ZOMBEAVERS follows a direct line of descent from such 1950s films as THE KILLER SHREWS and ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES, although I doubt that the makers of this movie have seen them unless they are also fans of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000. Instead, it’s more likely that they were inspired by the tributes to such films made by those who grew up with them, such as Ron Underwood’s TREMORS, Fred Dekker’s NIGHT OF THE CREEPS and especially, Joe Dante’s oeuvre, particularly PIRANHA, THE HOWLING and the GREMLINS films, which affectionately satirized low budget science fiction and horror films of an earlier era while at the same time working effectively in their own right. Unfortunately, the end result is much more like ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES: instead of a good-bad movie, what we have here is simply a bad movie that is nowhere nearly as entertaining as its progenitors and predecessors.
I can summarize the plot in probably less time than it will take you to read it. Some stupid truckers somewhere in upstate New York accidentally dump some barrels of toxic waste into a nearby river into a nearby river that float into a beaver lodge. Some stupid teen girls show up to vacation in a cabin nearby (with only a few stupid redneck neighbors living around them), go for a swim, and notice that the beaver dam has green marks on it. Beaver urine must be green, think stupid girls. Stupid boyfriends of stupid girls then make their entrance with some stupid false scares. And then…BEAVER ATTACK! Stupid characters behave in a stupid fashion to send-up stupidity of entire genre! And did you know if you’re stupid enough to get bitten by a zombie beaver, you turn into a really stupid-looking werebeaver? Oh, the stupidity!
I’ll admit that I enjoyed the opening credits sequence to the film, but for the most part, ZOMBEAVERS is on the level of one of Troma’s better productions, which is not very good at all. As you can imagine by the title, a lot of time in ZOMBEAVERS is spent on smutty sex jokes and uncomfortably leering shots of the young actresses (although only one appears nude or topless). When not doing so, it indulges in other sophomoric forms of humor instead of the genuine wit that has been the basis of the best genre parodies, which isn’t surprising considering all the characters have pond silt for brains. Sure, it’s all tongue in cheek, but when a major plot point is that one of the girls can’t tell it’s her own best friend cheating with her boyfriend in an Instagram picture, it doesn’t help to generate sympathy for anyone involved. All the performances are overly broad, and except for a decent shot making use of the multiplane effect, the direction lacks energy and imagination and frequently seem to be at odds with the script, not knowing whether to play it straight or to go for all-out laughs. For instance, there’s plenty of great humor potential in one scene where the beavers start popping out of the floor and the “heroes” starting smacking them in a grotesque game of Whack-a-Mole, but the staging totally botches any comic effect. Halfway through, the movie seems to forget it’s a comedy, as if it expects the absurdity of its premise to carry it. Instead, it just winds up being….well…stupid. Even though it’s all a put-on, I nonetheless felt ripped-off by the crude special effects. Fanboys who go on and on about how practical effects are always better than CGI should watch this, if only to be properly shamed into silence.
While watching ZOMBEAVERS, I found myself reflecting more on both THE KILLER SHREWS and ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES, and found myself respecting both those movies and the people who made them more than ever. No, they weren’t great films, but they were sincerely made, with a degree of effort to make something reasonably entertaining and competently done, and they do genuinely work in their own small way. ZOMBEAVERS is the type of film made with the intention of counting the money made from it and seeing if there’s enough to make a good movie next time.