Q&A: A Dam Fun Time With “ZOMBEAVERS” Stars and DirectorFearful Features,Home,Movies/TV,News Michael Gingold
ZOMBEAVERS is a walk on the lighter side of the animals-attack subgenre, going for a bloody funny time instead of serious scares. And there are plenty of laughs as well when FANGORIA sits down with two of its lead actresses and director Jordan Rubin.
In ZOMBEAVERS (in select theaters and on VOD today), Rachel Melvin, Lexi Atkins and Cortney Palm play a trio of college girls who head to a remote lakeside cottage to get away from it all—and their boyfriends. The guys follow them to the house anyway, and soon they’re all fighting for their lives against the local beaver population, which have become mutated, flesheating killers (created with practical FX, as opposed to the usual CGI) thanks to accidentally spilled toxic waste. Melvin (at left in the pic below) had her first screen role in Anthony C. Ferrante’s horror film BOO, co-starred in last year’s DUMB AND DUMBER TO and has numerous TV credits, while Atkins (at right), a former Miss Illinois, made her own acting debut in ZOMBEAVERS itself before going on to the recent thriller THE BOY NEXT DOOR and the upcoming fright feature SOME KIND OF HATE. Fango’s high-spirited interview with the duo and Rubin (who previously discussed the movie here) took place during ZOMBEAVERS’ world-premiere showcase at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
FANGORIA: I heard that when you auditioned, the movie wasn’t called ZOMBEAVERS…
RACHEL MELVIN: UNTITLED JORDAN RUBIN PROJECT, that’s what it was.
JORDAN RUBIN: We kept it under wraps!
FANG: So what were your thoughts when you found out you were in a movie titled ZOMBEAVERS?
MELVIN: I thought the title was very clever, and the script was really funny. I thought it would be a fun project to do, and my team and I suspected it could be one of those films that would become a cult favorite…
RUBIN: Your dodgeball team? [Laughs all around]
MELVIN: So that was our initial interest in it, but then I thought it was well-written, and that was enough for me to want to see how the journey could go.
FANG: Were either of you fans of this kind of film before you did this one?
MELVIN: I don’t think I’d ever seen anything like this, actually! I’ve really never seen anything that’s played the way we did it.
RUBIN: What about GREMLINS or something like that?
MELVIN: Oh my God, I loved GREMLINS when I was little! It was one of my favorite movies.
RUBIN: How about you, Lexi?
MELVIN: You never saw it, because you were born in, like, the ’90s, right?
LEXI ATKINS: Yeah, I wasn’t around back then.
MELVIN: Ironically, I’m not really into horror, but I didn’t classify this movie that way. I considered it a comedy, and I felt I could play it properly as long as it was a joke. But if it had been like, “OK, we’re actually supposed to be afraid of zombie beavers,” I’d have said, “No way.”
ATKINS: I actually read it as it being scary, and that’s why I loved it so much [laughs].
MELVIN: Well, when we got on set and saw the beavers, those things were kind of freaky!
FANG: That leads to my next question: Usually, when I interview actors about a film like this, they talk about acting to creatures that aren’t there, since they were added later via CGI. But in this one, you had actual zombeavers to play against.
ATKINS: Yeah, and it was awesome to have them there. That made it a lot easier to react, because this actual beaver was attacking you.
MELVIN: I felt like there was a special kind of creativity on set that is almost lost now in film, because everything is done by computer. It’s so magical to see these people create things from nothing, and then have them on set. I grew up with Jim Henson shows; FRAGGLE ROCK was my favorite thing in the world, and I still find puppets fascinating. So to actually be able to work with them, and see how the effects team really get into it and create these things, was a really cool experience.
FANG: Were there any particular scenes that were memorable to do? [Pause, then laughs all around]
RUBIN: He’s trying to get a spoiler out of you!
ATKINS: Well, there’s the scene where I turn into one…
RUBIN: That’s OK, you see it in the trailer.
ATKINS: [To Melvin] I’m crawling on top of you, with real drool getting all over you…
MELVIN: Oh God, I have a really big aversion to boogers and snot and things like that; it makes me gag, and I thought for a long time it might be psychosomatic. She had these prosthetics on, and there was so much glue and saliva and stuff hanging over me, and Jordan was like, “Let it hang,” and I said, “Yeah, Lexi, let it hang!” All of a sudden I started heaving, and I was like, “What is happening? I’m gonna throw up!” And then I thought, “Oh my God, it reminds me of snot,” and I turned away, like, “I can’t, I can’t!” Jordan was so bummed he didn’t have a camera on me, because it was Lexi’s coverage, but that was pretty scarring for me. And then you couldn’t stop laughing!
RUBIN: And then I remember having to get a shot of Lexi throwing a drop of saliva on your face.
ATKINS: Yeah, and it wasn’t like they were faking that; it was the real thing.
RUBIN: It felt important to get that close-up!
FANG: When you first read the script and saw that you had to transform, did that give you pause at all?
ATKINS: I honestly didn’t know what that meant, to have that kind of transformation. I didn’t really look into it that much [laughs], until it came down to actually doing it, and I was like, “Oh my God.” I’d never had a body cast or anything like that done before, and I think it was good that I went in not knowing what to expect.
RUBIN: Yeah, there were certain moments when I could see her processing it.
ATKINS: And then I had to have people help me go to the bathroom and things like that. There was stuff stuck on me all day long, and I had to ask for help for a lot of things!
MELVIN: Also, we shot the movie in February in Santa Clarita, and it got very cold, and we were in our bikinis and had to go into this lake that was cold and dirty and disgusting.
ATKINS: I felt so horrible; I was complaining more than anyone, and I just had to put my feet in it.
RUBIN: Well, you did have to swim at one point.
ATKINS: Yeah, and I’m not a good swimmer, so that was hard.
MELVIN: Right before Lexi jumped off the raft, she was like, “Wait, I can’t swim.” [Laughs all around]
ATKINS: It was not cool, and then, Cortney can swim really well; she was just diving in and out, and I was trying to doggy-paddle.
MELVIN: You and I got lucky, because the day we finally had to go in, it was actually pretty warm, and it felt nice.
RUBIN: And the boys complained to; they were, like, these tough guy’s guys, but when they went in the water…
MELVIN: They lost it.
RUBIN: They went crazy, they got mad at me, and Cortney was like, “Whatever.”
ATKINS: Yeah, jumping in and out, like, “Come on, guys! Stop complaining!”
FANG: Jordan, you obviously had a lot of youthful energy on the set; was it a challenge to corral that and focus it?
ATKINS: Oh my God, are you kidding? He added to it! [Laughs all around]
RUBIN: Yeah, I definitely feel like I’m young at heart. I thrive on that, and always have, and I have an ADD sort of personality and sense of humor. They all brought the same thing, so that made it a pleasure to work with them. I thrive on that kind of situation, where there are a million things going on, and they all had such fun energy, a “Let’s do this” attitude, so even when it was uncomfortable and things got hairy—pun intended—that made it easier to get through the harder times, because there was a mutual understanding. We’d be on an 18-hour day, and Lexi would have to do a prosthetic scene at the end of that, and it was stressful, and I could tell they were grinning and bearing it, like, “OK, we’ll take it for the team, because we’ll be back in the fun zone tomorrow.”
FANG: Was it exciting when the ZOMBEAVERS trailer went viral, and this little movie you had made suddenly blew up?
ATKINS: That was so awesome.
MELVIN: I don’t want to say I was expecting it, but I knew that was part of the agenda. I was more excited than shocked; I knew this was why, when we were on set, there was so much strict nondisclosure stuff.
RUBIN: But you could totally flop with that, like, “We have a secret,” and then when it comes out, everyone says, “Oh, we don’t care.” You can’t plan for anything to go viral.
MELVIN: No, but I think we all knew we had something that could really catch on, and we were trying to play our cards right. And that kind of strategy really worked.
ATKINS: I thought it was crazy that it blew up. My friend called me saying, “Oh my God, ZOMBEAVERS has a million hits on YouTube!” I was like, “What??” I hadn’t even seen it yet, so then I watched it on-line and was like, “Oh my God, it looks so awesome!” This was literally the first acting role I’d ever done, it was the first audition I ever had, so I didn’t think it would be much of anything, honestly [laughs]. And it just got huge, which was amazing. All my friends were calling, telling me, “Hey, I watched your thing on YouTube.”
RUBIN: Jake Weary told me that people were posting the trailer on his Facebook page, like, “You have to see this movie,” not knowing he was in it!
MELVIN: Yes, I had a friend do that as well. And I said, “Oh my God, that’s me in it!” They didn’t believe me at all, and I was like, “No, it’s really me.”
FANG: It sounds like you had a lot of fun making this film; would you do another one like it?
MELVIN: It depends, because this experience was so good that I wouldn’t want to go into another one expecting the same thing and then be disappointed.
ATKINS: I would definitely do it again. I don’t know if I’d want to be the one in prosthetics, but I would definitely do another film like this. I had so much fun on ZOMBEAVERS.