You don’t expect great filmmaking from a movie with a title like “Zombeavers,” but you hope it will at least be goofily enjoyable. Unfortunately, Jordan Rubin’s bargain-basement horror comedy wastes a promising premise, coming in at Troma level. It’s difficult to believe that it took no fewer than twelve producers to shepherd such a lame effort to completion.
In a much-less-funny-than-intended prologue, a couple of dolts conveying toxic waste in their truck have an encounter with a deer that sends one of the barrels careening into a creek that houses a bunch of cuddly beavers. The effect is predictable. The critters turn into ravenous, bloodthirsty monsters.
Enter their victims, three sorority sisters coming to an isolated cabin for a girls’ retreat. Zoe (Courtney Palm), Jen (Lexi Atkins) and Mary (Rachel Melvin) are supposed to be alone, but soon their respective boyfriends Buck (Peter Gilroy), Sam (Hutch Dano) and Tommy (Jake Weary) show up—although Jen and Sam are on the skids because of his infidelity. It’s not long before the beavers take them on, with increasingly gory results; complicating things is that their victims become zombies, too. There are a few other characters, but the only one that matters is Smyth (Rex Linn), a hard-nosed rustic with a rifle who rescues the kids on any number of occasions and is notable for his snide remarks as well as his outdoor skills.
Linn’s gruff, grizzled, cantankerous coot is easily the best thing about the movie; alone among the cast he’s a seasoned enough performer to wrings smiles from even substandard material. For a few minutes, the puppety beavers are amusing too, though the effect pales pretty quickly. Whatever potential the movie possesses, however, is frittered away by Rubin’s slipshod direction, which is pedestrian even when he attempts something a bit unusual (like beaver-vision lake shots obviously patterned after what Spielberg did in “Jaws”); a witless script filled with dialogue so banal it sounds badly improvised; and performances by the six younger cast members that range from mediocre to outright terrible. By comparison to other cabin-in-the-woods horror movies or animals-gone-wacko efforts, “Zombeavers” is repetitive and tedious, seeming endless even at a mere 76 minutes. The movie is obviously aiming for camp cult status, but unlike the beavers the makers don’t have the chops to pull it off.
The picture does end with a clever bit about a bee that gets zombified and flies back to the hive to spread the infection, clearly foreshadowing a sequel called “Zombees.” Unfortunately, you have to sit through more than an hour of dullness to get there. Of course a keg of beer in a frat house parlor would help the time pass faster; that’s clearly the targeted, and preferred, venue for “Zombeavers.”