The horror/comedy subgenre is easily one of the hardest to pull off, as what a person finds funny and what scares them are two very subjective categories, but when it works, it can be a real treat for the viewer; just look at such films as Evil Dead 2 and Shaun of the Dead for some perfect examples of this genre. The key to a successful horror/comedy is in understanding the tropes which make the horror film such a popular genre in the first place; for example the movie The Final Girls took the tropes found in the “Kids at Camp” slasher genre and then twisted it with the addition of elements from Groundhog Day and Pleasantville — this made that film fresh and original — but in the case of writer/director Jordan Rubin’s Zombeavers, the “Cabin in the Woods” trope was blended with the “When Animals Attack” films, and though neither of these genres are comedies, the mash-up of the two brings the level of weird and craziness that’s needed to create the comedy element.
The movie opens with two idiots transporting a load of toxic chemicals who let distracted driving cause them to hit a deer, which in turn knocks loose one of the barrels of chemicals, and it’s here we get our first homage rip-off to another horror/comedy, that being of The Return of the Living Dead. In that film, two idiots accidentally open a barrel that spews a toxic chemical into the air that turns the surrounding dead into zombies, and in Return of the Living Dead II, the barrels just sort of fall off the back of a military truck — so here we get a blend of the two. But in this film, the barrel drifts down a river to where it eventually jettisons its contents over a beaver colony. As the title suggests, this turns the local critters into murderous zombies, and the idea of something once cute and cuddly turning evil is basically the crux of this movie.
Of course, you can’t have this type of horror film without the perquisite victims and Jordin Rubin, with co-writers Al and Jon Kaplan, trot out that standard collection of horror movie stereotypes to get knocked off one by one; we have Mary (Rachel Melvin), who wears glasses and looks to be auditioning for the role of “Final Girl;” and then there is Zoe (Courtney Palm), the “looser” woman in the group, who is also here to provide the film’s required gratuitous nudity; and finally we have Jenn (Lexi Atkins), whose boyfriend is cheating on her, and this is the reason the three girls headed up to the cabin in the first place, to forget about men. Now a film of this type almost requires this kind of shorthand for its characters — especially when you are dealing with a relatively short running time — but Rubin and the Kaplans do manage to tweak the stereotypes a tad to make things a bit fresher, and they even reference Night of the Living Dead to catch us off guard.
As we all know, you can’t have your Cabin in the Woods film without horny boys, so after a day of lazing about in the sun their “Girls Weekend” is crashed by their boyfriends; Tommy (Jake Weary), the blonde lunkhead belonging to Mary, Buck (Peter Gilroy) as the comic relief/sex fiend who is dating Zoe, and then there is Sam (Hutch Dano), who cheated on Jenn and now wants to make amends…or does he? The film manages to provide us with just enough information so that we at least care about some of them when the shit hits the fan and the titular creatures attack. The film also provides us with a creepy hunter (Rex Lyn), and two nice neighbours Myrne (Phyllis Katz) and Winston Gregorson (Brent Briscoe), who are mostly there to add to the film’s body count. The first thing that tips our group off that things may not be quite so peaceful up at this lake, is when Jenn is attacked in the bathroom by what they at first believe to be a rabid beaver, but when the group is attacked the next day — when they are out cavorting on the lake — they soon realize they may be in deeper trouble than they thought.
Up until this point, the film could be considered just your run of the mill campy little horror flick — where a group of disposable teenagers are brutally killed one by one — but then we get the “infected” angle, which is a standard element of the zombie film, and that’s when things get a little Looney Tunes as the movie stops being a simple parody of the genre, and becomes its own insane thing. The film at no point took itself seriously — with a title like Zombeavers that’s kind of a given — but even with the gore, and with our heroes playing Wack-A-Mole with the attacking Zombeavers, it was mostly predictable. But when an infected Jenn crawls into Mary’s bed, and tries to eat her — and not in the fun way — things get really bizarre.
Turns out that being bitten doesn’t just turn you into a zombie, but it in facr turns you into a zombie beaver, with big beaver teeth, and even a giant beaver tail, and it was at this moment that the film won me over completely. Zombeavers could easily have been one of those one-joke premise titles — like Sharktopus or Ghost Shark — but instead, it managed to exceed my expectations as a horror/comedy, especially helped by knowing enough about the genre to not wear out its welcome. At a mere seventy-seven minutes, director Jordan Rubin clearly knew how far he could go with his ridiculous premise, and he leaves the viewer wanting more, something a certain Sharknado series should take note of. Zombeavers is an outrageously goofy horror movie that is more entertaining than it has any right to be.