Zombies are back and as versatile as ever. Jeff Baena’s Life After Beth demonstrates just how diverse the zombie movie has been able to become in recent years. Balancing both romance and the un-dead, Life After Beth brings a more personable story to life with its ghoulish comedy. We first meet Zach as he enquires about black napkins in his local convenience store. Mourning the sudden and unexpected death of his girlfriend, Zach is racked with guilt and regret at the tragic termination of a rocky relationship. In his woe, he turns to comfort and support from Beth’s parents. That is until they stop returning his calls and hide themselves away. When Beth suddenly reappears, unaware she died and having evidently dug herself up from her grave, Zach rejoices in his unexplainable second chance to make things work with the woman he loves. Unfortunately for this teen couple, it’s only a matter of time until Beth begins to show alarming behaviour and some horrifying traits of the living dead. As chaos ensues, we join Zachary on a dark but humorous ride as he comes to terms with what’s really going on; divided between love and survival. Baena’s directorial debut is slick and entertaining. Its comical script is handled with care and delivered by a top notch cast.
Dane DeHaan, one of Hollywood’s most fresh and busy faces, is excellently cast as our frustrated and love sick protagonist. DeHaan seems to forever be portraying teens on screen, despite being in his late twenties. This is a credit to a truly captivating new star who I hope continues to grace our contemporary movies. Aubrey Plaza, best known for her role as the moody and slightly sinister April Ludgate from the TV series Parks and Recreations, presents Beth in a very similar way. Whiny and childish, Plaza brings an entirely new type of zombie to the genre. The supporting cast are equally enjoyable with John C. Reilly and Anna Kendrick also enhancing an already delightful story and script. Life After Beth combines romance and horror as intelligently as Sean of the Dead interwove comedy and gore. It is a sweet and spooky take on a genre that is overcrowded with cheap knock-offs and poorly developed sequels. For me the only truly credible zombie movie remains Romero’s Night of the Living Dead but I enjoy refreshing re-workings such as Life After Beth. Along with Doc of the Dead, Jeff Baena’s zombie-rom-com is one of several zombie movies gracing Edinburgh Film Festival and we should embrace such films. After all, they’re not going to change the world or even the way we see cinema, but they make for light entertainment; a nice breather between the more intense features of the festival. Life After Beth is consistent and cool, a film I hope will receive a wide release in the Autumn.
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