The Wilderness Doesn’t Give a Damn: Hundreds of Beavers (2024) - Reviewed

In the latter half of Hundreds of Beavers (2024), there's a point where the protagonist is put on trial by a bunch of beavers (don't ask). I noticed that although they spoke gibberish, the defense lawyer beaver had the slightest hint of a Southern accent and was dressed like Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). At this point, I decided that Hundreds of Beavers is the greatest film ever made about anthropomorphic beavers.

The setup is deceptively simple: Jean Kayak (Ryland Brickson Cole Tews) is the proud owner of Applejack Brewery, a popular drinking joint in the 19th-century Midwest. Unfortunately, his brewery is destroyed by beavers, and he is left destitute and homeless in the middle of winter. He has to use his wits to survive in the harsh wilderness, but his ambition is constantly foiled by the local wildlife. The Man vs. Wild premise is well-worn and has been approached by every avenue possible, but Hundreds of Beavers utilizes a highly stylized aesthetic that is equal parts silent film homage, Buster Keaton, and Looney Tunes.

There is a new sight gag every minute in this film, but none are throw-away jokes. Each one builds on the next until it creates a self-contained universe with its own set of rules and physics, and no matter how outlandish it gets, it never breaks the viewer's suspension of belief. Eventually, the gags reach Rube Goldberg levels of complexity, culminating in a wild sequence with shades of Modern Times (1936) and Voltron, and are so ridiculous that they have to be seen to be believed. The second act of the narrative veers into video game homage territory, complete with a word map, fast traveling, and a currency system. Essentially, the protagonist has to "level up" by farming beavers and selling them to a local fur trader. It is at this point the change of focus and pacing might lose some people, but it still goes by at a breakneck pace, albeit with a different goal.

Ryland Brickson Cole Tews' physical performance in this film is incredible, and he completely sells every scene he is in. The crew filmed out in real snow, and at times, you can sense how cold the actor is, especially at a few points where he is nude (!!!) for an extended period of time. The cinematography has a mixed media effect, combining 2D animation, greenscreen, and some CGI imaging. Chris Ryan's score is amazing and follows the action closely, seamlessly shifting between serial adventure riffs and silly cartoon beats. The sound design, in general, is genius, with Kayak communicating almost entirely in grunts and the occasional intertitles to flesh out the story.

Hundreds of Beavers is brimming with passion and is a shining example of creativity in the indie film community. 

For an in-depth review of the touring roadshow, go here!

--Michelle Kisner