After dying from a snakebite while hiking, Beth Slocum suddenly returns from the dead, much to her parents and boyfriends surprise. As the zombie apocalypse looms can they keep their relationship together as the world burns.
First off, lets get the description out the way, this is not a flat out horror comedy, it is a horror tinged or horror themed comedy. As a comedy its slightly harder to pin down though, with sections of slapstick, jokes and comedic black moments the film jumps all over the place. Not that I minded this.
Now the ‘its not really a horror movie’ discussion has been had, let me say I really loved this film. In fact I was kind of expecting to thanks to being a fan of Aubery Plaza’s performances in Parks and Recreation and Safety Not Guaranteed (if you have netflix, go watch this little gem of a movie ASAP).
I was hoping to watch something dark and funny which I thankfully almost received. The lead characters Zach and Beth (Dehaan and Plaza) in the film are both great at delivering lines with blunt black comic timing. Watching Dane DeHaan’s almost comedic straight-man routine for Plaza’s zombie rhetoric was a real treat. Its great to see him do something silly instead of the usual brooding troubled teen characters he normally plays (Andrew in Chronicle, the Green Goblin, Metallica’s Wacked out roadie etc). Elsewhere John C. Reilly and the always brilliant Molly Shannon were cast as the grieving Slocums. I felt the pair woefully underused, well Shannon almost always is. Getting 2 such great names as supporting cast, just highlights how good the writing in Life After Beth was.
Life After Beth does to be fair somewhat rewrite the rules on zombies a little. There is no sudden change or desire to eat brains (guessing that comes later). Its almost a slow ease into the zombie apocalypse instead of the sudden ‘on a dime’ change in circumstances that previous films have shown. Normally I hold it against films that try and claim lore with caveats (vampire movies are the worst for this, sparkling, low powered vampires etc etc), but for some reason I didn’t have as much of an issue with Life After Beth, Im guessing because at no point did the movie take itself or its subject matter that seriously.
Life After Beth is brilliantly written, expertly performed and wickedly funny, though you would probably expect no less from glancing at the cast. I cannot explain how much I enjoyed this movie.
Im not sure how Kris didn’t like it.
My first chance to catch this film was Frightfest 2014, it was fairly high on “my must see films” list, the good thing is usually at Frightfest not many people have seen the films, so negative feedback is fairly low, so I’m much more open minded going in. Now there seems to be a rather negative vibe against this film, not from me I really rather enjoyed it. In fact I enjoyed it so much when it got an actual cinema release I went back for more.
As John said this is a film which doesn’t really want to sit in any genre, it sort of hovers around a number of them trying each out along the way, never wanting to settle on one. A horror film there are some strong elements of horror every now and again, it’s a zombie film at the end of the day. A comedy, when it’s funny it’s bloody hilarious but alongside the slapstick it also has a rather dark comedy vein as well, which in places is just as funny. A drama, dealing with death, loss, relationships, family and growing up. Really it’s a look at a relationship failing and not knowing when to walk away from it. With such a mix of genre’s there has to be something that holds it all together and makes it all work, too much of one thing and this mix just wouldn’t work; Jeff Baena’s wonderful script is the thing which holds it all together, it’s superb and allows the talented cast too really shine.
Dane DeHaan and Aubrey Plaza as Zach and Beth and both fantastic, DeHaan just about steals it though, so deadpan, so serious yet so funny. Plaza’s transformation into flesh eating zombie is a great ride, we can see it, Zach can see it; though her parents John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon just don’t see it, till it’s far too late. If you think Beth’s family is a mess, Zach’s are just as bad, Paul Reiser and Cheryl Hines are great together, but it’s Zach’s brother Kyle, played by Matthew Gray Gubler who is simply brilliant, his performance is rather understated and I just wish he had been in it much more (wait till you see him in Suburban Gothic – superb!).
So it’s a bit of a mixed up film really, much like the characters in it, yet with the strong script and some outstanding performances, it’s worth giving it a go.
A lot of people don’t like comedy/horrors. I mean REALLY don’t like them! Ok, perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising. Horror films and comedies are the marmite genres of the movies, what scares one person, will make another snort with derision. Likewise, what makes me laugh to the point where the whole row ( quite a lengthy row) of seats in the cinema rocks with my roaring laughter, that only subsides when sharp pains remind me that laughter induced groin strain is no joke, will leave other viewers sit stones faced, arms folded. Yes, I did laugh that hard (the oven, if you must know.), but equally I can think of someone who didn’t…
First time director, Jeff Baena, who also wrote the piece was already risking the lions den by trying his hand at a horror/comedy, but Beth is that even more difficult to navigate sub-genre. The zom-rom-com. And let’s face it every entry into that arena will have the inevitable comparison. “It’s not as good as Shaun of the Dead!” Truth be told I agree, but it never tries to be. What we have here is an indie relationship with a couple of high school/college aged protagonists struggling to live their lives whether together or apart.
Only difference, Beth is dead.
The comedy is of the broad variety, sex gags are high on the agenda as might befit the age of the main characters. The introduction of threat, and the descent of Beth from ditsy ‘scene girl’ to surprisingly hungry dead person perhaps takes too long, and not every gag pays off, but this is still a very funny film. That the horror and comedy doesn’t seem to fit seamlessly together is perhaps unsurprising, but the quality of the cast, especially Beth’s happy but not unconcerned parents, helps plaster over the cracks when they appear.
Ultimately the sight of a worse for wear zombie Beth doubled over, kitchen appliance attached to her back, demanding to go for a walk is worth the price of admission alone.
Life After Beth is out on DVD & Blu-Ray on Monday 2nd February