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.
FEATURING: Ryland Brickson Cole Tews, Beulah Peters, Erick West, Daniel Long
PLOT: Having lost his father to the claws of the terrible “Lake Michigan Monster,” Captain Seafield assembles a crew of specialists to exact his revenge.
WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: This movie is very dumb, in a good way, and very derivative, in a good way. Tews creates a scratchy, black and white world à la Guy Maddin in a clever, mindless romp where every rule of narrative is bent as the story crescendos to a dizzying municipal-political climax.
COMMENTS: In the spirit of the movie, this is a DIY review. Feel free to cut and paste the sections below however suits your mood.
Disclaimer: In no way have I been remunerated for the views expressed herein. Fact is, they’d have to more than double the film’s budget to buy my good graces.
Good: There is a jokesy doppelgänger of Guy Maddin at work in Lake Michigan Monster. Ryland Tews captures the Canadian auteur’s aesthetic—grainy black and white, mythic proportions, and the idolization of a city (though not Winnipeg for this go-around)—and puts it to work for an episodic comedy that would seem ramshackle if it weren’t so charming and also somehow pinned to what just about passes as a story arc for the good Captain Seafielding.
Plot: Assembling a mercenary crew comprising a weapons expert, a N.A.V.Y. drop-out, and a “sonar individual”, Captain Seafielding (Ryland Tews) hopes to hunt and destroy the titular monster that he blames for the murder of his father. With half-baked schemes (à la “Nauty Lady” and other pun-driven titles), he fails again and again until he is abandoned by his hirelings and is forced to summon a ghost army (found, incidentally, in an Episcopal cathedral). After losing all his henchman, worldly and otherwise, he must complete his quest mano-a-beasto.
Weird:Lake Michigan Monster is merely 78 minutes long, but a whole world and mythology is haphazardly crammed into each and every nook. Seafielding begins each outing with a magical, animated map of the action, on which designations for each crew member zip around according to his mad whim. The fourth wall is battered to dust as Seafielding, in character, begins to dismantle the narrative shell that keeps the audience separate from his machinations; we become very much the accomplice in his silly work as the movie goes on. To boot, there are the kind of quips and asides that we’d expect more from popular television.
Opening or Closing: So what is it like to watch this movie? Unless you have some very creative film buddies, it’d be hard to get closer to the core of the crafting experience. Mind you, this isn’t just some dumb evolution of a movie into a movie about movies. This is just some dumb s̶e̶a̶ lake-faring yarn that feels like it’s being told to you live over a glass of bourbon, or whatever that type of whiskey it is you find in Scotland. But there is a gloriousness to its apparent idiocy. No real actors, no fabricated sets, but one heckuva a closing sea shanty await you in this wild and whimsical outing.
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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