Film Review – Life After Beth
Life After Beth
Again with the zombies…
As we crawl through yet another year of the zombie fad where the undead wreak havoc on the living, along comes yet another iteration. The new movie Life After Beth is another of the comedic zombie stories we’ve gotten in recent years. It features a talented and funny cast, though it’s story and execution aren’t very original at this point.
Zach (Dane DeHaan) is devastated by the recent death of his girlfriend. The recently departed Beth (Aubrey Plaza) was bitten by a poisonous snake while out on a solo hike. Her parents played by Molly Shannon and the always reliable John C. Reilly welcome Zach into their home so they can all share their grief. But after fostering a close relationship, suddenly Beth’s parents shut him out. They don’t answer his calls or answer the door. But when Zach catches a glimpse of Beth walking through their house, he quickly learns that she’s back and more loving than ever. Her Dad doesn’t want her to know she’s been dead. She has no memory of what has happened and no one has any explanations for why she’s returned.
As in love as Zach is, he slowly discovers that there’s a dark side to Beth’s return. She has violent mood swings. She seems to periodically blank out. And he becomes increasingly concerned that she’s going to want to start eating people. It also turns out that Beth is just the first in a larger string of folks coming back from the dead. Whether it’s a long departed mailman, the cook at the local diner, or Zach’s long dead grandfather (Gary Marshall elciting some genuine laughs), the erratically moody dead are popping up all around.
Life After Beth is pretty funny. All of the living dead prefer to easy listening music. Beth’s new found super strength has her smashing cars and tearing up buildings. Aubrey Plaza is great at playing someone emotionally distant as we’ve seen on Parks and Recreation. Her neediness and moodiness are really fun to watch. Also, it’s always a welcome sight to see Paul Reiser and Cheryl Hines who play Zach’s clueless shallow parents.
Where this movie falls short is emotion. It is trying to be a quirky indie comedy version of the zombie tale. But while the jokes keep flying, the relationships aren’t believably moving enough to elicit sympathy. It strives to be Shaun of the Dead. But aside from the comedy, one of the things that makes that movie a classic is the genuine heart at the center of it. You are invested in it’s friendships and love story. Life After Beth has the schtick but not enough feeling.
It’s worth a watch. Aubrey Plaza is a welcome presence on the big screen. The bloody slapstick of the zombies and the quirkiness of the humor is fun. It’s unfortunate that we are so far into this cycle of this genre that it feels like we’ve seen this story a dozen times before.