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The other day, I gave a fellow a cigarette, the favour returned with a compliment on my “overalls.” They’re called suspenders, people, and they hold up trousers. At least I can take comfort that later in the week I was offered a black-market bow tie.
7/27: The Becomers
This Easy-Going Sci/Fi Escapist Genre (“EGSFEGG,” as I suspect I may need this acronym further down the line) piece is appropriately narrated by Russ Mael, and is among the few earth invasion films I’ve seen whose story is told from the point of view of the alien. Zach Clark’s aliens have fled their home world, and have relocated on Earth. Sure, the bodies that the aliens “become” are disposed of via nasty disintegration liquids, but the imitators are endearing, and they mean well. Influenced by most of the alien movies from cinema’s golden age of that kind of thing, The Becomers is delightfully performed (the traveling “lead,” in particular, is impressively transferred through four or more actors), with humor both clever and silly (loved the cult who snuck into the action), and visual treats.
7/28: Hundreds of Beavers (A Personal Experience)
Mike Cheslik & Co. have achieved a glorious devolution with Hundreds of Beavers. Their feature film debut was at least a talkie, but now all dialogue has been stripped away to make room for the raw and masterful idiocy of the premise. We’ve covered this before, so I will just add here: they added a heckuva fun live-bit during the screening, and were just as delightful for the Q & A.
7/29: Empire V
It was impossible for me to watch this without bearing in mind the current war in Ukraine, and what deplorable scum Russia is governed by. That said, Victor Ginzburg’s film is banned in his homeland, which is probably to his credit. Empire V concerns vampires as a global (but Russo-centric) cabal of Earth’s true overlords, being parasitic vessels for some neat-o cosmic bat entity. Their modus operandi is very much like the Russian mafioso-style government: always punch down, always fight dirty, never Continue reading 2023 FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL: “MEGA-MEMORANDA”, PART TWO→
Hundreds of beavers there were, and nine members of the team attended the screening. However, 366 was only able to trap two of them. The good news is, we bagged ourselves the two primary movers and shakers behind Hundreds of Beavers. Please forgive the sound quality: the interviewer is a bit too loud, and for whatever reason we decided to record in a lobby going through considerable demolition.
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, Trey Parker and Matt Stone (though not as smutty as “South Park”; more in line with Cannibal: The Musical), Czech artists like Oldrich Lipský and Karel Zeman (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 parts Charlie Chaplin and Bruce Campbell, with Keatonesque 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.
After losing his father to the terrible “Lake Michigan Monster,” Captain Seafield assembles a crew of specialists to exact revenge. The result has echoes of Guy Maddin making a monster B-movie. 366 Weird Movies’ Giles Edwards interviewsRyland Brickson Cole Tews (writer / director / “Captain Seafield”); Mike Cheslik (producer / editor / visual effects); Louis R. Schultz (executive producer / sound); and Daniel Long (“Dick Flynn”) about the project.
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