Devastated 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).