1 Sep 2014

Review - 'Life After Beth' is an Irresistibly Fun Zombie Rom-Com

A young man's recently deceased girlfriend mysteriously returns from the dead, but he slowly realizes she is not the way he remembered her.

Comedy-Horror's haven't really been a success in the year of 2014, and aside from a bombastic Dead Snow 2, there has virtually been nothing else on offer for us to laugh at and fear. In comes Life After Beth, a Zom-Rom-Com (which I totally stole from Shaun of the Dead) that brings the Warm Bodies-esque ethos back to life, only with a better cast and a stronger grasp on the term "comedy". Life After Beth satisfied audiences at this years FrightFest, but would it satisfy you?

It is very rare when you come across a film that balances the horror and the comedy so well (and in this case also balancing the romance), and with Life After Beth, this blend really comes alive (pardon the pun) due to the upbeat cast and the witty humour that is scattered throughout the film. I am not one to agree with romance in horror, but when it is effectively unified with horror and comedy in hand, as well as a cast to remove the cheesy off-putting element you can really sit back and enjoy the ride, even if it becomes slow and bumpy along the way.

Basically, Life After Beth is a train, driven almost entirely by Aubrey Plaza's inspired and hilariously bonkers performance that fits her quirky image like a hand in a glove. She is both frantic and bizarre without ever being completely OTT, and her screaming portrayal of a risen love-distraught zombie is strangely creepy yet undeniably comical. It would be correct to say Plaza carries the film on her back like she does an oven (if you watched the film you will know where i'm coming from), but it would also be rude to ignore the superb cast surrounding her, each displaying interesting characters with depth and a neat sense of humour for us to admire.

Both John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon make up an endearing couple who's loss of control over their undead daughter soon becomes utter havoc, and how their performances bounce off of each other really helps move the narrative along whilst strengthening the gags they provide. Alongside them of course is the wonderfully geeky Dane DeHaan who's gags at times gets lost in the shadow of Plaza's huge presence, his goofy brother, Mr. Criminal Minds Matthew Gray Gubler reaches beyond his comfort zone, portraying the hateful brother who manages to throw in a few decent comedic remarks in every now and again.

None of the minor cast however were as brilliant as the bubbly Anna Kendrick, who for me was a complete scene stealer. One scene in particular involving her and DeHaan in a cafe was one I found a lot funnier than I should have, all due to her quirky good-girl performance that shined like no other. I admit, I think I laughed way more than I should have, but without her character and perhaps Kendrick's portrayal in the role, that scene and maybe even the entire film would have been a bust. Her part was both underwritten and underestimated, but with the time Kendrick spends on screen she really makes the most of it, and proves her acting talent floats way beyond the Pitch Perfect movies. Never rule-off the underdog!

Although the acting is near perfect and the final act is hugely enjoyable, the film reaches a point were it begins to feel a little too elongated for it's own good, reading like a 20 minute short stretched for a cinematic release. There is a lot of wasted time here, and it plays poorly on the central premise, but there is enough wit and a surprising amount of heart to keep you to the end; but let's just say Plaza has a part to play in making us want more, and when you see her stick her head through a chimney pot just to see where her boyfriend has left for, you know she is worth the time and effort.

Despite being elongated past its worthy amount, Life After Beth contains enough hearty laughs delivered by a superb cast to make this an irresistibly fun zom-rom-com. Funniest moment? Let's just say Aubrey tied to an oven is all the comedy you'll need this year.


2014 / 89 mins / Zombie, Comedy / R

Director: Jeff Baena 

Writer: Jeff Baena

Stars: Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Anna Kendrick

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