Life After Beth review: Love in a time of zombies

Film Title: Life After Beth

Director: Jeff Baena

Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, Molly Shannon

Genre: Comedy

Running Time: 88 min

Thu, Oct 9, 2014, 14:09

   

Zach (Dane DeHaan) blinks indecisively in the napkin aisle of the supermarket. He’s on the way to his girlfriend Beth’s funeral: she has tragically died after a snakebite on a hiking trip.

Lonely and depressed, Zach starts to spend more time with Beth’s parents (John C Reilly and Molly Parker) until one day, he turns up and finds their house barricaded. Persistent inquiries and peeks through the window allow Zach to discover that Beth (Aubrey Plaza) is back from the dead and suspiciously nicer than he remembers her.

Her father insists that they don’t use the “z word” but it soon becomes clear that a zombie apocalypse is on the way. Jeff Baena’s initially clever zom-com makes merry with deadened teen inflections, as befits a film featuring the star of Parks and Recreation and the title voice of the incoming Grumpy Cat film. (Your internet clicks caused this: now live with it.) In quieter moments, one longs for the hustle and bustle of The Virgin Suicides.

That’s not to say that the film is dull or uneventful. As an outsized, monstrous romance, Life After Beth is funny and likeable. The cast is populated by talented people, none more so than Chronicle’s Dean DeHaan, who makes for a splendidly unconventional leading man. Unhappily, as a zombie movie, the film has nowhere to go. There are no explanations or satisfactory resolutions before the final credits. There is only a perfunctory ending.

Beth’s affliction plays as a comical set of references to The Exorcist, but far outstays its welcome. Plaza’s performance, in turn, becomes too silly, even for humorous purposes. Good effort. Great actors. But a missed opportunity.