it isn’t only festering cadavers who will begin rising from their autopsy tables. What would happen if it reached the backwoods?
We’d be dealing with hordes of Zombeavers in no time. These industrious little critters largely keep themselves to themselves. They gnaw timber, construct dams, and engage in light tomfoolery but never get too over-familiar. That is, until dipped in toxic waste. Anybody who has seen Dan O’Bannon’s brilliant The Return of The Living Dead will be all too aware of the trouble and strife attached to any leaks and still the military continually blunder when transporting said noxious chemicals between points A and B. Hell, nowadays, there isn’t a colonel in sight, and the secure passage of these containers is entrusted to hicks. Jordan Rubin’s film wastes no time in spilling the bounty and, with an anorexic 77 minute runtime and time a wasting, his decision is a sound one.
Directly after the spillage, our furry vengeance seekers can be seen basking in its luminous glow, and Zombeavers are born. While we’re still marveling at the cunning play on words and wondering why we weren’t responsible for coming up with it, a trinity of hell kittens are taking their positions in a strategically placed rundown cabin in the woods and peeling off garments. The girls are clearly present for two reasons: to work on their tans and perfect their screams and we’re fine with that. You see, there’s more than one way to skin a beaver and Rubin is appreciative of any alternatives.
Before sorority sisters Mary (Rachel Melvin), Zoe (Cortney Palm), and Jenn (Lexi Atkins) can make themselves at home and power up those rampant rabbits, the boys show up and tinker with the group dynamic. Sam (Hutch Dano), Tommy (Jake Weary), and Buck (Peter Gilroy) are the kind of jocks for which crabs were commissioned. Strictly of the “fuck first, fart second, think third, scratch fourth” variety, these numbskulls actually make up numbers rather well and we soon hit the lake for some raft-based shenanigans. Having performed a head count, it would appear that the stage is set for some excessive drinking and truth or dare, maybe a dash of promiscuous sex and a bout of Chlamydia for good fortune.
Had they paid attention during Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever then perhaps they would have remained on the front porch playing backgammon but that wouldn’t have been so cotton-picking fun now would it? Mindful that the clock is ticking, Rubin brings on the beavers, and what follows is potentially the most heartbreaking demise ever committed to celluloid. Any dog lovers out there may want to look away as Benji doesn’t make it to terra firma I’m afraid. Prepare to cry a little on the inside. Here goes.
What a callous move. I was really fond of that pooch. Rubin has some explaining to do at this point as Buck had it coming just for wearing that beanie with his facial side profile, and there were two other guys just begging to take one for the team but instead our poor defenceless sacrificial mutt is forced to doggy paddle the plank straight to heaven, the place that all dogs go. Meanwhile, back at the raft, pedicures are being cancelled, and the seriousness of the threat to national park security becomes clearer than the drinking water.
“We cannot turn against each other right now. That’s exactly what the beavers would want.”
The reason why this stays afloat, while innocent terriers sink down to the algae without trace, is that Rubin and fellow screenwriters Al & Jon Kaplan are aware that the joke is potentially on them should they not play it at least marginally straight and, while parody is only ever one round of whack-a-mole away and the Zombeavers themselves resemble the puppet gophers from Caddyshack after a night on the dam, the performers uphold their straightest faces and the dreaded spoof card remains in their trouser pockets for the most part. That’s not to say that there aren’t belly laughs or at least gut chortles as the dwindling numbers attempt to fend off wave after wave of Zombeaver attack, with increasingly catastrophic results.
Barely an hour has passed and we’re hurtling towards our conclusion and this is where Rubin avoids significant pitfall. The director knows that he is standing on a stodgy dam and wisely refrains from hanging things out for any longer than absolutely necessary. If anything, the credits roll before time and that is the mark of a good time being had by all in my book. Watching Zombeavers won’t make you smarter, in fact, it’s likely you will shed IQ points. Neither will it leave any real lasting impression once the credits roll. Having said that, it knows what it is and, moreover, is aware of what it isn’t. The clue is in the title and, thus, there is no reason to feel aggrieved once you have spent just over an hour in its company. Rodney Dangerfield would be proud.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Despite the fact that the Zombeavers consist of crude hand puppets, the human transformations are supremely handled, particularly the moment when Jenn shows Mary her preferred method for oral sex and literally spits teeth to make way for her new dental plan. The practical effects are uniformly excellent throughout and, once the shit hits the fan, it’s more than happy to oscillate. Of course, 77 minutes is more than enough time for a spot of topless sun bathing, and it’s great that Rubin has got his priorities straight. He’s still not off the hook for slaughtering Benji mind.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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