Saturday, 28 February 2015

Horrors of 2014: Life After Beth (2014)

Life After Beth (2014)
Director: Jeff Baena
Starring:Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, and John C. Reilly
Running Time: 89 min

  This is a horror/comedy by writer/directer Jeff Baena, who co-wrote "I Heart Huckabees" with David O. Russell (American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook).  This is Baena's first project in ten years and his first time directing which makes me a little nervous but he seems to have wrangled some good talent like John C. Reilly, Dane DeHann and Aubrey Plaza, for the film, so how bad can it be right?

  Zach's girlfriend Beth has just died from a snakebite and after the funeral, Zach starts spending time with Beth's grieving parents, Maury and Geenie Slocum.  While playing chess and getting high with Maury, Zach admits to him that he think that Beth wanted to break up with him but Maury comforts him and says that he's sure that Beth loved him and to hold on to the moments that were special to him.  Zach ends up losing track of time and comes home at three in the morning to his parents disapproval, but he doesn't care because he misses the love of his life.
 The next morning, Zach's parents try and get Zach to cheer up and try to set him up with one of his mother's friends daughters, Erica Wexler.  Angry that his parents could be so cold, Zach marches out of the house and heads over to Beth's parents place.  Unfortunately, they don't seem to be answering the door, nor are they answering or returning any of his phone calls.  After a day of being ignored, Zach goes into the backyard and peaks through the Slocum's window and to his astonishment the sees Beth walking in the hallway.  He runs to the door and starts banging on it and yelling for the Slocums' to answer the door but they call security instead.  Zach's douchebag security brother comes and removes him from the premises.
  Zach returns that night to the Slocums to find out what the hell is going on.  Zach breaks in and finds Beth alive in the house!  Her parent's are furious with Zach but try to explain that Beth just showed up in the morning after they had their chess game.  Zach thinks that the Slocum's Haitian maid had something to do with Beth coming back from the grave but the Slocums don't think she had anything to do with it and think that she has been resurrected, like Jesus.  Anyway, Beth is back but she doesn't know that she is dead and Zach is told by the Slocums not to tell her.  She also doesn't remember wanting to break up with Zach, so everything is great.
  Not really because she is not the only person who has been "resurrected" and as the days go by, other people start returning from the grave.  Beth and the others hunger, for something they can't put their fingers on, is rising and their ability to control their rage is getting worse.  Has a zombiegeddon manifested itself in Zach's neighbourhood and how can he stop it without hurting the ghoul he loves? 


  This is a very different kind of zombie movie and it focuses more on the romantic comedy aspect than it does on the horror.  Like "Warm Bodies", writer/director Jeff Baena has an interesting rom/com/zom movie but it has an added twist that these people were in love before the the dead started returning from their graves.  The heart of the story is the relationship between Zach, played by Dane DeHaan (Chronicle, Lawless) and Beth, played by Aubrey Plaza (Safety Not Guaranteed, Scott Pilgrim vs The World) and howthese bonds can change, grow and at some times die.  The film does have a certain charm to it and there are definitely some amusing moments peppered throughout the film.
  The best parts of this film are with Aubrey Plaza and her characters' development throughout the picture.  She is fantastic in this and she absolutely nails every scene.  Whether it be the loving girlfriend, the innocent daughter, jealous girlfriend or the viscous zombie, she hits her marks every time.  Also, she has an excellent sense for comedic timing and gets most of the laughs as the film progresses.


 Although there are some good parts of the film, there are some issues that I found with the film. For one, Zach's family don't seem very realistic at all.  Paul Reiser (Aliens, Whiplash) and Cheryl Hines (Waitress, Curb Your Enthusiasm), who play the parents, sadly aren't developed at all and are given these one note characters to portray.  Which is such a waste because both are such talented comedians and if used in a better way, could have made the film so much funnier.  Additionally,  Zach's brother Kyle, played Matthew Gray Gruber (Excision, How To Be A Serial Killer) is a mean douchebag for no reason at all.  There is no explanation throughout the film and isn't held accountable by the parents for his douchebaggery.  Again, it's another talented person being wasted with a one note character.   
  Also, some horror fans may be disappointed with the lack of blood or gore in this film.  For a zombie movie, there isn't very much zombie stuff going on until the end of the film and even then, it's all done off camera.  However, they do show zombies being killed but if you're looking for any real carnage, then this may not be for you.


  With that film, this movie was pretty good, unless you're expecting a full out zombie film.  There is an interesting story, about two young people trying to work out their relationship as things change,  there is some alright jokes, again mostly Plaza but John C. Reilly has a couple of moments as well,  and the ending is somewhat satisfying.  So, if you're looking for a zom/rom/com but without the nasty blood, then this will give you something to gnaw on.

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