NEW YORK -- With “Sharknado” blossoming into a franchise and “Piranha 3D” now practically a long-canonized classic, it was only a matter of time before other “Thing"-like homages entered the room.
And so it’s come to this, “Zombeavers,” the latest portmanteau-themed genre mash-up in which animals go wild in B-movie glory.
Directed by Jordan Rubin, who has more of a comedy than horror background (Judd Apatow gets a post-credit thank you), the movie, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival this weekend, involves the usual mix of pretty young people attempting a weekend getaway before finding that nominally simple task complicated by a bunch of undead woodland creatures. Before long, these zombie beavers--they’re basically what they sound like, ferocious and unkillable-have turned many of the pretty young things (led by soap star Rachel Melvin) into bucktoothed bloodsuckers themselves.
The film has its fun moments (watch for a John Mayer cameo) and some clever awareness of genre movie clichés; the usual resourceful escape by a few of the heroes is gleefully, er, eschewed for more darker outcomes.
But it’s gored by some larger issues. The creatures themselves don’t always hold interest -- they’re often neither scary nor playful, more just ugly and toothy. And though it features an (er again) juicy male crotch-biting scene, there’s not nearly enough fun had with the premise’s feminist overtones, or much fun in general. This may have been, surprisingly, by design; despite the potential for camp, Rubin said at the screening that he believed that “the more serious we play it, the better it will be.”
More fundamental, though, is whether you can parody a parody. “Zombeavers” is coming along at a time when one can’t watch a movie about mutant monsters without being well aware of other movies about mutant monsters. Which means as a filmmaker you’re essentially trying to comment on a comment (nearly impossible) or, more likely, are reduced to becoming just one more spinoff. (Rubin offered little at the screening on his inspiration save that “it all started with the title.” He did amusingly note that he was debating a sequel in the form of “Zombeyonce.”)
“Zombeavers” is a fun idea and, like a good undead animal, has some solid designs on hitting its target. But that doesn’t necessarily save the experience of watching the film from being anything other than hairy.
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