2014 – A delightfully typical horror movie cast travels to an isolated lake cabin, never suspecting that a medical waste spill has turned the local beaver population into ravenous zombies.
Let’s face it: zombies, like the vampires, ninjas, and pirates came before them, are played out. They enjoyed their time as a clever metaphor for a shambling, soulless society and even got a renaissance as the monster of choice for hipsters everywhere. But now we’ve been saturated by zombie horror, zombie comedy, and zombie TV shows. The zombie genre as a whole is in definite need of a rest or recharge.
Zombeavers gives the zombie a much-needed jolt by combining it with the cheesy killer animal. Night of the Lepus introduced us to the killer rabbit and Beginning of the End gave us the killer grasshopper, so why not beavers? The titular zombie beavers make a surprisingly credible threat, especially when they are revealed to be able to “pass on” their infection like any other zombie. My main concern was that it would turn out to be one of those movies that tries to be bad (or is conscious of its own mediocrity) and spoils whatever innocent charm it might otherwise have possessed, but in that regard it was a pleasant surprise. Aside from the absurd-sounding premise, Zombeavers plays like a good old-fashioned monster/slasher film.
The characters start off as pretty basic stereotypes (the chaste blonde, the brunette best friend, the slut, the douche, the jock, the prankster), but they evolve into pretty real, likable people (for the most part). Toward the end of the movie, I forgot that it was a pack of rabid beavers chasing them and really started to hope that certain characters survived. The script slips in plenty of surprises – for instance, just try and guess who the “final girl” will turn out to be. There were several times during the climactic scenes that I just sat back and uttered a genuine “WOW.”
Opening credit sequences get pretty short shrift these days, but Zombeavers provides an excellent one – sinister cartoon beavers menacing our Scooby Doo-esque gang of protagonists – with a pretty decent soundtrack. The makeup and special effects are minimal but well-done, with the animatronic beavers being a particular highlight. After being battered with fake CGI monsters for so long, having real, substantial creatures is a relief. The puppets and robots may not look entirely convincing, but the cast can at least touch and interact with them. What filmmakers don’t realize is that the human eye can detect CGI very easily when paired with real actors. It really destroys the subconscious sense that “this is real” when you can tell that the threat doesn’t even exist and the actors are fighting balls on sticks (see any of the new Star Wars movies or The Hobbit series).
One complaint: there are far, FAR too many penis shots in horror movies nowadays. The human male weiner is by far the last thing I want to see in any movie, and there were a couple of them shoved right into my face. The weiner : run-time ratio was way outta wack. Coming hot on the heels of a truly gut-wrenching penis shot in the disappointing WolfCop, I feel like I’ve swallowed just about all the weiners I can take.
Add this to your Netflix queue post-haste, and maybe pair it with Grabbers for a great double-feature.