“Life After Beth” is the latest addition to the zom-com genre, comedies built around the zombie horror phenomenon. Honestly, the genre has been ripe with great comedies for years, with older efforts like “Return of the Living Dead” and more recent masterpieces like “Shaun of the Dead” and “Fido.” While it is a decent indie movie, “Life After Beth” falls short of the brilliance of those earlier films, but still manages to entertain with something new and fresh.
The film opens with a girl named Beth (Aubrey Plaza) out hiking. After we see her out in the woods, we move forward to her funeral. While we never see her die, we learn here that it was a poisonous snake bite that did her in. The wake includes her boyfriend Zach (Dane DeHaan) and her parents Maurey and Geenie (John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon). They are all grieving in their own ways and all feel a deep sense of loss that brings them together.
However, their close relationship doesn’t last because one day Zach finds himself locked out of their lives and doesn’t understand why until he looks in the window and sees that Beth is back, and very much alive. Well, she just appears to be alive. In reality, she is back from the dead and Zach wants to make up for what he feels he failed to give her before she died, while her parents just want to keep her locked up in the house to protect her. A battle of wills ensues and just grows worse when more people return from the grave.
The first thing audiences should understand is that this is 100 percent an indie film, complete with the quirky situations you might expect. Beth doesn’t know she is a zombie, even when her skin starts to rot off. Zach wants to tell her the truth, while Maurey will do anything to make sure he doesn’t lose his daughter again. Looking at the cast, you might think this is a straight comedy, but it isn’t.
Much like “Shaun of the Dead,” this movie has something to say about loss and relationships, but it doesn’t really succeed as well. However, where it doesn’t connect as much when it comes to the message, it succeeds when it comes to the awkward and unique comedy beats.
Plaza is great as the confused Beth, and when she starts to go off the deep end and turn into a full-fledged zombie, she is hilarious. There are slapstick moments she is involved in that are perfectly done and she is a highlight of the film. DeHaan is solid in his role, but he isn’t asked to do much but play love struck and confused.
Both Reilly and Shannon do well in a movie where they are not asked to be funny, but instead sad and quirky. It was also nice to see Paul Reiser in a movie again, as he played Zach’s dad. Another standout is Matthew Gray Gubler as Zach’s brother, eschewing his normal good guy persona for that of a jerk whose dream was just to one day shoot people. When the zombies arrive, he gets his chance.
At the end of the day, “Life After Beth” is a movie that delivers on quirky indie humor and has both nice effects work and some fantastic slapstick moments. However, the story is slight and this is a movie that will quickly be forgotten, never living up to films like “Shuan of the Dead” as a timeless classic.