Review: Life After Beth – Dysfunctional zombies
Life After Beth is what happens when you mix zombies with a comedy about dysfunctional families … and why not? The undead have infiltrated everything from classic Jane Austen novels to Marvel Comics, so it was bound to happen. If you dig goofy movies like Napoleon Dynamite, but think they’d be better with a few walking dead thrown in, then this is the movie for you.
Written and directed by Jeff Baena (who also wrote the quirky comedy, I Heart Huckabees), Life After Beth is a dark but fun look at what might happen if your dead girlfriend showed back up a couple of days after her funeral. The story has a twisted EC Comics style horror appeal to it, but it is also a screwball comedy about modern families who love each other, but who will never get along, even when faced with dire and horrific circumstances that should bring them together.
Beth (Aubrey Plaza) dies after being bitten by a snake while hiking alone in the forest, and her boyfriend, Zach (Dane DeHaan) is broken-hearted and distraught over all the things he never did with her (like hiking and Flamenco dancing) and that he never said to her when she was alive.
The young man seeks comfort in the home of Beth’s parents, Maury (John C. Reilly) and Geenie Slocum (Molly Shannon), where he bonds with them over their daughter’s death; at least until she shows back up at their house, “alive” but not quite the same.
Even though Zach and Beth had been having troubles in their relationship, she seems to have forgotten all about that and just wants to go hiking with him (and get away from her parents – who are trying to keep her return a secret.) Zach is more interested in getting her alone so they can have sex. (Yes, there is a weird necrophilia thing going on here — when you get right down to it.)
Beth doesn’t realize she’s dead until later in the film, as her parents are persistent in keeping that fact from her. But eventually learns the truth and it turns out she’s not the only one who has returned from the dead, as an (almost) full-scale zombie apocalypse begins to take place.
Nearly everything here is played for laughs, but Life After Beth is definitely one of those “love it” or “hate it” type of comedies that will not suit everyone’s taste. I personally thought the film was really funny and liked its not-so-subtle commentary on love, relationships and family, as well as its jabs at the zombie movie genre.
Additionally, I heart Aubrey Plaza, who is great in this wacky movie. I’ve never seen her on her television show, Parks and Recreation, but I fell in love with her in Safety Not Guaranteed, and it was awesome to watch her in another quirky indie-film part. The rest of the cast is very good as well, and includes Cheryl Hines as Zach’s Mom, Paul Reiser as his Dad, Matthew Gray Gubler as his militant brother, and Anna Kendrick as the “other woman.”
Life After Beth could have easily been pulled from the pages of a Fifties or Sixties horror comic book, so if you are a fan of flicks like Creepshow, you’ll probably get a groovy but gruesome kick out of this movie. It’s a solid entry in the horror/comedy/romance genre and is certainly worth seeking out. Grade: 7/10
“Life After Beth” starts Friday, August 22, 2014, at Harkins Shea in Scottsdale.
Photos © 2014 A24 Films