When a group of college kids take a vacation at a riverside cabin, little do they know a swarm of deadly zombie beavers have taken an interest in them. A weekend of sex and debauchery soon turns gruesome as the beavers close in on the kids. Now they must fight for their lives and find a way to fend off this pack of relentless, bloodthirsty mutant beavers.
Zombeavers is a horror comedy that pulls a modicum of effort to dig its savage claws of satire into the old dead-teenager format. A group of drunk teenagers venture to a northern cabin for sexual congress while a horde of zombie beavers descend on their fun. With its ludicrous stupidity of survival and all too obvious puppet beavers, this is type of campy horror picture that would be destined for riffing if it were made earnestly in the 1980’s. But when a film like Zombeavers becomes so self-aware of its own silliness, the comedic effect of trying to stab a puppet beaver becomes watered down.
There’s nothing all that new for this predictable tale of zombified beavers in the woods. Two dolts spill some toxic waste on the road and barrel makes contact with a beaver dam. It’s your standard setup, but there’s some fun lines by the two inept truck drivers (one of them played by Bill Burr). They have some comedic back-and-forth of strange small talk that makes the scene just a little more playful than it should be. The two of them don’t seem to care that they lose a barrel of toxic waste and neither did I. To tell the truth, a movie about the unwitting truckers who make big mistakes that lead to zombies and mutants is far more entertaining than the monsters they spawn. Hopefully they can spin-off into their own film as they’re the most hilarious characters who have the least amount of screen time.
The rest of the lengthy setup is, again, nothing original for staging zombie kills. Three guys and three girls convene at a cabin with no cell phone services, no local authorities, a wisely conservative hunter and the feuding old couple across the dirt road. As the film slogs through introducing the characters and the setting before the first zombie beaver pops up, there are several attempts at garnering laughs which go just a bit too far. When the girls first arrive at the cabin, they’re greeted by old woman and end up blurting out their sexual activities. Though they try to be nice by trying to pass as virgins, the old lady doesn’t mind such explorations. She then spins a longer than expected story about how her daughter would bring home odd mates of indeterminate gender, but doesn’t figure herself one to judge too harshly. The joke itself isn’t a terrible idea, but the delivery and timing leave much to be desired.
But nobody cares about the inane ramblings of horny teens and backwoods locals, lukewarmly satirical though they may be. Deeper into the picture we finally get to the zombie beavers and they’re just as goofy as you’d expect from practical effects. The undead critters break through walls, gnaw off limbs and even pull the cartoonish nature of intentionally knocking down trees to murder. With hardly any computer graphics utilized, these puppet creatures make their technical limitations known for the sake of comedy. Not that the whole premise is already silly given that such small pests would be dangerous killers with zombie abilities. There’s that genius moment when one of the teens realize that they can just kick the beavers. The teens later try to stab the zombie beavers that attempt to break through the walls, but merely fake stab them the way they don’t want to damage the puppets too badly. Such scenes brought back memories of Full Moon movies where characters would ineffectively pretend to be terrorized by puppets. The difference being that Full Moon’s failures were earnest and Zombeavers celebrates its budgeted scope.
This would all make for a great horror comedy, but a little of it goes a long way. The first time you see the kids fake-stab a zombie beaver, it’s laugh worthy. The second and third time, the charm is gone. I’ll give the writers and director credit for at least pulling a handful of amusing elements for this concept. There’s a spectacular reveal that when a human is bit by a zombie beaver, they themselves transform into anthropomorphic beaver zombies. Again, it’s amazing to see this development at first with the growing fingernails, rabid eyes and massive buck teeth. Three more times and I’m tired with it.
While Zombeavers deserves some credit for bringing forth a giddy twist on creature features, it’s lacking that extra bit of absurdity to be the real horror comedy it deserves to be. As a strange little B-movie to throw on at a party with a few beers, it’s not a bad recommendation at all. But after the initial shock and booze wears off, there just isn’t too much else to be entertained by such a premise. You can see bits of genius here and there with possibly one of the best teen sex scenes that ends with a brutal death that ends with a devoured crotch. If there were just a little more of that playing on convention - that fearlessness to satire every inch of the genre for all its worth - I could’ve had the honor of being able to recommend a film like Zombeavers outside of relating its appeal to Sharknado.