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Hundreds of Beavers Review: Insanity on Film

A black and white photo of people causing mayhem in beaver costumes in the 2024 movie Hundreds of Beavers

Hundreds of Beavers is a film unlike any other, using cartoonish action and offbeat direction to make for an unforgettable experience.

In 2018, the writing team of Ryland Bryson Cole Tews and Mike Cheslik released The Lake Michigan Monster. The offbeat, black-and-white comedy was a homage to the style of Universal Monster movies with the humor of SpongeBob SquarePants. The quirky, offbeat film was not given too wide of a release, but due to clever writing and a unique visual style, it became a cult hit on the Internet. Now, several years later, Tews and Cheslik have done it again with the release of Hundreds of Beavers, a movie which builds upon the techniques of The Lake Michigan Monster while also offering a wholly different experience.

The story of the film is a fantastical, cartoonish romp. Jean Kayak (Ryland Bryson Cole Tews) is but a humble applejack farmer who in the surreal animated opening sequence finds his livelihood destroyed by beavers. Taking matters into his own hands, Kayak becomes a trapper and hunts down every furry creature both to take revenge and win the love of The Furrier (Olivia Graves). It is deranged, psychedelic, and nonsensical, but in a way only an experienced filmmaker can deliver. Since nobody knows what will happen next, one cannot look away from the screen.

Tews and Cheslik make the most of a low-budget approach to filmmaking. Every move in the film is exaggerated and the effects low budget, with several obvious green screen moments and the titular beavers are portrayed by humans in mascot suits. However, the filmmaking style goes beyond being simply “so bad, it’s good”. There is a methodical approach to every scene, with details in every action and a genuine progression to the story.

The way the film is shot allows for suspension of disbelief and serves to immerse the viewer in this deranged fantasy world. Attention is given to sound design and cinematography, making for the most immersive experience possible to make it feel like an adventure in the wilderness, even if it is as detached from reality as this movie is. These filmmakers know what they are doing to make something so silly come across as serious as this. So when a guy in a fur suit comes along and attacks our hero with a comically large weapon, you believe it.

Many people wearing beaver costumes stand in line on some pieces of wood with a light behind them in the 2024 movie Hundreds of Beavers
Hundreds of Beavers (Jean Kayak)

The movie is a silent pantomime film, relying on visuals and slapstick humor to tell its story (Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush feels like its primary influence). It is first and foremost a comedy, with the scenarios and execution being overly silly, but the tone being just serious enough to progress the story. Parts of it feel like a horror movie, in which the beavers or some wolves team up to attack our hero, but they always become grounded again with a quick joke. As the film has little in the way of dialogue, expressions and body language are used to drive the story, and the performances do excel in this regard. Tews and Graves in particular do their best and tell a compelling, believable love story with not a word spoken to each other. It is this attention to detail which makes Hundreds of Beavers so endearing and sincere.  

In spite of the novelty, Hundreds of Beavers does manage to tell a cohesive story with a beginning, middle, and end. It has twists and turns and spectacle like any blockbuster, just presented in an offbeat manner. The best comparison may be to American tall tales from the nineteenth century, like the legends of Paul Bunyan or Johnny Appleseed. Those stories also involve larger than life heroes with mundane jobs exaggerated to cartoonish proportions, which is what makes these stories so memorable and endearing. The absurdity makes it worth retelling and experiencing for oneself, and the exaggerated tall tale is an appropriate fit for the already exaggerated medium of silent film.

Hundreds of Beavers is a captivating film. The Internet age ushered in a whole new era of zany, non sequitur humor which in its dedication and execution comes full circle to being played one hundred percent straight. This is a movie made for memes, and every frame will warrant further study as so much is going on within it. Tews and Cheslik have simultaneously resurrected the silent film and the surrealist comedy for a new generation, and in this new age of surrealist humor, they made a project set to be the standard bearer for many similar films to come. This movie needs to be seen to be believed, and serves as a reminder of what can happen when people can just have fun making a movie for the sake of making one.

Get it on Apple TV

Hundreds of Beavers will be available to rent and own from April 15, 2024.

Hundreds of Beavers: Trailer (Jean Kayak)

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