Zombies aren’t just dead yet, as we’ve seen some pretty great Zombie flicks recently, which have restored faith in the genre. There are your World War Z‘s, that are action heavy and thrilling. Then there are your Warm Bodies, which focus more on love that we didn’t know was possible until now. What happens, however, when you infuse all sorts of genres into a Zombie flick? The result could be any number of things and in this case, it’s a very interesting attempt to create something fresh and new. You’ve certainly never seen anything quite like it.
Following the death of his girlfriend, Zach (Dane DeHaan) is in a state of shock and disbelief. His entire world is crumbling around him and no one seems to understand where his head is at. His parents (Cheryl Hines & Paul Reiser) try to be supportive, but they worry about his eating habits and where he goes at night. For some time afterwards, Zach found himself hanging out with his girlfriend’s parents and talking about all that’s on his mind. Maury (John C. Reilly) loves Zach and spends as much time talking with him as he can, but it gets tough as they go through their daughters stuff. Geenie (Molly Shannon), her mother, also loves Zach and does all she can to help him. Then one day, they stopped answering Zach’s calls and letting him inside.
Curious about why he’s being shutout, Zach tries to sneak into the Slocum’s house and he sees something through the window that really freaks him out. Immediately, Zach rushes home and tells his family that his girlfriend, Beth (Aubrey Plaza), is still alive and walking around her house! Zach doesn’t let his persistence waiver and attempts to get into the Slocum’s house, which only infuriates his older brother Kyle (Matthew Gray Gubler), a member of the neighborhood force. When Zach finally gets in, however, everything seems normal to him. His love is back and she’s exactly the same as before… Well, except for the fact that she may, or may not be a zombie.
Life After Beth is a strange amalgamation of multiple different genres, resulting in a new form of zombie films that is sure to catch on in the mainstream. Especially after Warm Bodies opened us up to some great Zombie love, this film is sure to add intrigue to any potential watcher. The film totes a great talented and hilarious cast, akin to some smaller and larger films, that sells the story for the majority of the time, but the film does miss every now and again. It’s still a very interesting film that, while not always successful, presents new opportunities for future films and further solidifies the careers of the wonderful actors in it.
Aubrey Plaza plays her familiar Parks & Rec character, which I think is absolutely hilarious and quirky, and she’s the one who really sells this film. Her gradual progression as a zombie is increasingly entertaining and she never waivers in her dedication to the role. She’s the one bringing the biggest laughs and also frightening you, from time to time. Dane DeHaan plays his role as Plaza’s boyfriend with a lot of emotion, as he’s always caught up in the fact that his girlfriend is back and that puts him over the moon. Despite the fact that she’s kind of a zombie, he still loves her and is actively trying to make it work. No one understands his love for Beth, which greatly frustrates him, and his entire reasoning for anything in the film is always askew. Together, they make the most odd pair of lovers and their love knows no boundaries… Well, the whole eating people thing is sort-of a deal-breaker, but I’m sure they can work through it.
John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon are a comedy match made in heaven and together, they work really well. They shift from frantic, grieving parents to ecstatic and befuddled ones. Molly Shannon is always undermining John C. Reilly and his reactions are priceless, as is his handling of DeHaan’s character. There’s certainly more room for outrageous comedy on their point, but they also realize that they’re not the focal point of the story and they let the others take the lead. Criminal Minds‘s Matthew Gray Gubler really surprised me here, as he loses that knowledgeable charm and plays a total douchebag. His character is one that’s either going to be loved, or hated and I found myself laughing a ton whenever he spoke. He takes himself so seriously and his best moments are when he really gets to let loose and have fun with this film’s concept. Lastly, there’s Anna Kendrick who’s in the film for a total of 10 minutes and though she doesn’t do much besides being totally odd, she still adds some humor and smiles to the film.
Writer/Director Jeff Baena plays around with this new genre that he’s dubbed “ZomComRomDram” and it works for the most part. It’s clear that this film bounces around when it comes to certain tones and moods and Baena has certainly written something interesting here. The film never ventures too far into the Zombie realm and it never gets too Dramatic, but it could have benefited from a bit more comedy. As for the romance, Dane DeHaan does his best to pour his heart out (not literally) to Plaza and her Zombie is a peculiar one. I found elements of Shaun of the Dead in this film and it certainly gives off that indie vibe. Baena brings up a ton of great ideas with this concept, it’s just unfortunate that not all of them were capitalized one.
The biggest issue I take with this film, is the fact that it’s billed as a comedy, when it’s not as funny as it may lead on. There are certainly funny moments, but it plays out more as a rom/dram more than anything. While some of that is engaging, it’s never quite sure what it wants to be and that’s what kept my interest wavering the whole time. Though the film is only a hour-and-a-half, most of the craziness happens towards the end and it starts to feel like a very different film. Things start happening rapidly and for no reason, or so it feels like, and it wasn’t hard to follow along, but I just didn’t get why certain things would have to happen.
Life After Beth and myself aren’t entirely sure of what it is, but there’s more good to be had in it than bad. If anything, see this film for the performances and the testing of this new film genre. There are aspects of the film that are done well and there are those that aren’t. For a directorial debut, Baena does an alright job getting his vision accomplished, but his writing is the real highlight of the film. He has wonderful ideas in his head and his dramatic and romantic moments work from time to time. Aubrey Plaza and Dane DeHaan’s dedication standout and they certainly make the film worth a watch too. I’d be interested in seeing what follows this film and to see if it spawns any more of its kind.
Life After Beth Trailer