Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon and Anna Kendrick.
Plot Summary: A young man’s recently deceased girlfriend mysteriously returns from the dead, but he slowly realizes she is not the way he remembered her.
One of my favourite film sub-genres is Horror Comedy. I particularly enjoy ones that involve zombies, inventive kills and ridiculous amounts of gore so I was quite eager to watch this latest effort from director Jeff Baena. Other “Zom-Coms” like Shaun of the Dead and Dead Alive (AKA Braindead) have already set the bar very high but I still thought that this could be a worthy addition to the genre. Unfortunately, it doesn’t reach the dizzying heights of either one of them. That’s not to say this film is terrible as it does have a few things going for it.
As the titular character, Aubrey Plaza delivers a committed performance and is clearly having a ball playing this kind of role. Her trademark deadpan delivery and 1000-yard stare is used to great effect here as her character turns from a lively young woman into a flesh-eating monstrosity with a new-found taste for Smooth Jazz. Dane DeHaan, in his debut leading role as Zach, proves that he has the chops to carry a film by himself. He may not be a natural comedian but he still gets some laughs and the chemistry between him and Plaza was better than expected. John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon also have their moments as Beth’s parents, although I still think they could have been a bit more “Tongue-in-cheek” with their performances. And the film does pick up the pace after the first 15 minutes, which were admittedly rather dull.
Now onto the negatives. All good horror comedies have at least 1 memorable show-down scene. Shaun of the Dead had that classic pool cue fight sequence set to Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now. And Dead Alive had that infamous lawnmower scene, which still holds the record for the most fake blood used in a film ever.
This is where Life After Beth disappoints. In fact it’s surprisingly tame with most of the violence occurring off-screen and only brief moments of gore. If it wasn’t for the swearing and sexual content this would have easily got a 12A rating. Furthermore, the plot developments during the second half are sorely underwritten, as well as most of the other characters. And Anna Kendrick is given virtually nothing to do, which is a shame as she’s easily the best actress in the whole film.
So in conclusion, Life After Beth is by no means a bad film, it’s just more of a missed opportunity. Cinema audiences expecting this to be like Shaun of the Dead 2.0 will probably be disappointed (although I could see this becoming quite popular on Netflix).