Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Movie Review - ZOMBEAVERS

Throughout history, mankind has had a primal instinct, an deeply rooted need to tell stories. To share visions. To show the world what the limitless human imagination can create. In prehistoric times, this compulsion was abided with drawings on the cave's inner walls, crudely rendered with dirt or charcoal mixed with spit or animal fat. Ancient Egyptians drew symbols inside the great pyramids, weaving fantastical tales of gods and man. Plays were born from the ancient Greek tragedies, becoming a phenomenal way to share stories. Eventually, language was born, and ink to paper became another popular medium to tell a tale. Plays and books were mankind's escape from reality, and to some extent, remain so today.

In the late 19th century, the next revolution came along: film. Moving pictures. Actors and actresses recorded a story in sunny California, and people in New York winter were able to watch in frozen envy. Movies exploded in popularity, and the technology grew with the popularity. Films became more visually stunning, with deeper, more experimental plots, skilled acting. Voices were added, color was added, special effects became a thing. Billions of dollars spent and made yearly in the film industry, with technology advances bringing us all manner of entertainment across all manner of platforms.

The culmination of filmed entertainment was unleashed on the world in 2014, and top of the mountain, thy name is Zombeavers.

The minimalist poster belies the complexity of the film.

The title itself, Zombeavers isn't just a clever play on words. Yes, there's the literal meaning  - a portmanteau of "zombie beavers" - which is certainly a large part of the film. But, is there more? Something...deeper?

A zombie is a fictional, undead being, usually portrayed as mindless, unintelligent and unintelligible, hungry for only one thing: brains. A beaver, as everyone in the world knows, is a slang term for the female vagina. Before you even push the play button, you're forced to wonder what you're about to ingest: a silly, campy movie about large, undead rodents? Or an in-depth look at the marginalization and desexualization of aging women in modern society? Gotta push play to find out.

Beaver jokes: harmless fun? Or misogynistic scourge?

While that nugget is slowly marinating in your head, you start the film, watching the setup - a chemical delivery truck driven by the irrepressible Bill Burr (with John Mayer inexplicably riding shotgun), loses a tank of green toxic goo in an unfortunate deer accident. The goo tank travels down a river as the opening credit sequence plays, part James Bond, part Rocky & Bullwinkle, preparing you for what appears to be, on the surface, just another silly horror movie about horny teenagers heading off to a distant family member's cabin somewhere in the woods.

So, the horny teenagers get to the distant family member's cabin somewhere in the woods. Well, it's actually three "college" girls (portrayed by actresses in their mid-to-late twenties, of course), off for a distraction-free girls' weekend. A dip in the lake (first breast appearance: 13 minutes in), followed by a strange encounter with a local grizzled hunter (complete with requisite foreshadowing), and things move along until that night, when the three dopey, meathead boyfriends unexpectedly show up to ensure that the cliches aren't too violated.

That's when shit gets real, yo. Troubled Blonde Girl stumbles across one of the titular beasts in the bathroom, random frat boy beats the extremely realistic-looking animal (seemingly) to death, and the partying-on continues. Okay, there's a small bit of relationship drama - Troubled Blonde Girl's hirsute and unfunny boyfriend cheated with Brunette Girl in Glasses, her best friend. ZOMG, right? Okay, that plotline is about 98.64% unnecessary and was certainly written to stretch out the run time (something had to be done to get this thing to 85 minutes). So, don't even worry about that.

Worry about the ZOMBEAVERS! They attack the kooky kids while they swim in the lake, biting off the foot of Stoner Guy, eating Quirky Brunette Girl's dog and unleashing all the undead beaver-filled havoc you can handle. Troubled Blonde Girl, alone in the cabin being troubled, is attacked at the same time.

Beaver attack. Get it?

One by one, everyone starts dropping at the gigantic teeth of the beavers, only to be reanimated as HUMAN-BEAVER-ZOMBIE-HYBRIDS. That's right - this is one zombie movie that refuses to be gratuitously revels in being bound by every zombie movie trope in existence. Because satire, right?

"Do I have something in my teeth?" wondered Troubled Blonde Girl-Beaver-Zombie-Hybrid

Gore and death and giant teeth and the sudden and shocking boring and predictable ending play out, and in the end, you realize you didn't just spend 85 minutes exploring subtle feminist undertones, showing that women are more than metaphorical undead beavers. You didn't even sit through 85 minutes of serviceable satire, because for a horror-comedy, it was really devoid of both. That's not what you did at all.

What you just did was waste 85 minutes watching an exercise in frat boy writers, producers, and director, trying their damnedest to be clever, but failing. It's like anything else: when you try too hard, you're the only one that doesn't realize it.

Don't get me wrong. I didn't hate the movie. I just didn't really feel anything. I actually laughed at one line:

One of the boyfriends actually said that. And I'm sure the writer thought to himself, "Ha! This'll take the piss out of those Hollywood cliches! I'm such a skilled HUMORIST." But, no, you're not. I laughed because it was so unfunny. You know that uncomfortable laugh that slips out when you're at your married buddy's house, and he gets in an argument with his wife right in front of you? Like, you want to break the tension, but all you can do is make an awkward chuckle? It was that kind of laugh.

(Okay, Dave, we get the point. Wrap it up already.)

I don't have a rating system, but if I did, I'd put Zombeavers somewhere between being the first to poke the knife into the just-opened tub of margarine and getting the shower water temperature right on the first try. You know, mildly satisfying, but nothing you won't do many times in your life.

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