A few years ago, magic was a huge theme in the sort of movies that we would cover for this site. Then, vampires became the big thing. Now, it looks like zombies have taken over. With ‘The Walking Dead’, ‘World War Z’, and the upcoming ‘Maggie’, we’ve seen many different takes on the horror genre staple as of late, but this weekend in select theaters, we get one that might be the most different of them all.
From ‘I Heart Huckabees’ writer Jeff Baena in his directorial debut, ‘Life After Beth’ follows Zach, a young guy who recently lost his girlfriend to a deadly snakebite. But shortly after her funeral, he notices Beth walking around the house when he visits her parents one day. From there, we watch as everyone slowly comes to realization that she is actually a zombie and she’s not the only one.
After seeing the trailer and reading the synopsis, I thought that we’d be getting a zom-rom-com in the vein of ‘Warm Bodies’, except maybe a little funnier considering that the cast featured some choice comedic stars such as Aubrey Plaza, Anna Kendrick, Molly Shannon, John C. Reilly, Cheryl Hines, and Paul Reiser. However, rather than laughing, I found myself feeling uncomfortable during moments that felt like they should have been funny. Without a doubt, there were a few laughs, specifically when Zach’s mom kept trying to set up Zach with a girl despite the traumatic events taking place, but it definitely didn’t really feel like the comedy that was advertised. Instead, it was more like a really indie and American attempt at ‘Shaun of the Dead’ without as many memorable moments. That’s not to say though that the cast was bad. There were fully committed performances from a star-studded cast, especially by Plaza and rising star Dane DeHaan, both of whom I am a huge fan of. It’s just that the story ended up being something completely unexpected.
The thing that probably makes me so lukewarm on the film is that it lacked a purpose or a message, which also lead to a lack of connection to the characters. At a few different points, I thought that it would be about how people can be zombies in the metaphorical sense when it comes to their jobs or their relationships because they get stuck in repetitive rut. Then I thought that it could have been trying to say that one shouldn’t live in the past, but that theme got a little lost as well. It’s true that not every film needs to have a message, but those films usually feature extraordinary people doing remarkable things. This just didn’t have that for me.
Overall, ‘Life After Beth’ is a very unique take on zombies that we haven’t seen before, but it just didn’t stick with me after the credits started to roll. This could end up being one of those fun movies that you’d check out on Netflix because of the people in it, but don’t expect to get much beyond that. This movie would have probably worked out better as a sketch or a series of shorts, but to see this transition from person to full on zombie in this way might have been a little too much. I will admit, though, that I probably won’t hear smooth jazz the same way after watching this movie.