BH Interview: 'Zombeavers' Director Approaches Horror Comedy with Straight Face
Some filmmakers agonize over their directorial debut, unsure whether to tackle an important subject or direct a story reflecting their own life. For Jordan Rubin, all he needed to hear was one word mashup--Zombeavers--to make the decision for him.
So far, that word is paying off.
Rubin’s horror comedy Zombeavers already has some foreign distribution lined up, and the film’s riotous trailer has garnered north of 1.6 million hits on YouTube.
Not bad for a pal’s throwaway gag.
The hybrid film follows a gaggle of attractive folk under attack by a group of voracious, undead beavers.
Rubin, who previously wrote two unproduced screenplays, says he was talking to some industry friends about potential projects when someone suggested a horror movie. A pal quickly piped up, “what about zombeavers?”
“I nearly fell down laughing. That’s the next movie,” he told them, even though they assumed he was kidding.
“I can totally see it. Don’t play the beaver jokes too heavily, have a reasonable budget and have fun with it,” he says of the micro-budgeted film.
Rubin, a former stand-up who once wrote for The Man Show and Last Call with Carson Daly, made a faux trailer for his film to help sell it. He took footage from seven horror movies, added music from five different scores and added scenes from a beaver documentary. Voila, a 1-minute trailer that helped sell the project.
“It’s one thing to have a good script, but with this it looks like you’re in motion on the project,” he says.
Think horror comedies and movies like Shaun of the Dead and An American Werewolf in London spring to mind. The genre is much more challenging than it appears, though, and Rubin hopes he cracked the code with his film.
“The only way to do this correctly is to act like we’re making Citizen Kane and Chinatown,” he says, comparing the approach to how David Zucker and crew made Airplane! back in 1980. Tell the actors to play the silly material straight.
It’s one reason he thinks the film doesn’t belong in the same company as Sharknado. a lark that wore its funny bone on its sleeve. The SyFy hit was "a joke on a joke. That’s what I was looking not to do,” he says.
Zombeavers takes an old-school approach to the horror elements, employing practical effects over computer generated gore. Producer J.C. Spink (The Hangover, We’re the Millers) says the film got a financial break from the effects company who bring those zombeavers to undead life.
Spink worked outside the studio system for the first time to make Zombeavers, relying on word of mouth and social media to promote the project. Rather than hire a costly marketing firm to give the film some viral attention, they turned to their own network of friends.
“We know enough interesting people. Why not do this ourselves?” Spink asks.Then again, having lines like, “That is exactly what the beavers would want,” can’t hurt.
Rubin embraced multiple takes during the production to unearth the biggest laughs, something he learned while working with Judd Apatow. That means the future Blu-ray edition will feature plenty of extra footage and, as Rubin puts it, something more.
He promises commentary tracks from his mother and father, a test group of two that didn’t exactly embrace their son’s vision.
“I tried to show [my father] a few scenes ... he walked out of the room,” Rubin says. “My mother watched a little and said, 'I don’t know what to say ... I would never watch this film and would never recommend this to my friends, but I support you.'"