When Zach’s (Dane DeHaan) girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza) dies from a snake bike whilst out on a hike, he becomes an emotionally devastated wreck. He begins to spend less and less time interacting with his own family and more and more time reminiscing with Beth’s parents (John C. Rilley and Molly Shannon). Eventually they begin to avoid him, they don’t return his calls, don’t answer the door when he visits, and Zach’s suspicions are thus aroused. He ends up forcing his way into their house whereupon he discovers that Beth has been “resurrected” and has dug her way out of her own grave and returned home. Whilst at first Zach is delighted to be able to see his girlfriend once more, her increasingly violent and aggressive behaviour soon begins to make him nervous and he starts to have thoughts about leaving her, that is, if she’ll let him.
Despite a brief running time, Life After Beth still manages to feel like it’s dragging its central joke out way past it’s threshold – how long can a film keep relying on pointing out “Oh Look it’s this bit from other rom-coms except this time the girl is eating people”? Oddly enough though, it really kicks up a gear in it’s last 20 minutes when, it starts to make some observations on the nature of letting go.
The best zombie films have always really been about something else at their core, Dawn of the Dead satires consumerism, Zombieland is about the pains of growing up. Director Jeff Baena is astute enough to take note of this and injects his screenplay with its own subtext. This time the undead are used as a way of asking, just how long can one keep a dying relationship going for when they know it’s already doomed. The film does have quite a lot to say about the deterioration of relationships over time (quite literally) and how things eventually turn sour in love. In this sense it could almost work as a softer companion piece to this month’s Gone Girl. But whilst it does have some interesting and pertinent points to make, the execution of its ideas is too clumsy for it to pull it all off. Its heavy handed approach stops the film from ever feeling truly insightful or sharp. Luckily it’s still rather funny with some genuinely witty moments interspersed here and there.
Dane DeHaan is his usual blend of creepy and likeable and the rest of the supporting cast all provide strong performances. Special mention goes to Matthew Gray Gubler as Zach’s wannabe badass brother, who gets most of the best jokes. Aubrey Plaza gets most of the attention and deservedly so, her journey from sweet lovable girlfriend, to crazy psycho girlfriend, to literal crazy psycho girlfriend, to flesh eating monster, is handled masterfully, and even when she reaches the stage in her arc where she takes to eating people’s hands there’s still something kind of endearing about her.
Life After Beth (2014), directed by Jeff Baena, is distributed in UK cinemas by Koch Media, Certificate 15. Watch the trailer below: