AUGUST 11, 2014

LIFE AFTER BETH could have been an inspired addition to the zombie genre but it gets buried under the weight of repetition and heavy-handed jokes and seems at times too desperate to win the audiences affection rather than to actually earn it. 

Beth (Aubrey Plaza) has died by a snakebite while jogging in the mountains. Her boyfriend Zach (Dane DeHaan) is understandably broken up by this and seeks comfort from Beth’s grieving parents Maury (John C. Reilly) and Geenie (Molly Shannon) who have come to love him as a son. 

Zach’s parents (Paul Reiser & Cheryl Hines) are concerned for their son and just want  him to get over it. But things get complicated when Beth miraculously returns from the grave with no recollection of ever dying. Her parents want to keep her return a secret but when Zach discovers she’s alive, he can’t help but want to continue their relationship… that is until Beth starts to exhibit inhuman strength and a perchance for eating people. 

It’s a clever premise and the new take on the zombie resurrection is quite effective. The process to becoming a monster is slow and the recently departed still retain part of their memories at least for a while. This alone is a goldmine of comic potential. 

The film also features a strong cast that does their best with the material. Anna Kendrick as well as a few notable cameos adds to the comic effect and Matthew Gray Gubler is a standout as Zach’s overzealous with a gun brother Kyle. 

My big issue is that the movie feels sloppy and unfocused. I learned at the Q&A WITH JEFF GOLDSMITH that a number of subplots had been removed for pacing but there are still remnants of them that raise questions and the stuff they did keep could have used some judicious trimming. 

LIFE AFTER BETH starts rather strong and I did initially enjoy it, but after a while it became tedious and whatever themes it was attempting to explore got lost or were so slap you in the face obvious that they implode under their own weight like a stove strapped to one’s back (You’ll get this joke if you see the movie). 

LIFE AFTER BETH is worth seeing if you like zombie films that try something new with the genre, but for my money SHAUN OF THE DEAD will always be the zombie comedy to beat and nothing has even come close to its irreverent brilliance.