Fantasia 2023: Hundreds of Beavers and The Fantastic Golem Affairs

Image Courtesy of Fantasia International Film Festival

Fantasia International Film Festival is so much more than just horror movies. As the foremost genre film festival in the world, they open our minds to futuristic utopias and dystopias through films like Restore Point that rest on the fringes of sci-fi and horror. Yet, they also venture into over-the-top comedies that can’t be clearly defined as such. We saw this last year with the irreverent Cult Hero, and the tradition continues with two films that offer a similar vibe in the uncanny imaginativeness of how they are presented. Hundreds of Beavers and The Fantastic Golem Affairs (El fantástico caso del Golem) are very different films but tickle the same funny bone of anyone who craves outrageous situations. 

The poster for Hundreds of Beavers shows an animated Jean Kayak running away from an onslaught of the creatures.
Image courtesy of Fantasia International Film Festival

Hundreds of Beavers 

Reading the synopsis for Mike Cheslik’s Hundreds of Beavers, you get the sense you’re in for an experience. The director of Lake Michigan Monster, a slapstick Lovecraft-inspired tale about a sea captain who hires a rowdy crew to hunt the sea monster that killed his father, returns with another movie in the same slapstick vein. Like Cheslik’s previous film, Hundreds of Beavers is set against a green screen with a grainy black and white look. The aesthetic helps further the movie’s cartoonish appeal pitting man against nature through the Jeremiah Johnson ruggedness of cold isolation while throwing it back to the likes of Benny Hill, Buster Keaton, and Bugs Bunny. 

Ryland Brickson Cole Tews revives his leading star status in the second film he co-wrote with Cheslik containing a story concerning Jean Kayak, a hard cider brewer who gets a little overexcited when the fur trappers return for the season. Over the course of a catchy drinking song, the brewer gets inebriated as mischievous beavers sabotage his casks, helping Kayak destroy his business. Waking up with nothing in the middle of winter after decimating his orchards and brewery, the brewer is forced to learn the ways of the trappers fast. With no food and the thinnest of threads, it’s catch something or die trying.  

Attempting to secure supplies from a local Merchant (Doug Mancheski) proves difficult as Kayak offers what he can trade for trapping supplies. When Kayak makes eyes at The Furrier (Olivia Graves), the overprotected daughter of The Merchant, it begins a quest to try and impress them both to earn her father’s respect enough to ask her to marry him. Knowing who Jean Kayak is, the merchant tasks Kayak with bringing him Hundreds of Beavers, proving Kayak has what it takes to earn his daughter’s hand.  

A beaver raises a wooden chair to strike Jean KAyak with in Hundreds of Beavers
Image courtesy of Fantasia International Film Festival

With the help of The Master Trapper (Wes Tank) and The Indian Trapper (Luis Rico), Jean Kayak’s efforts start out hilariously abysmal, dealing with other animals and miscalculations, but trying repeatedly like Wile E. Coyote, Kayak soon becomes an ingenious trapper with marvelous engineering skills. That is until the beavers launch an investigation into the murders of their fellow kin and lay a trap for themselves.  

Like Lake Michigan Monster, Hundreds of Beavers is outlandish and uproarious, guaranteed to bring a smile to the face of every adult who grew up with the Looney Tunes. The costuming of furry-inspired creatures in the forest helps give the film a lighthearted feeling where nothing needs to be taken seriously. The movie feels cut into three acts presenting a nostalgia for the serials that played before theatrical features in the 1930s. However, compiling those parts only makes it better and more excessive as the film continues. The transitional period of Jean Kayak the Brewer to Jean Kayak the Trapper is probably the film at its most limited as it builds up to a finale of pure spectacle.

The CGI used by Cheslik and company works best in this setting of creating a real-life animated movie. Consider, A Sound of Thunder, 2005’s critically panned CGI thriller where some of the scenes amount to Edward Burns and Catherine McCormick walking and talking but never leaving a green screen in a studio. That made-to-be-taken-seriously film, shot for $80 million and representing dire consequences of humanity, wasn’t taken seriously by critics or audiences. However, in a movie meant to look like a cartoon, such as Hundreds of Beavers, it’s a great choice, providing recurring backdrops and sight gags implemented through its use that create a riotous effect for lovers of animated comedy.  

Hundreds of Beavers won’t be for everyone, some will likely scoff at a silent film being made in 2023, while those who hate The Three Stooges will muster their complaints as well, but I think Cheslik and Tews capture the merriment of Chuck Jones into one-hundred-and-eight minutes of delightful jokes that don’t overstay their welcome.  

The Fantastic Golem Affairs (El fantástico caso del Golem) 

The utter lunacy of Hundreds of Beavers also seemed to infiltrate the next Fantasia film I watched, The Fantastic Golem Affairs, a Spanish import from directorial team Juan González and Nando Martínez, a.k.a. Burnin Percebes. The film features characters that break apart like plaster dolls and several falling pianos but offers a sobering take on friendship and interpersonal relationships.  

A man and woman sit at a restaurant table in The Fantastic Golem Affairs
Image Courtesy of Fantasia International Film Festival

The film starts on a rooftop where two friends, Juan (Brays Efe) and David (David Menéndez), are playing a charades drinking game that revolves around guessing the movie the other is acting out. The atmospheric look of the rooftop provides a resemblance to Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, indirectly injecting the non-serious tone of the oncoming film while simultaneously praising Wiseau’s ambitious feature. González and Martínez boldly approach The Fantastic Golem Affairs with similar originality, putting forward a movie that they hope will resonate with fans of low-budget films in a similar vein. Things take a turn when David, while walking the edge of the rooftop mimicking King Kong, falls over the edge, shattering to pieces after a morose Wes Anderson-styled display of David’s sculpture dropping between buildings and onto a neighbor’s car in the main titles. 

David’s death is the catalyst for the surrealness of death in Juan’s life, causing him to seek answers for why his best friend in the world shockingly died that way. Juan’s investigation brings a barrage of characters to his door, including a woman with commitment issues (Anna Castillo) who may have witnessed something like this before, a police investigator (Javier Botet) who may know more than he’s letting on, David’s unfaithfully conniving lover (Nao Albet) and his “attorney” (Roberto Álamo), and Juan’s father (Luis Tosar) who doesn’t want to talk any further about David’s death.  

Juan begins to suspect a conspiracy against him when he starts seeing the police officers following him around and retreating to a strange building. He discovers that his friendship with David wasn’t exactly what he thought, and David was built at a company specializing in Golems. When Juan involves the help of his father’s assistant, Clara (Bruna Cusí), the two set out to make things right in the lives David affected and put the pieces of everyone else’s life back together again.  

The poster for The Fantastic Golem Affairs is pink with every character animated seperately.
Image courtesy of Fantasia International Film Festival

The Fantastic Golem Affairs feels like the madcap Frankenstein creation of Burnin Percebes watching a lot of Charlie Kaufman, Coen Brothers, and Wes Anderson films. The film is both fantastic, as its title suggests, and grounded with resonating themes surrounding the difficulty of connecting with people. Much of the film evolves from a plotline where parents think their children are incapable of making friends on their own, insulating them from ever experiencing the pains of growing up and moving on. Another theme here is shown in how some characters respond to Juan revealing any sort of affection, which means he gets hit on a lot simply for showing empathy. The film puts all kinds of different relationships into perspective, suggesting there is no right or wrong way to be with people so long as they’re approached with respect, and if we can get past misunderstandings, we can find lasting friendships with people we never expected.  

Another film created on a short budget, The Fantastic Golem Affairs doesn’t go out of its way to find locations but prefers the smooth transitions of multiple set pieces. The camerawork and rich coloring help the film exude a lot of charm, but the film’s story and characters carry us from scene to scene. Juan wants to go back to a carefree lifestyle, but after David’s death, he’s simply unable as secrets are unveiled almost telenovela style. My one nitpick of the film is that it runs out of some steam just before the finish line, pushing one extra plot development during its wrap-up that negatively affects its pace. Beyond that, however, The Fantastic Golem Affairs is a wholly original concept stemming from misadventures in making acquaintances. Genre fans will love it for its idiosyncratic nature and the surprising heaps of blood-spray comedy. 

Hundreds of Beavers held its Canadian Premiere at Fantasia International Film Festival on July 28. Those attending will have one more chance to see the film on Monday, July 31. The Fantastic Golem Affairs had its North American Premiere on Saturday, July 22, followed by an encore on July 24. The film is currently touring the festival circuit abroad after being released in Spain on June 8.  

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Written by Sean Parker

Living just outside of Boston, Sean has always been facinated by what horror can tell us about contemporary society. He started writing music reviews for a local newspaper in his twenties and found a love for the art of thematic and symbolic analysis. Sean joined Horror Obsessive at it's inception, and is currently the site's Creative Director. He produces and edits the weekly Horror Obsessive podcast for the site as well as his interviews with guests. He has recently started his foray into feature film production as well, his credits include Alice Maio Mackay's Bad Girl Boogey, Michelle Iannantuono's Livescreamers, and Ricky Glore's upcoming Troma picture, Sweet Meats.

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