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  Life After Beth Deathless Romance
Year: 2014
Director: Jeff Baena
Stars: Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Cheryl Hines, Paul Reiser, Matthew Gray Gubler, Anna Kendrick, Eva La Dare, Thomas McDonell, Alia Shawkat, Allan McLeod, Paul Weitz, Michelle Azar, Jim O'Heir, Rob Delaney, Adam Pally
Genre: Horror, Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Bethany Slocum (Aubrey Plaza) died recently, she was still fairly young but while out hiking, one of her favourite pastimes, she was bitten by a snake and never recovered. Now it is her funeral and her boyfriend Zach Orfman (Dane DeHaan) is trying to reach out to her parents Maury (John C. Reilly) and Geenie (Molly Shannon), but while they are polite, they don't seem too keen on him hanging around, especially as the week draws on and he becomes more persistent. He just can't get over her, and takes to wearing Beth's scarf wherever he goes even though it is summer, but one day as he is growing more curious about why her parents won't answer the door, he sneaks around the back and catches sight of someone familiar...

The king of the comedy zombie movies remains Shaun of the Dead, which kicked off a whole host of undead horror both humorous and serious, big budget and large, film and television and books and comics and... Anyway, along came Life After Beth which didn't make much of a ripple and tended to be lumped in with the inferior entries in the genre, that in spite of a committed performance by Aubrey Plaza as the returned from the grave heroine herself. Not that Zach is aware that she is a zombie from the beginning, all he knows is that she is back and he cannot understand why her parents are so reluctant to admit this to the wider world, even to the extent of not allowing their daughter to leave the house.

Zach manages to smuggle her out and they frolic in the sun, to the point that they have sex outside too, as Beth is remarkably frisky since her resurrection. But oh dear, what's this? Has she had too much of the sun? There's an angry-looking rash on one side of her face, and to make matters more complicated, Beth is getting angrier in personality as well, flinging out insults willy-nilly which leave Zach taken aback. Director and writer Jeff Baena worked in a few twists on what by now was an extremely well-worn formula, so along with the obnoxious character traits were a talent for superhuman strength or a love of easy listening jazz, which is one of the only things that soothe them when they really get violent, though as Beth's favourite was hiking, she is enticed by the thought of that too.

Baena no more explained these elements than other zombie movies explain the mechanism behind zombies getting around in the first place, they were simply presented as part of the matter of fact texture to an oddly unsensational horror. Even when other dangers were made apparent in the form of Beth's spiritual kinfolk (assuming they had spirits once they were back with us) there was a curiously unhurried mood to much of this, which was not able to deliver many big laughs, though there were a few titters from the way the characters deny anything weird is happening until the very last minute before all hell breaks loose. Not being a big budget effort, that apocalypse was not exactly lavishly portrayed, it had to be said, but the intimacy was where it was aiming.

Therefore you could discern that emotionally Life After Beth was very similar to what David Cronenberg was doing with his remake of The Fly in that they both featured a romance brought to a tragedy by a gradually encroaching demise, a metaphor for a terminal illness or debilitating condition. The eighties movie was far more effective as a horror flick and as melancholy drama, for while Baena was keen to depict Zach's feelings of abandonment as his partner slips away yet again, the last vestiges of her personality deteriorating, though in real life cannibalism doesn't usually figure medically, he was not about to abandon his sense of humour. This had the essential ridiculousness of carrying on no matter what terrible affliction was hitting you or your loved one in spite of it patently being a huge impediment to a normal life highlighted - Beth ends up lugging the cooker she is chained to around on her back, for instance - pointing out how absurd denial was though also how strangely heroic. Oh, and Anna Kendrick showed up for a couple of scenes, but it was Plaza's showcase, with DeHaan strictly second.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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