LIFE AFTER BETH (USA/15A/89mins)
Directed by Jeff Baena. Starring Dane DeHaan, Aubrey Plaza, John C. Reilly, Anna Kendrick.
THE PLOT: What would you do if your recently deceased girlfriend reappeared, seemingly alive, with no recollection of her ‘death’? This is the problem faced by Zach (Dane DeHaan) in Life After Beth, when Beth (Aubrey Plaza) returns and is hidden away by her delighted but seemingly clueless parents. It is not long before Zach realises something is terribly wrong, but trying to negotiate and reason with the recently deceased – and grotesquely horny – Beth proves harder than he would like.
THE PLOT: Zombies, man. Like vampires a few years ago, zombies are absolutely everywhere at the moment. TV, film, books… Not real life though – I don’t think – ‘cos that would be horrific. Anyway, Life After Beth is another twist on the zombie story, another play with zombie lore, and another attempt that almost works.
The cast here is stupendous; John C. Reilly, Dane DeHaan, Aubrey Plaza, Cheryl Hines and Anna Kendrick prove that they have a knack for making great choices when it comes to scripts. Plaza plays up the confused and horny zombie to brilliant effect, Reilly grabs onto the idea of father in denial and runs with it, and DeHaan carries the movie – and provides the voice of reason – as a young man delighted his girlfriend is not really dead, but unsure what this actually means. Kendrick has fun with the giggly, vapid post-teenager Erica; Jim O’Heir and Adam Pally – last seen on TV and um… Iron Man 3 – turn up in small roles.
The story, written by Jeff Baena is yet another twist on the zombie story; what if the dead came back seemingly as themselves, and the zombie plague required a gestation period of sorts, before striking in full force. The idea plays with the notion that people in walking dead type production have no trouble in shooting their zombie loved ones in the head. The trouble is that once all of this is established, the story really relies on the way it ends, and the ending is one that fizzles out, leaving the film with tons of unanswered questions – why do the zombies like attics? – and an unfinished feel.
As director, Jeff Baena never quite gets the balance between comedy and melodrama right, leaving the audiences feeling as though they are laughing at the wrong things. The performances are strong, but the world of the film never feels fully fleshed out enough (sorry!) to support them. There are tons of great moments, but these never gel together enough to make Life After Beth live up to its potential.
LIFE AFTER BETH is a film with a clever central idea, and a wonderful cast that do a heck of a job, but without a proper ending, and massive unresolved questions, LIFE AFTER BETH is two thirds a good movie, and one third an unholy mess. Shame, I have such a soft spot for Aubrey Plaza.

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Life After Beth
1.0Overall Score
  • filmbuff2011

    Horror comedies are tricky things to pull off. Get it right and you can end up with something brilliant like An American Werewolf In London. Get it wrong and you end up with a mess that is neither funny nor scary, like Scary Movie. Life After Beth is thankfully in the former category. Zach (Dane DeHaan) loves his girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza) dearly. But now she’s the dearly departed, after a snake bite on a hike ends her life. Is she really dead though? When Zach briefly spots at her home, he questions her parents, domineering Maury (John C. Reilly) and meek Geenie (Molly Shannon). Beth is indeed alive, but now has a voracious appetite for Zach, likes to stay in the attic and has a fondness for soft jazz. Her behaviour is also becomingly increasingly moody and erratic. It’s not that time of the month though – she’s just becoming a zombie… Writer/director Jeff Baena makes his debut with this endearingly daffy but thoroughly enjoyable romzomcom. In a sense, it’s a response to Warm Bodies but with a darker edge that sets it apart. It helps to have a cast that obviously engaged fully with the somewhat absurd nature of the story. DeHaan has impressed greatly in intense, serious roles, but here he shows a natural talent for comedy. Plaza deserves to be a bigger star by now. She’s hilarious here, particularly when she goes full tilt zombie, with a stove attached to her back and a stake in her heart (she’s not a vampire though). Hopefully, that breakthrough role is just around the corner (possibly the upcoming Mortdecai). By turns sweet, funny, absurd, creepy and touching, Life After Beth is a horror comedy with bite. Highly recommended. ****