Hundreds of Beavers review: help, the beavers have unionised!

Mike Cheslik's Hundreds of Beavers is a silent film made on a shoestring budget that's guaranteed to bust your gut.
Hundreds of Beavers. Image: Revelation Perth International Film Festival/Justin Cook Public Relations

I can already say quite confidently that I’ve seen my favourite release of the year so far. The reason? No other film but Hundreds of Beavers has militant beavers, randy rabbits, cheeky raccoons, and dogs in BDSM gear playing poker – who are all depicted by humans in mascot suits.

Directed by Mike Cheslik and written by Cheslik and the film’s Chaplin-channelling star Ryland Brickson Cole Tews, Hundreds of Beavers is a clear homage to the vaudevillian antics and technical prowess of 1920s megastars Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and Harold Lloyd – with a bit of Jackie Chan thrown in for good measure.

The ‘hundreds of beavers’ obviously being people in costumes is just the absurd icing on the cake, transforming this feature from silent-comedy-love-letter into something truly special.

The plot starts out simple enough: Tews plays 19th century man Jean Kayak, the careless and perpetually drunk owner of an applejack brewery, who finds himself stranded in the wilderness after a fire destroys his orchard. The wilderness offers many challenges, not only in the form of snow, ice, and wind, but also the aforementioned rabbits, raccoons, wolves, and – dun dun duuun! – beavers. Maybe hundreds of them … possibly thousands.

The Hundreds of Beavers trailer

Fists of Furry

Jean is soon joined by a small cast of memorable characters, including the Fur Merchant, his beautiful daughter (who Jean quickly falls in love with), the Master Fur Trapper who teaches him the way of the woods, and a Native American man who rides a horse played by two men in a crude, sheet-like costume.

That particular moment when the horse is revealed had me in tears – but then again, so many moments in this film had that effect on me, and by the time the credits rolled I had a lump in my throat and a stitch in my side from cackling so hard.

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Jean’s visit to the merchant incites his mission: to kill ‘hundreds of beavers’ in order to win the hand of the merchant’s daughter. It also ‘unlocks’ new mechanics for him to use in his adventure, much like a video game would. For example: the more pelts he brings back, the better weaponry he has to choose from.

The more he successfully captures and kills the creatures, the better understanding he gains of their strengths and weaknesses. Rabbits are partial to carrots (and snow bunnies), but raccoons are partial to the rabbits – so he must be careful when laying his trap. Fish are attracted to flies, but to get flies, one must acquire poop.

That poop can also be used to attract the beavers – though he soon discovers something else they are more inclined towards, which I won’t spoil here.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get weirder …

The brilliance of the film shines in its commitment to the bit – instead of trying to convince the audience that the beavers etc are real creatures, it leans into the fact that they are obviously human by revealing feet, hands, and human skeletons underneath.

Instead of creating a world that obeys the laws of physics, Beavers‘ version of the wilderness has several portals that can zip Jean around in a flash. And instead of following logic, Jean Kayak stumbles into more and more absurd situations that he solves in the most round-about ways possible.

Just wait until you see his snowman fishing farm, his perpetual wind-machine trap, and his instant-escape device. The lengths to which he will go to MacGyver something know no bounds.

Tews is a physical tour-de-force as Jean Kayak, crashing and bashing his way into the hearts of every new viewer and making them believe he was born to be in silent comedies (if only they were still popular!). He’s been blessed with the dual abilities to blend in seamlessly with 1920s black-and-white slapstick and mug his way through moments that are instantly meme-able for social media. As the only human face on screen for most of the film, he has no problem carrying the narrative stakes and delivering the laughs-per-second.

There are certain films that come along every once in a while that just absolutely charm the pants off of you with their pure love for the cinematic craft. Sure, a tonne of Hollywood money can buy you superstar leads, pretty CGI, incredibly detailed costumes and ginormous sets – but the gimmick quickly wears off.

Hundreds of Beavers was made for a fraction’s fraction of that kind of money, and is infinitely more impressive due to Cheslik and Tew’s understanding of the craft – including effective mise en scene, engaging story pacing, and brilliant joke-heightening.

Despite technically having its first release in 2022, this modern American silent-comedy only really entered the Australian cinema scene in 2024 – starting with a few sparse entries at festivals, and quickly leading to a demand for encore screenings.

It truly is a triumph of low-budget indie cinema, and I’m delighted more Aussies will get a chance to experience it soon.

Hundreds of Beavers will have exclusive screenings at Dendy Cinemas on 12 July. A wider release is planned for later in the year. Check your local film festival’s lineup for additional screenings.


5 out of 5 stars

Hundreds of Beavers


Ryland Cole Brickson Tews, Olivia Graves, Doug Mancheski, Luis Rico


Mike Cheslik

Format: Movie

Country: USA

Release: 12 July 2024

Silvi Vann-Wall is a journalist, podcaster, and filmmaker. They joined ScreenHub as Film Content Lead in 2022. Twitter: @SilviReports