Lately, mainstream horror movies have focused on the scary and supernatural, as films like Paranormal Activity and Halloween gathered huge national and international audiences. Filming a blockbuster horror movie must be feel repetitive at this point; how many ways can we scare you and how realistic does the acting have to be to make you feel horrible about it? Zombeavers belongs to another genre of horror entirely: B horror movies.
There aren’t many truly popular B horror movies. Probably the most well-known B horror movie director ever, Sam Raimi, isn’t even really known for his horror movies as much as his Spider-Man films. But there are a lot of them and they have specific qualities that make them classifiable as B horror. Calling them B horror is a misnomer anyway, because they’re not really horrific in any meaningful way. These movies are meant to be funny by appealing to people’s love of the excess and offensive. They’re not really horror comedies, like Shaun of the Dead, which was funny, yes, but based its jokes off of something more lighthearted. B horror encompasses sensibilities that are more off kilter and low brow, like laughing at someone try a backflip but land on their neck, except in a B movie, their neck would snap in half and the head would fall off, rolling away to an unsuspecting toddler who doesn’t understand what just happened and kicks it like a soccer ball into the net. It’s not JUST that the head fell off, as many gory, torture porn films would have you believe is entertaining, but the punchline at the end sets the tone of self-awareness, that whatever you’re watching is appalling, and everyone knows it, so what are you going to do about it? I suppose you could classify horror movies that are just utterly terrible in here too, because they’re unintentionally hilarious without being scary, and you’d be right. Zombeavers, however, manages to be both B horror and well-crafted, as well as thoughtful towards its audience.
The movie centers around a group of teenagers as they head to a cabin in the middle of the woods to partake in some debauchery and resolve personal issues amongst themselves, standard fare for a horror movie. From there, things go awry as the teens are attacked by zombie beavers, some get bit and turn into zombies, leaving fewer and fewer survivors. Replace “zombie beavers” with “zombies” and it’s a regular zombie movie without anything interesting attached to it. But add in zombies that are also beavers and you open yourself up to all sorts of gags that tell the audience, “we know this is dumb but come see how TRULY dumb it can be.” The movie has a sense of openness around the premise, with a death scene that involves *SPOILER WARNING* one of the teens being trapped by the beavers in a beaver dam (!). It’s not slapstick either, as the actors do a commendable job of playing the straight man in the face of what looks like stuffed animals come to eat them alive. The premise is also injected with some witty, clever writing that upends expectations in several places, including a sunbathing scene that takes an unexpected turn and a pretty surprising ending.
It’s typical that a film like this has a 4.8 rating on IMDB. It reminds me of how people regard Freddy vs Jason, one of the funnier mainstream B horror movies, or how Hollywood realized that Evil Dead 2 was such a cult hit that they decided to remake the first movie in the vainest, most self-serious way possible. What made Evil Dead 2 such a classic was that it was the opposite of serious, so low-budget and over the top that turning it into a run-of-the-mill scary movie felt so much cheaper than even the original’s production values. Here, Zombeavers opts to take a more entertaining approach to horror, unafraid to revel in its stupidity while being intelligent, shameless, and self-deprecating. And honestly, it’s the reason you go to the movies in the first place: to have fun.