Director: Jeff Baena
Stars: Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, Molly Shannon, John C. Reilly, Matthew Gray Gubler, Paul Reiser, Cheryl Hines, Anna Kendrick
The world doesn’t need yet another zombie movie, nor another zombie comedy, but you know what the world does need right now? A zombie comedy starring the singularly odd Aubrey Plaza as reanimated, flesh-craving corpse.
That’s the bottom-line sales pitch for writer-director Jeff Baena’s Life After Beth, a quirky little genre subverter that breathes much-needed life into two mostly stagnant kinds of movies: the aforementioned zombie cinema and rom-coms. Dane DeHaan (Chronicle and recently Harry Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2) plays a guy whose girlfriend, Beth (Plaza), dies from a snakebite, leaving him emotionally devastated. Inexplicably, though, Beth comes back, though claiming memory loss at first and not requesting human brains or entrails.
Their love re-ignites under extreme duress, blood starts spilling, and the end-of-the-world is soon nigh—yet Life After Beth never leans too heavily toward its darker sides. With DeHaan as the requisite straight-man, offsetting the film’s widespread strangeness, Baena’s living-dead comedy, the best of its kind since Shaun of the Dead, keeps its screwball tendencies front and center. It’s never too sappy nor too gross, checking both boxes enough to legitimize its romance and horror without stacking either deck too high.