Movie Review - Life After Beth
The 2014 Zom-Com, Life After Beth, is absolutely one of the most endearing horror-comedies that I have ever seen. It is a magical mash up of genres, combining the elements of a romantic-comedy with a straight-forward zombie flick, and the results are flawless. Led by a star-studded cast and a hilarious script penned by writer-director Jeff Baena (I Heart Huckabees), Life After Beth rises above genre labels and dishes out a heaping spoonful of pure unadulterated fun. This one is recommended for everyone, even if you aren't into horror movies at all. The film is available now on Amazon Prime, VOD and DVD. Check it out.
One day, Beth Slocum is out hiking when she is bit by a snake and dies. Her boyfriend, Zach is devastated. He begins spending time with Beth's parents and expresses remorse, as he and Beth were having relationship troubles before she passed away. But one day, the Slocum's suddenly stop answering the door, and begin avoiding Zach's phone calls. So when he discovers an empty hole where Beth was buried, he forces himself into her parents house and demands answers, and finds that she has inexplicably returned from the dead. And while Zach is initially excited to have his love back, he quickly begins to realize that she is now much different than the girl he remembers.
The only way a movie this outrageous could work as well as it does is with a phenomenal cast, and here the entire ensemble is utter perfection in every aspect. Dane DeHaan is at his most likeable as Zach, and he essentially assumes the role of the 'straight-man', allowing the rest of the cast of heavyweight comedic actors to play off of his energy. This isn't to say he isn't funny, quite the opposite. It's often more difficult to play the absurdity of the action without looking like you're trying to sell the joke, and DeHaan nails the subtleties impeccably. The pairing of John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon as Beth's parents makes for some insanely ridiculous laughs, and their desperation for their life to return to normal only makes the situation even funnier. Similarly, the partnering of Cheryl Hines and Paul Reiser as Zach's parents is hysterical, while Matthew Gray Gubler practically steals every moment of screen time he has with his hilariously over-the-top portrayal of Zach's hard-ass older brother, Kyle. But nothing can compare to the marvelous performance of lead actress, Aubrey Plaza as Beth. She is sweet, she is charming, she is scary, and most of all she is funny as hell. She throws herself into the ridiculousness of the role without abandon and solidifies this film as comedy gold. Throw in the lovely and talented Anna Kendrick, and you've got a winner.
And now onto Jeff Baena, who probably isn't getting the credit he deserves here, because it's easy to be overshadowed by an ensemble like this. Yes, the cast is great and packed with big names, but none of this would have been possible if not for Baena's unbelievable script and his incredibly strong vision as a director. The story is taut, and doesn't waste any time getting into the action, providing for some of the best comedic moments of the year. And the direction is top-notch. Baena seems to set the stage and then stay out of the way, which works wonderfully in capturing the magic that occurs between actors of this caliber. All in all, this film is about as enjoyable as it gets. Even if, like me, you aren't traditionally a huge fan of horror-comedies, you should definitely check this one out. Cheers!!
- Leo Francis