Life After Beth: Movie Review

Screen-Shot-2014-07-17-at-5.34.43-PMDevastated by the sudden death of his girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza) from a snake bite, Zach (Dane Deehan) has made a habit of visiting Beth’s parents Morrie (John C. Reilly) and Geenie (Molly Shannon) to reconnect with his dead girlfriend. But after one particular bonding session that lasted until the wee hours of the morning, Zach notices that the couple are no longer as open to him. Wanting to find out the reason for the couple’s abandonment, he tries to get to the bottom of the matter but discovers something even better (or worse, depending on one’s perspective). Beth has risen from the dead and while Zach and her parents rejoice her resurrection, something weird begins to happen to their suburban neighborhood. People whom they have not seen for years suddenly show up out of nowhere and pretty soon, Beth begins to have mood swings and violent rages and Zach isn’t so sure that she is the same person he fell in love with.

Life after Beth is a strange movie, not only because its categorized as a zombie rom com but because it was pretty lopsided all around and riddled with plotholes. Writer director Jeff Baena certainly made the right choice in casting Dane Deehan as the male lead because the guy could really act. Deehan delivered as a mourning boyfriend, horny teenager, scared out of his wits lover and resistance leader and he’s one of the reasons the movie kind of worked. Aubrey Plaza was a passable lead. Being comfortable in comedy, she didn’t take the zombie thing too seriously and portrayed a character that connects with the audience, even when she is decomposing before their very eyes.

I liked that the approach was light and there were many funny moments in the film like Beth dragging a reluctant Zach to the attic to make out, Beth lugging an oven on her back on her “date” with her boyfriend, and Matthew Gray Gubler as Zach’s know it all big brother Kyle. His interactions with Deehan were great. I liked seeing this goofy side to both actors. The indie style seemed fitting for a soft core zombie movie too, but the jazz music was a weird background sound for the most part.

Plotwise, Baena was on point with the dead girlfriend thing. It had enough potential to work. But instead on focusing on the original premise –just starting and ending with the Beth dilemma, Jaena got carried away and opened multiple subplots. The problem was, he failed to close them, leaving questions and inconsistencies as the movie progressed. Among this were: What caused the zombie apocalypse? Why were the zombies obsessed with attics and jazz music? Did the Haitian maid know anything about the rise of the dead? And the resolution in the end seemed abrupt at best, seemingly forced and premature.

All in all, Life After Beth was an interesting movie owing to its strong lead characters. Production wise, it was mediocre at best. It generally flirted with a lot of ideas but never really went all the way with it. It was not dark or overly funny. It just was there in the middle, not wanting to push the envelope. For the most part, a ton of wasted potential in casting John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon with material that did not showcase their talents at all. Its a shame because there was some potential in this piece at the beginning but it all went down the drain when it chose to stick to a strong idea and instead opted for quantity (of zombies) over quality (Beth).

The Walking Dead: Livening up television one zombie at a time

The Waking Dead is a post apocalyptic horror suspense drama series that centers around a Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) who gets shot before the world is overrun by zombies. He wakes up from a coma to find his town in ruins and the streets occupied by “walkers.” Unsure of where to go, he tries to search for clues to find his missing wife and child and fills in the blank about the months that he’s been unconscious with the aid of survivors he encounters throughout his search. The six-episode first season dealt with Rick, and how he emerges as the leader of the Atlanta survivors and their search for safe haven while the first half of the 13-episode second season revolves around the group dealing with their personl demons as secrets are exposed and motives are gradually unravelled on top of the zombie threat.

The series is an adaptation of the comic book series of the same title. It was developed for AMC by Frank Daranbont and is currently airing its second season fresh from the mid season hiatus to banging ratings.

What sets TWD apart from other TV series, in my opinion, aside from its hard core horror premise is the film level quality of the entire series. While the premise is not new, presenting this type of genre and story in serial format was very risky on the part of the producers as viewers might easily get tired of seeing people running around from zombies and finding themselves in dead ends.

ZOMBE APOCALYPSE, YOU SAY? Walkers attack by the drove at the smell of live human flesh.

However, viewers can  find themselves hooked to the series for a variety of reasons. First, the series does not scrimp on the gore, serving up scenes with excellent effects and editing. Think Dawn of the Dead/Resident Evil/28 Days Later but for the small screen. The cinematography, framing and treatment is similar to another gritty TV hit Spartacus and shows an equal level of lack of inhibition as the Andy Whitfield starrer.

Second, the series makes itself unique from other zombie offerings by shifting the focus on the characters of the survivors. There is a constant evolution of the characters which makes them more than one dimensional stereotypical figures that play only a certain part. They do not lose their humanity and their continuous moral battles, arguments and second guessing is a testament to their multi-facetedness. Some characters who start off as assw*pes begin to show signs of soft-heartedness in the second season, while those on the brink of insanity find themselves pushing forward to the deep end.  Some characters become more endearing while some you want to squish with the heels of your shoe. I think this is a success on the part of the producers — making the viewers emotionally invested in the series despite its fictional premise. Some might even find themselves rooting for the walkers (not undead, because the series deals with a phenomenon wherein the victims die but brain stems are reignited to revive their motor skills but not their personalities or humanity).

Back to the list of things to like about this series — the suspense never ever lets up. Surprises abound in every corner and viewers wll find themselves blindsided despite the clues left in various parts of the series.

TO THE RESCUE. Glenn (right), leads the group on a rescue mission to save Merl who got left on the roof

My favorite character, aside from Rick, is Glenn (Steven Yeun), the Asian guy who cares about everybody and does things at the expense of his own safety. Glenn, despite his role as the group’s gopher, is actually one of the strongest characters in the series — smart and resourceful whose main weakness is probably his devotion to his friends. I won’t surprised if he has the most fans out of the lot. My most hated character is probably Andrea (Laurie Holden), whom I initially thought was going to be an asset to the group but has lately turned out into a trigger happy bitch. I’m torn about Shane (Jon Bernthal), Rick’s best friend and his wife’s former lover — Shane, who has deluded himself into thinking that Lori (Sarah Wayne Calllies) harbors feelings for him and is only staying with Rick out of obligation. Shane is a ruthless bastard when he wants to be but his struggle between wanting to be the top dog and his genuine love for Rick, who is like his brother is always a gray area that ties audiences up in knots, myself included. I know the series won’t be the same without this pseudo-villain.

The series, which was recently picked up for a third season, is one that I will surely tune in to for a good many episodes. Its the type of series that I appreciate because it has a heart, and deals with morality despite the despondency of the situation. It is excellently made and plays like a movie. Too bad viewers have to wait a full week to find out what happens next. That’s my only complaint, I guess.