Boy meets girl, boy falls deeply in love with girl, girl dies tragically, boy is hopelessly devastated, girl’s reanimated corpse turns up after a week and starts a chain of events which changes life as we know it. It’s a classic tale.
My penchant for playing everything for laughs aside, that’s not actually far from the truth. It seems there’s a new zombie flick bursting onto the scene every few months these days, each one promising to be a game-changer that takes the genre in a totally new direction. Life After Beth fits neatly into the zomromcom subgenre that has existed since the release of 2004’s Shaun of the Dead, but doesn’t even come close to surpassing it. It’s certainly worthy of having a swift half at the Winchester and rifling through a few 80’s LPs, but that’s as far as it goes.
Broken-hearted Zach (Dane Dehaan – Chronicle, The Amazing Spider-Man 2) is struggling to cope with the death of his girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Parks and Recreation). He finds solace in the company of Beth’s adoring parents Maury (John C. Reilly) and Geenie (Molly Shannon), and the three become close, sharing favourite memories of Beth and trying to cope with the unfairness of it all. When the couple suddenly stop returning Zach’s calls and refuse to answer their door, he becomes desperate. Peering through their window one day and begging for answers, Zane sees a familiar face inside. Could Beth really have come back from the dead and, if so, what does she want?
The cast of Life After Beth reads like a who’s who of hipster cool. Unfortunately, there’s absolutely nothing new here, and the characters could well have been plucked from the roles they’re most famous for and plonked unceremoniously into a zombie apocalypse. Fans of Parks and Recreation will be familiar with Plaza’s sarcastic wit and scathing one-liners and are offered them in abundance. Of course it’s funny – she’s one of the hottest actresses around at the moment with good reason – and of course you can’t help but enjoy every moment of her screen-time, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Dehaan, once again, plays the perpetually troubled not-quite-youth. He mopes after his lost love, all sunken eyes and sad monotone until she inexplicably returns to him, completely unaware of the fact that she is deader than Shia LeBeouf’s career. There’s certainly chemistry between the two and plenty of laughs to be had in the gross-out moments when Zach can’t keep his amorous hands off his rapidly-decaying girlfriend, and here’s where Plaza really does excel. Her ability to go from 0-60 and back again in a heartbeat is genuinely unnerving to watch.
Unfortunately, Life After Beth doesn’t quite live up to sky-high expectations. With such a brilliant cast and a trailer that promised so much, it’s impossible not to be slightly disappointed by the finished product – it’s never quite as smart or sardonic as you want it to be, despite spending the whole ninety minutes silently cheering it on.
Life After Beth may not be worth going out of your way to watch on the big screen, but it’s definitely enjoyable enough to catch on DVD.