Movie Review: ‘Life After Beth’
Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Dane Dehaan, and John C. Reilly
Plot: When a young man’s recently deceased girlfriend comes back from the dead, he realizes it is not quite the miracle he hoped for.
Maybe, just maybe, you are all zombied out. I know. I get it. There’s a lot to take in right now. It’s low hanging fruit to just do a simple cheapie flick about zombies and get a lot of attention thanks simply to the popularity of the subgenre. That doesn’t mean though that all the good ideas have been picked from this particular genre garden. I think Shaun of the Dead and Fido proved that. Certainly, the popularity of “The Walking Dead” tv series ended up much higher than people expected. With that in mind, Life After Beth is definitely worth checking out.
It stars Dane Dehaan as regular joe, Zach. Zach was dating Aubrey Plaza’s Beth Slocum, when she was bitten by a rattlesnake during a hike and died. Zach became very depressed and was faced with a family who found it impossible to empathize with him. So, he grew closer to Beth’s parents, played by the incredible pairing of John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon. Dehaan, Reilly, and Shannon become a really charmingly grief-stricken trio helping each other through the rough spot. That is, until one day, the Slocums just stop talking to Zach. He thinks he did something to offend them. Obsessed in finding out what he did wrong, Zach starts snooping around their house finding a dirty Beth still in the dress she was buried in walking around the house.
I am a big fan of “Parks and Recreation,” and the fact that Aubrey Plaza was attached to this movie was definitely the biggest reason for me to watch it. She is much peppier and happier here than she is as April on her tv series, even as she slowly becomes more and more manic as time goes on. She starts out as someone that April would hate and slowly becomes someone that April would like more and more. I like seeing this more lively side to Plaza since even in her public appearances she seems to have a little bit of April’s standoffishness to her.
The best zombie movies are always the ones that can find an analogy to comment on. Life After Beth is no different. Have you ever had a relationship end that felt like the end of the world? Of course you have. You were young once. If you honestly haven’t, buckle down, because it is definitely happening. Anyway, the zombie apocalypse here, a Sisyphean event happening just around the corner with an ever-growing sense of dread and stress just in the periphery, is very similar to an exaggerated version of that feeling you get post-break-up. That feeling like something bad is happening or going to happen even though you are required to keep going on as if nothing is wrong. Breaking up is such a trivial thing to everyone else that no one really cares how much it hurts. The memory of that person can even follow you around poisoning your current and possible future relationships. Beth comes very close to becoming a literal monkey on Zach’s back.
Director Baena is smart to keep all that usual horror and action in the periphery anyway, because he can keep this story a personal one between Zach and Beth. The zombie apocalypse elements never threaten to supersede the relationship story. This way, it actually reminds me of a feature length version of my favorite part of Shaun of the Dead, where you can see all the little hints that the zombie plague is starting while Shaun does really mundane tasks.