Hundreds of Beavers
Hundreds of Beavers

Hundreds of Beavers is Unlike Anything You’ve Seen Before or Will Ever See Again

Lake Michigan Monster in 2018 by Mike Cheslik and Ryland Brickson Cole Tews was a lo-fi indie comedy homage to all things nautical and creature features. Reuniting once again for Hundreds of Beavers this whacky and brilliant pair showcase their love for everything from classic silent cinema, to slapstick, and even computer games. They also stick a broad middle finger up at the American myth of the great frontiersman that was perpetuated by men like Davey Crockett and Daniel Boone – a myth so ingrained in American culture it has become its own kind of kitsch and is deserving of a few well aimed blows to highlight just what a ridiculous colonialist concept it is.

The film starts as it means to go on – that is super weird. It’s the 19th century, we are in the Northern mid-west and Jean Kayak’s (Ryland Brickson Cole Tews) ACME Applejack brewery has just been destroyed. Tews and Cheslik use a bricolage of live action, animation, puppetry, and people wearing fur suits to create something that sits between Looney Tunes, Chaplin and Keaton, and Nintendo.

Jean has to become a wild mountain man and work out how to survive. Something not particularly easy for a man who is routinely falling into holes, tripping over his own feet, and being outsmarted by raccoons. He’s not particularly smart but through trial, error, and repetition he eventually starts to learn how to be a trapper. Along the way he falls in love with a pole dancing furrier (Olivia Graves) the daughter of the local trader (Doug Mancheski) who is a tad overprotective of his hatchet wielding daughter and won’t budge and inch to help Jean.

Describing Hundreds of Beavers is almost reductive. It is quite simply a film that must be experienced to appreciate its genius. It is symphonic physical comedy with a sharp eye on what makes slapstick so universally appealing. It is saucy, subversive, and brilliant. However, let’s give a description an honest all-American go!

Man vs. Nature films are a dime a dozen. They’re still being made sometimes as hero stories, sometimes as horror stories, sometimes as boy’s own adventure tales. Hell, The Revenant even won an Oscar. Mike Cheslik and Ryland Brickson Cole Tews know the genre well and subvert it at every opportunity. Jean Kayak meets a better trapper who shows him the ropes, learns about the food chain (apparently shit is a part of it, and wolves eat dogs – even those who play poker), gets help from a friendly First Nations guy, draws up an ever-changing map, and goes toe-to-toe with bunnies, raccoons, skunks, wolves, and most especially, beavers.

In David Lynch films the Owls may not be what they seem but in Hundreds of Beavers it is the enterprising dam builders who have the upper hand. No spoilers, but the beavers are smarter than the average bear (oddly there are no bears in the film) and even have their own Sherlock and Watson who track down the murders of their fellow beavers.

Once Jean gets a bit of a hand on the whole being a trapper thing he decides to trade for the hand of the furrier, a trade that will cost him hundreds of beavers, so the lovelorn man sets out to make it happen. Little does he know…

Hundreds of Beavers might seem like an absurdity, but it knows exactly what it is doing. It’s exquisitely made with the animation seamlessly (and sometimes openly with seams) blending in with Ryland Brickson Cole Tews’ Keaton and Elmer Fudd/Wile E. Coyote’s inspired performance. The human sized fur suited critters are hilarious (furries, this one might just be for you) and bawdy. The world building is mind-blowing. There are so many passing references to films and cartoons of yore that it can be hard to keep up. But keep up you must because there isn’t a second of this glorious film you want to miss. If you’ve ever wanted to see Chaplin’s Modern Times acted by folks in beaver suits, well now is your chance. Ever wanted to watch a Kubrick or Welles film spun through Donkey Kong or Mario Bros.? You’ve probably not even imagined it.

Hundreds of Beavers really is unique. If you caught and enjoyed Lake Michigan Monster then you have an idea of what these whacky guys can do, but they’ve doubled down on the craziness and upped the budget to create a spectacle for the ages. Hundreds of Beavers means you’ll never be able to look at frontier stories the same way or hum the theme songs to Daniel Boone and Davey Crockett without giggling hysterically. If a single ounce of the creativity Mike Cheslik and Ryland Brickson Cole Tews exhibit in their work could be bottled Hollywood need never worry about running out of ideas again. It’s little wonder that their inspiration and champion is the wondrous auteur of the weird, Guy Maddin. Hundreds of Beavers is a literal riot and beyond your wildest expectations.

Director: Mike Cheslik

Cast: Ryland Brickson Cole Tews, Olivia Graves, Wes Tank

Writers: Mike Cheslik, Ryland Brickson Cole Tews

Nadine Whitney

Nadine Whitney holds qualifications in cinema, literature, cultural studies, education and design. When not writing about film, art or books, she can be found napping and missing her cat.

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