February 20, 2014 12:00pm PT by Aaron Couch
'Zombeavers' Director: This Isn't 'Sharknado' (Video)
With Zombeavers, the title sort of says it all.
The upcoming film about killer beavers hunting college students has struck a chord online, with its trailer amassing nearly 1.7 million YouTube views since Feb. 6.
So far, the response has been one of extremes. Dane Cook, Jerry O'Connell and horror maestro Eli Roth have tweeted their approval, while on YouTube commenters have hailed the trailer as brilliant and incredibly stupid.
"Every comment ranges from 'What is this movie?' to 'I'd never want to see this' to 'I must see this,' " director Jordan Rubin tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Rubin, a writer known for penning the 2011 Oscars opening, delights in reading the comments, both the good and the bad. He insists those who hate on Zombeavers probably don't realize his intent with the film: to pay homage to the '80s horror flicks he loves so dearly.
Zombeavers was born in 2011, after a long day of Rubin and writing partners Al and Jon Kaplan working on a comedy script. Offhand, Rubin said they should tackle a horror film next.
"What about Zombeavers?" one of the Kaplan brothers suggested.
"I nearly fell over laughing," Rubin recalls. "I think he sort of said it as a joke. And I said, 'That's our next script.' "
After Rubin cobbled together a proof of concept trailer by using footage from existing horror films and stuff found on social media, BenderSpink (American Pie, We're the Millers) boarded the project and Armory Films agreed to finance. Two-and-a-half years and a family of animatronic beavers later, Rubin and the Kaplan brothers are poised to unleash the final product on the world.
Online, some commenters have asked if Zombeavers will become the next Sharknado, SyFy's campy surprise hit of summer 2013. Rubin insists his film is an entirely different animal. If Sharknado amplified the camp, Zombeavers will play it straight -- and find the comedy that way.
"To me it's all about doing it straight. It's a serious situation. It's pure horror. Playing to the reality is so funny," says Rubin.
And unlike the hundreds of sharks that took Los Angeles by storm in Sharknado, Zombeavers' beasts are created with animatronic models, not CG.
Creature Effects, which worked on I Am Legend, Ted and The Lone Ranger created the bloodthirsty beavers, including remote control animals that could swim in order to menace the film's characters by lake.
Rubin says he wanted to go old-school like the films that inspired him, and cites Christopher Nolan's eschewing of CG as further evidence that practical effects were the way to go for his film.
"I watched Sharknado for the first time last night. It's amazing how far CG has come. There are a bunch of shots in there where it's passable and you believe there is a shark in that situation, but then there are a lot of shots where you see the difference between bigger budget CG and lower budget CG," says Rubin, who says on his budget, the CG wouldn't have have been convincing enough for him.
Zombeavers was buzzed about at the Berlin Film festival this year, and is eyeing U.S. film fests as well as domestic distribution, where UTA and Epic pictures are repping it.
As for Rubin, he's received the seal of approval from a key critic.
"When I told my mother about it, she said, 'It's not something I would ever watch and I can't recommend it to my friends, but I'm proud of you,' " he says.
Rubin on the set of Zombeavers. Photo by Theodore Miller.