You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Tribeca Film Review: ‘Zombeavers’

Toxic waste and cute, fluffy beavers make for a lethal combination in this wan, one-note horror parody.

Bill Burr, Hutch Dano, Rachel Melvin, Courtney Palm, Rex Linn, Jake Weary, Brent Briscoe, Robert R. Shafer, Peter Gilroy, Lexi Atkins, Phyllis Katz.

If Sam Raimi and Jim Henson had dreamed up a movie together … well, it wouldn’t have looked very much like “Zombeavers,” though you can tell that’s the target director Jordan Rubin was vaguely aiming for with his well-meaning but wan, title-tells-all horror parody. An inspired idea in search of better gags and actors with even an iota of Bruce Campbell’s rubber-limbed elan, this debut feature for standup and sketch-comedy vet Rubin is not without flashes of ingenuity, but the one-joke premise wears thin even before the mercifully brief 76-minute running time is up. Still, the pic’s title alone will ensure a certain amount of attention on the midnight and genre circuits, if not any larger, “Sharknado”-sized penetration of the zeitgeist.

We begin on a rural stretch of Indiana highway, where a couple of doofus truck drivers transporting hazardous medical waste plow into a deer and send one barrel of toxic green goo tumbling down an embankment, straight into the lair of some cute, fluffy beavers. Cut to: a trio of sorority sisters — brunette Zoe (Courtney Palm), blonde Jenn (Lexi Atkins) and redhead Mary (Rachel Melvin) — heading down the highway en route to a girls’ weekend at Mary’s lakeside cabin. This was to have been a couples’ retreat, until Zoe discovered that her boyfriend, Sam (ex-Disney Channel star Hutch Dano), was cheating on her and her friends jettisoned their own significant others in solidarity. That does not, however, stop said horny frat boys (including Sam) from turning up at the lake anyway and sweet-talking their way in.

At this point, Rubin and sibling screenwriters Al and Jon Kaplan unleash the zombeavers — first by land (in the cabin bathroom, of course), then by sea (during an ill-advised group dip in the lake, complete with underwater beaver-cam). The toxified beavers themselves, admirably rendered as animatronic puppets rather than via CGI, are adorably disgusting in a retro, Troma Studios sort of way, complete with a guttural growl that sounds like the Muppets’ Animal with a bad case of acid reflux. But having dropped that particular veil, “Zombeavers” effectively has nowhere left to go, and one is left to wonder if a more successful film might not have been made from the beavers’ own p.o.v.

Rubin and company have clearly made a close study of Raimi’s original “Evil Dead” (and its inspired, latter-day successor “Cabin in the Woods”) as well as such tongue-in-cheek invasive-critter pics as “Gremlins,” “Ghoulies” and James Gunn’s marvelous “Slither.” But the best of those movies achieved a deadpan grace, a certain conviction in their own absurdity, that “Zombeavers” never approaches. Rubin’s style is more Wayans brothers than Zucker brothers, with a lot of how-low-can-you-go gross-out gags (including a bit of beaver-assisted castration) and lots of shouted line readings in place of characters whose survival (or lack thereof) might engender even the slightest rooting interest.

There are so-bad-they’re-good schlock movies that endear themselves to the audience by virtue of their own shambling but heartfelt incompetence, and then there are movies like this one that wink and nod incessantly at the viewer to remind us that everything is bad, like, on purpose — which eventually becomes, like, a total drag. Still, “Zombeavers” is not a total wash, and seen at night, under the right combination of low expectations and controlled substances, it may even seem better than it really is. The movie’s two best gags involve, respectively, the conversion of the cabin floor into a kind of real-life whack-a-mole game, and an end-credits tease for the (perhaps inevitable) sequel: “Zombees.”

In a cast that’s nearly as wooden as a beaver dam, veteran B-movie hardass Rex Linn handily walks off with all of his scenes as the grizzled mountain man in whom the zombeavers finally meet their match. Production values are better than expected, while the multitasking Kaplans also contribute an old-school synthesizer score.

Tribeca Film Review: 'Zombeavers'

Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival (Midnight), April 19, 2014. Running time: 76 MIN.

Production: An Armory Films and Benderspink presentation in association with Hypotenuse Pictures. (International sales: Epic Pictures Group, Hollywood.) Produced by Evan Astrowsky, Christopher Lemole, Tim Zajaros, Chris Bender, JC Spink, Jake Weiner. Executive producers, Theodore Miller, Alan Pao, Corey Large, Billy Asher Rosenfeld, Tadayoshi Kubo, Nick Masee.

Crew: Directed by Jordan Rubin. Screenplay, Al Kaplan, Jon Kaplan. Camera (color, Arri Alexa digital), Jonathan Hall; editor, Seth Flaum; music, Al Kaplan, Jon Kaplan; production designer, Freddy Waff; art director, Jamie McCall; set designer, Ryan Garton; costume designer, Allison Leach; sound, David B. Chornow; sound designers, Brendan Hawkins, Brian Golub; supervising sound editors, Christian Dwiggins, Brian Golub; re-recording mixer, Christian Dwiggins; visual effects supervisor, Rock Sanders; visual effects, HOAX Films; creature effects supervisor, Mark Rappaport; makeup effects supervisor, Greg Soloman; puppets and special makeup effects, Creature Effects; stunt coordinator, Cole McKay; associate producer, J.B. Miller; assistant director, Dave Halls; casting, Chadwick Struck.

With: Bill Burr, Hutch Dano, Rachel Melvin, Courtney Palm, Rex Linn, Jake Weary, Brent Briscoe, Robert R. Shafer, Peter Gilroy, Lexi Atkins, Phyllis Katz.

More Film

  • Jim Jarmusch in 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    Film Review: 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    “Carmine Street Guitars” is a one-of-a-kind documentary that exudes a gentle, homespun magic. It’s a no-fuss, 80-minute-long portrait of Rick Kelly, who builds and sells custom guitars out of a modest storefront on Carmine Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, and the film touches on obsessions that have been popping up, like fragrant weeds, in [...]

  • Missing Link Laika Studios

    ‘Missing Link’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Annapurna Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Missing Link.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.91 million through Sunday for [...]

  • Little Woods

    Film Review: 'Little Woods'

    So much of the recent political debate has focused on the United States’ southern border, and on the threat of illegal drugs and criminals filtering up through Mexico. But what of the north, where Americans traffic opiates and prescription pills from Canada across a border that runs nearly three times as long? “Little Woods” opens [...]

  • Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping

    Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping $60 Million (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix has become a destination for television visionaries like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, with deals worth $100 million and $250 million, respectively, and top comedians like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle ($40 million and $60 million, respectively). The streaming giant, which just announced it’s added nearly 10 million subscribers in Q1, is honing in [...]

  • Roman Polanski extradition

    Academy Responds to Roman Polanski: 'Procedures Were Fair and Reasonable'

    UPDATE: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has responded to a lawsuit from director Roman Polanski that claimed he was unfairly expelled from the organization behind the Oscars. “The procedures taken to expel Mr. Polanski were fair and reasonable. The Academy stands behind its decision as appropriate,” a spokesperson said. The Academy’s statement [...]

  • Lorraine Warren dead

    Lorraine Warren, Paranormal Investigator Who Inspired 'The Conjuring,' Dies at 92

    Lorraine Warren, paranormal investigator and demonologist whose life inspired franchises like “The Conjuring” and “The Amityville Horror,” has died. She was 92. Warren’s son-in-law Tony Spera confirmed the news. Spera said on Facebook, “She died peacefully in her sleep at home.” He continued, “She was a remarkable, loving, compassionate and giving soul. To quote Will [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content