You could never accuse writer/director Anna Biller of masking her influences. She has, to date, painstakingly created two films that would fit seamlessly within the sexploitation genre of the 60s and 70s. She follows up her sexual revolution comedy debut, Viva (2007), with The Love Witch, a film that flirts with horror, but still boasts plenty of ‘ploitation of the sexual ilk. The only clues that The Love Witch wasn’t made 60 years ago are the modern cars parked along the street. However, Biller prominently features her protagonists’ vintage automobiles, as well as ensures that every other possible detail is as period accurate as an episode of Mad Men. Trouble is, movies like this have fallen out of favor for a reason. Sure they look great – every frame and outfit makes me long to hit the flea market. But the story is also period accurate in that it peddles a brand of faux-feminism better left in the past. The protagonist is a badass because she isn’t afraid to kill to get what she wants. But what she wants is nothing more than the attention of a man – seemingly any man. You can dismiss these themes in movies from that era because they were playing within the status quo. But we’re better than that now. Maybe not a lot better, but let’s not take two steps back just to be true to the era. I prefer my throwbacks with a dash of modern ideology…
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2014 SEATTLE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL SELECTION!
Did you guys know that the word “beaver” doesn’t just refer to the forest animal? It can also be a euphemism for female genitalia! It’s true. And Jordan Rubin’s first feature film won’t let you forget it. If you love single entendres, boobs and gore and don’t consider characters or plot important, you are going to love “Zombeavers.”
Just to be clear, as a long-time fan of Troma movies and schlocky horror in general, I am the target audience for this movie. But it fails to live up to its premise, which could have been successfully executed one of two ways: Either the movie is fun because it’s completely earnest, or it works because it’s self-aware enough to be clever. “Zombeavers” is neither clever nor earnest. Rubin wears his influences on his sleeve (“Evil Dead,” “Critters,” “Sharknado”) but it seems like the only thing he took away from those movies were boobs and gore. Those are some of the ingredients that make it work. But he left out the cerebral baking powder. The humor is fratty and juvenile at best, and creepy uncle inappropriate at worst. The beaver jokes vacillate from lame to rapey. In light of recent events, it’s hard to find any humor in that.
But it’s not just the beaver/vagina jokes that fall flat. It’s nearly every joke, save one or two about beaver behavior that weren’t enough to save the movie. The best thing about “Zombeavers,” besides the title, is the hilariously grotesque beaver puppets and the practical effects carnage they inflict. But we spend too much time with the archetypical human characters. You don’t always have to relate to the characters in a horror movie, but they should be endearing in some way. Otherwise, it just feels like torture waiting for them to die.
I suppose the absolute perfection that is Joss Whedon’s “Cabin in the Woods” may have ruined all future cabin-set horror films. But “Zombeavers” didn’t stand a chance. Rubin seems to have assumed that his concept would float the movie so he slacked on the follow-through. He decided he could just fill in the blanks like some kind of b-movie Mad Libs. And you know what? There is a market for that paint-by-numbers crap too. But I expected more from a film festival selection.
Originally published on FilmThreat.com (now defunct).