While an all-star cast of supporting industry favorites does not necessarily guarantee an enjoyable film watch, Life After Beth serves up a bizarre, deadpan dish of hilarity that is worthy of a video purchase instead of a rental. It is just one of those films you want on your library shelf for when guests come for a visit.
Life After Beth stars Dane DeHaan (The Place Beyond The Pines) as Zach Orfman. Zach is devastated. His girlfriend Beth Slocum (Aubrey Plaza of Parks and Recreation) is dead. She took off on a hiking trip and was bitten by snake. After solemnly searching for black napkins and attending Beth’s funeral, Zach is filled with anguish and vacancy.
A few days after Beth’s funeral, Zach visits the Slocum home and has a constructive sit down with Beth’s father, Maury (John C. Reilly). Zach, having been troubled by the fact that he and Beth were in separation mode at the time of her death, now learns from Maury that her last words to her father were rude and unflattering.
Zach returns home but over the next few days, the Slocums do not return his calls. He takes it upon himself to visit their home again and is thrown for a loop after spying through one of the windows of the Slocum home and seeing Beth inside. Beth is not dead! Beth is not dead or Zach is losing his mind. As it turns out, Zach is not losing his mind.
Zach storms into the Slocum home and charges past Maury to find Beth being shoved into a closet by her mother. Beth is not dead and her family is secretly harboring her inside of their home.
After demanding to know what was going on, and threatening to go to the police, Maury and his wife Geenie (Molly Shannon) insist that nothing fraudulent had transpired. They insist that Beth was indeed back at their home but that she showed up at their front door to their dismay. A “Resurrection” they call it. The Slocums are cleared overjoyed by her return, but want to keep it mum for now.
Indeed, it was true. Beth showed up at the front door consumed with anxiety over a test she would have to take the next day. Only there was no test scheduled for the following day. School was out and they were on break. The Slocums convince Zach to coddle Beth and not speak of her death. Zach acquiesces. After all, he loves her and now he has her back.
Beth is completely unaware of her pre-death life. This serves as a blessing for Zach, since she had requested a break from their relationship, but the more time Zach spends with Beth, the more he realizes something is horribly amiss.
While Beth has moments of clarity, she is becoming increasingly incoherent and violent. Zach comes to realize that Beth has not merely just returned from the dead, but she has become the undead. In fact, Beth is now a zombie.
The first half hour of Life After Beth possesses the feel of a somber indie love story. But slowly the farcical. deadpan absurdities creep into this production and leave audiences chuckling out loud.
The seemingly regal art-cinema production turns comedic as Zach realizes that their suburban community is becoming inundated with people-eating zombies. Dead relatives are showing up at the homes of loved ones. The zombies all share an affinity for attic space and the soothing sound of Smooth Jazz music, the sound of which amusingly permeates through nearly each and every scene thereafter.
Zach realizes that he must choose to continue to love Beth as she becomes more physically grotesque with a lust for devouring live human beings, or to kill her. For rational audiences, this is a no-brainer. For this film production, it is comically absurd.
DeHaan as Zach is supported by a host of supporting heavyweights. John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon are also accompanied by Paul Reiser (as Zach’s father, Noah), Cheryl Hines (as Zach’s mother, Judy), and Anna Kendrick co-stars as a family friend named Erica, who takes a mutual liking to Zach as he tries to ditch Beth.
Matthew Gray Gubler (Criminal Minds) co-stars as Zach’s animated police officer brother, Kyle. Kyle, at first, vehemently admonishes Zach for stalking around the Slocum residence and believing Beth is alive, but is later transformed into a hysterical, zombie-fearing alarmist with a hand gun.
Written and directed by Jeff Beana ( I Heart Huckabees Writer), Life After Beth wins with its bipolar persona of deadpan married with comic absurdity. DeHaan and Plaza as Zach and Beth handily carry the story as the beleaguered young lovers.
Aubrey Plaza is hysterical as the young, afflicted undead girlfriend, and Dane DeHaan (a tad reminiscent of a young Leonardo DiCaprio) is well cast in a lead role that he more than efficiently masters via a DiCaprio-like air of intensity that captures the viewer and distills their empathy. Life After Beth is Zach’s story and under the direction Jeff Beana viewers believe Zach and his zombie love story.
Rated R with a running time of 91 minutes, Life After Beth is currently in limited release. It can be seen in selected theaters. It rates four out of five stars.
Review By Janet Walters Levite