Two things are clear coming away from this b-movie delight. Director and co-script writer Jordan Rubin, and all those responsible not only 'get it' but obviously had a riot doing so. Zombeavers is old school monster-farce, with ludicrous puppets and poor animatronics; it's The Evil Dead / Friday the 13th, with vacuous, though pretty young expendables ready to take their tops off and ready to be picked off; and it's American Pie, chock full of puerile humour you'll feel guilty about enjoying so much, but oh, you will. It's crass, sleazy, stupid, utter nonsense, and yet; and yet, it's all you could ever wish for and expect from a film about ferocious undead nocturnal, large, semiaquatic rodents and their sudden insatiable hunger for human flesh.
The reason it all works; if I can get ahead of myself. Is the perfect juxtaposition between the shameless amateurism of narrative, jokes and foremost the beavers, and the absolute dry and serious way in which the six college kids approach proceedings. Whether it's Bill Burr farcically setting things in motion with the classic zombie accidental and totally avoidable highly dangerous barrel- falling-off-truck-into-water-source trope, or the inventive opening scooby-doo cartoon montage or the delightfully fake beaver duo chuckling away as toxic green zombie-juice sprays over them; the bad is so bad it's good, precisely because we know it can only be this bad, if it's supposed to be.
Then suddenly it's all Friday the 13th and a Cabin in the Woods, literally. Mary (Rachel Melvin) and Zoe (Cortney Palm) are consoling their sorority sister Jenn (Lexi Atkins) who's recently been cheated on, by bringing to her to a relatives secluded lake-house for a weekend of pyjama fights, cookies and talking about boys, or what-ever it is college girls do. True to form too, knowing three doesn't make a claustrophobic death-orgy, douche-bag jocks, and boyfriends Sam (Hutch Dano), Tommy (Jake Weary), and Buck (Peter Gilroy) arrive just in time for the party. Boys meet girls, and it may all the complication of teen-romance, way-too-tight shorts and first world problems, but they're very earnest about it all, and convincing. And like the aforementioned Friday the 13th saga, which if we're honest didn't try much harder, the repartee and character banter does what's needed, providing the albeit temporarily, sanctuary and veiled sanity, against what we know is coming.
Forget cute furry woodland creatures. These beavers are bloody ferocious little shits who'd no sooner look at you, than slap you on your arse with their great big tail and gnaw your privates like they're a quaking aspen. There's no real exposition or reason how after the toxic barrel they've found themselves the almost-invincible toothy fiends, and why they have such a desire to cry havoc with these six socialites in particular; there's also no rhyme or reason to their NOTLD stand-off with the cabin after they've clearly demonstrated their ability to reduce it to saw-dust in minutes. There's a hint they might be practical jokers, I'm thinking in a Gremlins kind of way, but I'm really not going to spend any time trying to perform a high level dissection of their behaviour relative to zombie-canon. Other than perhaps to say as the zombeaver-virus / pathogen / thing adapts and jumps to other species, namely humans and yes bears, I couldn't help but be reminded of Zombie Virus on Mulberry Street and it's zombie-rat-people, and that however preposterous an idea, the fact is someone will probably have already come up with it first.
Foremost though, Zombeavers is a riotous comedy. Whether it's Buck emerging from the lake clutching his foot, comedy claw marks on the sabotaged phone line, or an extended whack-a-beaver sequence, Zombeavers is full of inventive ideas and witty, albeit mostly throwaway humour one can't help but whoop along with. Okay the actors are clearly older than the young nubile characters they're supposed to be portraying but they always over the top, sober or obnoxious as called upon, in both an exaggerated and yet coherent way. The highly polished script too pushes a narrative at perfect pace as to not rush, nor hold back the insanity.
Honestly, I don't really know how someone could criticise Zombeavers. You read the title, you chose to watch it and it's precisely what you got. It's funny, it's smart and it's entirely non-patronising; letting the viewer share in the in-jokes, the meta-humour and self-deprecating quips. It also does a remarkably good job of not only keeping what could easily have been a one-gag feature feeling fresh, but even open to a sequel. Crazy, stoopid, but entirely satisfying. Zombeavers 2 anyone? Anyone? 7/10.