366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.
FEATURING: , Olivia Graves, Wes Tank, Doug Mancheski, Luis Rico
PLOT: Somewhere in the Frozen Northland, successful Applejack salesman and functioning alcoholic Jean Kayak loses his business in a tragic disaster and rebuilds his life to become legendary fur-trapper Jean Kayak, ultimate foe to… hundreds of beavers!
WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE APOCRYPHA: Like its predecessor Lake Michigan Monster (2019), Hundreds of Beavers is wildly inventive visually. But Beavers surpasses Monster storywise, layering multiple influences and keeping the gags flowing, all supporting the plot while remaining funny from start to end credits.
COMMENTS: When Hundreds of Beavers screened at the Kansas City FilmFest International, my initial reaction, posted to my Facebook page just after watching, was basically three words. I’ll only put in initials here. They won’t be too hard to figure out:
H. F. S. !!
Since it won the honor of Best Narrative Feature at KCFF, it appears there were at least several others who agreed with that assessment.
The new film from the drunks who brought us Lake Michigan Monster, Beavers is 10x better than it’s predecessor—and that was already pretty damn good. It utilizes the same basic aesthetic, but leans hard into silent film (though there are sound effects, and a rousing musical number that kicks things off at the start).
After that musical number (written by Chris Ryan & Wayne Tews) protagonist Jean Kayak loses everything, and starts over. He learns (the hard way, of course) to hunt local critters for food, and to trade with “the Merchant” (Doug Mancheski), who has a lovely daughter (“the Furrier,” Olivia Graves). But the Merchant will not be satisfied with poor white trash taking his daughter’s hand; he prefers the successful “Trapper” (Wes Tank). But the Furrier has eyes for Jean, of course. The Trapper takes Jean under his wing and teaches him the skills to pay the bills; but then the Merchant sets a price for his daughter’s hand…
Three guesses as to what it is.
Guy Maddin gets mentioned quite a lot when discussing this crew, since his work also utilizes most of the conventions of silent film, and describing the movie(s) as “Guy Maddin on a serious bender” is cute shorthand. But the influences here are numerous: not only Maddin, but The American Astronaut, 30s and 40s animation (Fleischer Brothers and Looney Tunes, especially the Roadrunner cartoons), Abbott and Costello, and Matt Stone (though not as smutty as “South Park”; more in line with Cannibal: The Musical), Czech artists like and (also heavily influenced by silents), and old school video games. But the defining touch is having every animal depicted in the film played by costumed actors in oversized heads, adding a mascot/furry vibe to the action.
Ryland Brickson Cole Tews as Jean Kayak gives a performance that’s equal partsand with esque elements (a short sequence of Jean and a box falling down a snowy hill with Jean occasionally falling in and out of the box amidst a lot of snow). The rest of the cast is equally game. The unsung heroes are the animal performers.
It’s a goofy, endless amount of silliness, backed by hi-tech with a low-fi feel that feels fresher than any other comedy seen since… well, since Lake Michigan Monster. Just when you think it couldn’t get more absurd and entertaining, it adds another layer. Not to spoil the surprises here, but amidst a 19th century winter survival tale, I would have never expected a gag based on Bond movies, or for it to work as well as it does.
I laughed my ass off loudly throughout the run of the film. You can ask the filmmakers.
As I stated earlier: H. F. S. !!
Hundreds of Beavers is currently on the festival circuit (the next screenings are July 28 and 31 at Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal). Plans for a Blu-ray release are already underway.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“…further proof that Wisconsin produces the strangest independent movies in the country. Cheslik has created an unexpected visionary work that will rip you a new perspective on classic cinematic art. It is exciting in ways you cannot imagine and must be seen to be believed.”–Michael Talbot-Haynes, Film Threat (festival screening)