Life After Beth full movie review - A Horror! ... Nightmare! ... Vision! ... of Zombie Domesticity! ... (and Zombie Love!) ... in this zom-rom-com!
Early in 2013 there was a film called 'Warm Bodies', which was a horror with a romantic element. This rather unique film, could be best described as the first in a new genre, the zom-rom.
Now with 'Life After Beth' we are in a similar genre, though as it is played more for laughs, whereas 'Warm Bodies' was not (it was serious), perhaps 'Life After Beth' should be described as a zom-rom-com.
'Life After Beth' is certainly one of the more inspired film titles of this year. Whilst some films have bland titles that are almost immediately forgotten, 'LAB' is a title that already seems familiar because it cleverly paraphrases the well-known term "life after death". No doubt Writer/Director started with that phrase and quickly named Beth as his first character.
Aubrey Plaza plays the eponymous Beth, who is seen hiking in the hills in the brief opening shot of 'LAB'. The next scenes are to do with a funeral. It is a Jewish funeral. Beth Slocum is from a Jewish family, and her parents Maury and Geenie Slocum are now holding a funeral for their daughter, Beth, who has just died. Maury Slocum is played by John C. Reilly.
So it is then, that the Slocum family have to cope with life after Beth. Hence the title. So too, does the Orfman family have to cope. In particular, Zach Orfman, played by Dane DeHaan, has to try to cope. He was Beth's boyfriend, and he is finding it very hard to cope. At first, he get some support from Maury, but then he finds himself excluded by the Slocums. Supecting, and investigating, he spies Beth, and accuses the parents of staging a hoax. Soon though he discovers the awful truth that his girlfriend did die, and has now returned ... as a zombie!
Maury and Geenie Slocum are very happy that their daughter has come back to them, and are very protective of their special little girl. This is entertaining as the usual social protocols and rituals are now inverted in the new circumstances. The parents have not informed Beth of her health problem, and so she carries on very much like any other young woman.
Beth wants to spend time with her boyfriend. He himself is torn between the love he had for her and the new reality of her existence. Thus the usual relationship problems of young lovers arise. Misunderstandings cause arguments, made all the worse by the underlying problem of having a relationship with a zombie.
Aubrey Plaza, who so impressed in the time-travel story 'Safety Not Guaranteed' (2012), here gives another fine performance in a very different role, in a very different film. She captures well the ordinary young woman who is unaware of her health problem, and merely wishes to continue without change, her previous life. Like other young women, she can resent the restrictions placed upon her, and can fly into a rage.
John C. Reilly, playing the protective father, tries to provide a normal domestic situation for his daughter. Both he and his wife know that Beth's health situation is very fragile, but rather than facing a threatening reality, are determined to treat their daughter as normally as possible. The ever-reliable Mr Reilly, here again convinces in his role.
Dane DeHaan, playing the boyfriend, has a very difficult role. He is distraught by the loss of his girlfriend. Then seems paranoid, suspicious, and unbalanced. Then when what was thought a hoax is now shown to be a horrific reality, he has to cope with that. He needs to show the love he felt for his girlfriend, the happiness on her return, but also some aversion to the new reality of what she has become. He needs to fear, love and pity her in equal measures. This Mr DeHaan is able to do in this central role.
Matthew Gray Gubler, playing the security-guard brother, admittedly a small role, is unrecognizable. His over-the-top performance in an over-the-top role is sufficiently nuanced and subtle enough to exude a comic as well as sinister side. His unpleasant earlier scenes give way to a surprisingly deeper character by the end of the film. "Unrecognizable"? Oh yes! I was shocked, shocked, to discover, that I had previously seen Mr Gubler before in the TV series 'Criminal Minds'.
A good supporting cast also play their parts well, supporting debut Director Jeff Baena, who also wrote the script. Some early scenes have a spot too much camera wobble and are too close-up for my liking, but that apart, the scenes are all great. Some of the scenes with Aubrey Plaza are some of the most visually stunning. Miss Plaza had a heavy work-load on her shoulders carrying this film. She does it well. Director Mr Baena, has also shot scenes that are subtle and leave your mind to fill the blanks in the off-screen events.
Some technical details regarding zombies: The zombies in the 'Warm Bodies' romance, and the 'World War Z' action film, both of 2013, are rather fast moving creatures. Beth in this film, rather like the zombies in Dawn of the Dead (1978), is slow moving. Miss Plaza does a very good job in her movements, and in her style of walking, as she progresses through the movie.
'Life After Beth' is a rather adult-themed film, thus it is rated at 15 in the UK. 'Warm Bodies' was only given a 12A surprisingly! If you liked 'WB' then you should like 'LAB' too. This zom-rom-com has a strong zombie element, plenty of love and romance, but is perhaps a spot light on the comedy side. The early funeral scenes are not funny but it doesn't take too long for the film to pick up.
An entertaining fun film. 9/10.