As a fan of horror cinema there’s only so many independent genre parodies with witty title puns you can take before you garner the desire to drive a stake through your own heart – especially when the ‘zom – rom – com’ has unfortunately become a genre in itself. Thankfully the Jeff Baena directed Life After Beth manages to provide a slightly different angle to the zombie – comedy, borrowing elements of BBC drama In the Flesh in a comedy about coming to terms with the literal death of a relationship.
The story follows Zach (Dane Dehaan) who is initially delighted to have a second chance with his girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza) when she returns from the dead. Hushed up by her parents (John.C.Reilly, Molly Shannon) he finally gets the chance to put old grudges to rest, go flamenco dancing and snuggle in the attic again – that is, as long as he doesn’t tell her she is ‘dead’. As we all know in these situations, relationships with zombies are never easy and as the phenomenon spreads and a ravenous appetite slowly overtakes the Beth he once knew, Zach must come to terms with ‘ending’ his relationship in more ways than one.
With an excellent comic cast (including Anna Kendrick), Life After Beth is filled with laugh out loud moments, from attributing the zombie outbreaks to Beth’s recently dismissed maid (because she’s Haitan), to the couples final hike complete with Beth having an oven strapped to her back (don’t ask). While listing the gags would spoil the surprising humour, Baena’s film repeatedly rewards horror fans with self – referential puns while also maintaining a strong emotional core, with Beth’s innocence often catching you guard, resiliently breaking through her tendency to rip apart the scenery and bite people’s throats out.
While some may compare it Shaun of the Dead (2004), its humour is more Americanized in the style of Rapturepalooza (2013), where the atrocities and emotional breakdowns normally associated with post – apocalypse are played for straight laughs, with the film gets increasingly silly as it progresses. The true appeal however lies in the pre – transformation of Beth, borrowing from drama of In The Flesh where people struggle to come to terms with lost – ones suddenly reappearing, especially when there were unresolved issues and the ‘zombie’ looks and acts exactly the same as they used too.
With a wide potential appeal, strong comedic casting and great performance from Dane Dehaan and Aubrey Plaza, Life After Beth by no means re – invents the ‘zom – rom – com’ but is an hilarious and at times poignant step in the right direction. If any film deserves to replace the dire Warm Bodies as a marker of the sub – genre then this is it.
Director: Jeff Baena
Writer: Jeff Baena
Stars: Anna Kendrick, Dane DeHaan, Aubrey Plaza
Runtime: 91 min