Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
With a title like ZOMBEAVERS you know what you’re in for– some good ol’ fashion ridiculous fun. And just because it’s ridiculous doesn’t mean it lacks merit. Call me crazy, but ZOMBEAVERS puts a big-fat-goofy smile on your face when you watch it. It’s a total laugh-riot.
The film follows a group of 20-somethings who venture into the woods for a weekend of sex and debauchery. After a toxic waste spills in nature, a horde of zombie-beavers close in on the kids. Therefore, the group must attempt to fend off the creatures, or else they’re damned!
Fresh Fiction had the opportunity to speak with one the cast members, Cortney Palm, who plays Zoe in ZOMBEAVERS. We talked about b-movies, favorite movie death scenes, and how badass her character is.
I genuinely loved this movie. It was such a fun, ridiculous time. Is it nice to do a film like this after doing something more drama-filled?
Cortney Palm: “Yeah, I think it is, because you can play around on set. You don’t have to be serious all the time. I know that more dramatic films take a toll on you, personally and emotionally.
ZOMBEAVERS would have that every once and a while because of the fear of what’s going on. Yeah, it does take an emotional toll on you. But, it was so much more fun here because you’re messing around on set, cracking jokes and everyone can laugh.
I remember at one point Rachel [Melvin] and I were in a car together, talking in British accents. You know, just d-cking around. It was a really fun time, and I really am thankful for that opportunity– for letting us play around so much to keep it light.”
This film has some of the best movie death scenes I’ve seen in a long time. Do you have a favorite movie death scene?
C. Palm: “I do [Laughs]. Well, I tell everyone that my favorite movie is THE DESCENT, and in one of the scenes this girl has a climbing ax and she’s beating the hell out of this demon, or creature from the underground, and then she stands up abruptly and kills her friend. I just love that scene! I think it’s so good.”
Yes, that is a good one! I was telling Jake Weary a few weeks ago about this film from the 70’s called THE PROPHECY. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of it or not, but it has a hilarious but great death scene. That one is probably my favorite behind Samuel L. Jackson’s in DEEP BLUE SEA.
C. Palm: “Oh, yeah! I love that one. But I haven’t heard of THE PROPHECY. I will have to check that one out.”
Yeah. You should. The storyline is very similar to ZOMBEAVERS, where this toxic waste is cast out into the wilderness and it turns this bear into rage-filled monster– not quite like the zombie-beaver-bear thing you had in this film [Laughs], which was awesome by the way.
C. Palm: “[Laughs].”
But this creature attacks some guy in a banana-like sleeping bag. It picks the guy up and throws him against a boulder and he just explodes. There was no blood; it was straight up chicken feathers (video clip here).
C. Palm: “Oh, wow! That’s crazy [Laughs]. Because of sleeping bag?”
Yeah. I guess so. It made no sense, but it was so great.
C. Palm: “I will definitely check it out. That sounds funny.”
B-movies have been around since the start of film. They were big in the 50s, 70s and 80s. Is there an aspect from the age of filmmaking that you wish you could have experience?
C. Palm: “You know, we kind of touched base on this in another film I did, where you’re reminiscing on the older films. But the elements for me were when the camera would turn away during the death scenes. You would just hear the screams or see the blood fly on the walls. You kind of miss the entire death scene on screen. I can’t remember the name of the movie but it’s with Jamie Lee Curtis, but there’s this bathroom scene where they get boiled alive. What was the name of it?”
It sounds like one of the HALLOWEEN sequels, but I’m not sure.
C. Palm: “Yeah! That’s fun. Movies back then were interesting and weren’t so up in your face with the gore– like it’s still there but you have to use your imagination. I think that’s what’s fun about ZOMBEAVERS— we kind of play with that idea and mix it in with the modern times.”
Yeah, it’s cool that you guys seem to use a lot of practical effects, which goes with the whole working with elements from the past. The Zombeavers themselves are puppets, and I am sure it took a lot of work to operate those things. So I appreciated that.
C. Palm: “Yeah, that’s another thing that I find great– practical effects. I have a background in theatre, and there’s something special about practical effects. It’s part of what has drawn me to the genre and to this movie in particular.
The Zombeaver puppets can’t really bite down. It’s so funny to watch them try because their teeth don’t really penetrate the flesh. It was good times [Laughs].”
That’s funny! So what’s easier for you to lose yourself in– a role that is more dramatic and is a situation that no one wants to imagine, or a movie where you’re trying to imagine a superhero flying around?
C. Palm: “You know, it’s not that difficult for me, I guess. This is going to sound ridiculous, but I played with Barbies until I was a freshman in high school. I also played house. So I would invent things in my head and would talk like I’m 800 different characters, walking around with all these stories. I can make anything believable because of my weird-ass personality [Laughs]. So it’s really easy for me to jump into that world, either way.”
When you read this script for the first time, was there anything about it that surprised you? Do you think there is ever a line that you can cross with a movie like this, or do you think the gates are just wide open for you get as crazy as you want?
C. Palm: “When I read it, I fell in love with my character. When I was working with Jordan Rubin, our director, he told me to play it straight and comedy will come with it. The minute you would try to go a little off-the-wall and crazy, then it would become this SNL-like thing. You sort of just play it as straight as you can and just have fun with the parts that you can have fun with.
Some scripts I read and go, ‘Ah, man. I have to say that?’ [Laughs] But it’s all good fun. I think it comes together well here.”
I agree. Your role was great.
C. Palm: “Aw, thanks!”
No problem! I like how her situation of dealing with all this madness and zombeavers begins as this very crazy and unpredictable thing, but by the end it begins to oddly seem somewhat normal to her. She was just kicking ass and jumping out of windows– doing whatever she needed to do to survive. It’s a very strong character. Have you ever taken on a role that initially felt crazy and unpredictable, but you were surprised by how natural it began to feel?
C. Palm: “You know, not really. I guess, initially everything is different until you start working on breaking down the script and your character and what they would do. Zoe was so much fun because she was someone that– I think her motivation was that she had this strong will to survive.
Her ultimate objective was to save everyone. She wants to save her friends. She’s wild and fun, but there’s a mysterious element to her. It just comes when you break down the script, and I love being able to play on-set opposite other really talented actors. Everyone really brought it every day.
There would be some surprises on-set. Even the editor would surprise you because you would watch the film later and be like, ‘Oh, that’s why my character said that, because of this. I didn’t know, but at least the editor knew!’”
That’s really cool! And I know we’re about out of time, so before I let you go– if you could teach a college course of your creation, what do you think you would teach?
C. Palm: “Of my creation? Wow. I would teach the importance of protecting the planet, saving animals and showing them we’re all one. The planet needs us and we need the planet.”
ZOMBEAVERS is available on DVD and Blu-ray, and it can also be streamed on Netflix today (5/19/2015).