“Hundreds of Beavers”

This film was screened at Fantastic Fest

I attend several major film festivals every year, and it’s always a pleasure to discover a gem that’s hiding somewhere in the cinematic void. Genre film fests are among the most interesting because they showcase independent horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and other avant-garde, eccentric, micro-budget works of art. That’s why director Mike Cheslik‘s “Hundreds of Beavers” was the perfect fit for Fantastic Fest. This black and white game of man vs. beaver is my favorite film that I saw at the festival this year, and it’s not even close.

In what I can only describe as a Looney Tunes cartoon meets Charlie Chaplin meets “Cannibal! The Musical,” this dialogue-free film tells the story of an often-drunk applejack salesman who wants to become the greatest fur trapper in North America. The only way he can reach his goal is to defeat hundreds of beavers in the snow-covered woods. It’s a simple plot, but the humor is on point and the situations our hero finds himself in are absolutely hilarious. Those with a penchant for slapstick will appreciate the whimsy that defines the entire film.

Although this is a silent film with no dialogue, it’s engrossing from the get-go. To make a project like this so interesting takes a different kind of skill from a filmmaking team, and Cheslik along with co-writer Ryland Brickson Cole Tews have an intuitive flair for the farcical and absurd. You’d think the one hour and forty eight minute run time would be excessive, but it doesn’t feel overly long at all. That’s just astounding and is a testament to how strong the storytelling is.

To reveal too many plot points would ruin the surprises because this is a film about discovery in the moment. Even the look of the beavers is hysterical, and when paired with goofy, exaggerated facial expressions and scenes that are reminiscent of Wile E. Coyote chasing the Roadrunner, it’s easy to become engrossed in the absurdity of it all. As the trapper begins to eliminate his furry foes one by one, crude animation registers the beaver kills. His traps become more inventive, clever, and outrageous as he embarks on his quest to annihilate a forest full of beavers.

The film ends with a spectacular sled and snowball chase finale that’s as exciting as it is ridiculous, and the humor drifts between dark and lighthearted with ease. “Hundreds of Beavers” is a true achievement in oddball independent filmmaking, and I am here for every last drop of it.

By: Louisa Moore

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