TFF2014: Zombeavers

      With a name like Zombeavers, no one’s expecting bone-chilling horror; it sounds like the kind of thing Troma might churn out, or one of those awesomely cheesy horror comedies from the  ’80s.  The opening title sequence reinforces the latter vibe: it’s an inspired animated number featuring zombie beavers and imperiled kids superimposed over a barrel of toxic waste.  The green liquid spurting barrel makes its way to some ninja turtles, er, I mean, beavers, and chaos ensues.

            Director Jordan Rubin, who co-wrote with Al and Jon Kaplan, comes from a comedy background and it shows.  He’s assembled a cast of fresh, funny faces: as the perpetually horny Buck, Peter Gilroy steals the show.  (“Come on, my dick’s asleep!”)  The ladies are less well developed—at least in terms of character.  Their breasts, naturally, are more than ample, with topless Cortney Palm taking the prize as Zoe.  But Zoe, Rachel Melvin’s Mary, and Lexi Atkins’ Jenn are likable enough cyphers  going through the motions until the guys show up.  Rubin’s at his best working with the bros, from Gilroy and pals Sam (the otter-y Hutch Dano)  and Tommy (Jake Weary) to hilariously gruff Smyth (Rex Linn) and, in the funny opening and closing bits, an unrecognizable John Mayer as a trucker.  (Seriously, say what you will about the guy, but I like him more for being in this movie.)  Meanwhile, the title stars are unrealistic but satisfyingly tangible puppets that wouldn’t look out of place in some exploitation horror version of Sesame Street.  The attacks are knowingly ridiculous and the gore is plentiful and over-the-top; the film gets a lot of mileage out of poor Gilroy carrying around his own severed foot in a Ziploc baggie. 

            Zombeavers has earned comparisons to SyFy’s viral breakout Sharknado, but the two have little in common besides their smooshy titles.  The team behind this movie set out to make an enjoyably stupid creature feature, and this amiably scrappy flick has a lot going for it.  Dano, who’s ensnared in a love triangle, turns out to be an amusingly pompous windbag.  He and Melvin take turns hitting floorboard puncturing beavers in a visual whack-a-mole pun.  An older neighbor delivers a one-liner about the kids next door too funny and crass to spoil. The list goes on.  If you like horror or comedy and can stand a little T&A and a whole lot of glop, you owe it to yourself to see this movie.

Zombeavers screens as part of the Tribeca Film Festival Saturday, April 26 at 11:30pm at the AMC Loews Village 7.  Arrive early for rush tickets, as the previous showing was sold out.

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