Life After Beth Review
Imagine if you lost a loved one tomorrow? A girlfriend, a parent, a sibling, a relative, anything of the like. What if you were tormented by that loss so bad that you would do something to write that wrong? What if the last conversation you had the deceased loved one wasn't a particularly great one? What would you do to go back in time and say what you wanted to say, what you meant to say? These are those forbidden questions we ask ourselves when we sit down to horror movies. These questions literally haunt us as we think about them.
I am a huge Stephen King fan and I am saddened that so few of his works have been screened accomplishments. One of my favorite adaptations of one of his stories was for "Pet Cemetery." It is a story that you would expect from the title. A cat dies near the beginning of the story and its owners bury it in a mysterious cemetery, and the cat comes back to life, but its not the same cat. Soon enough a family buries their deceased child in the cemetery, and the kid comes back, just not the same child. I found "Pet Cemetery" to be one of King's most crippling works, something I feel doesn't get enough love.
I bring up "Pet Cemetery" because I feel "Life After Beth" is a comedic version of that story. "Life After Beth" is much more too, it is an insanely clever take on the zombie movie. In a world where we just as many zombie movies as we do superhero movies, it is normal to believe that we are over-saturated. We need movies like "Life After Beth" to show us just what can be done with the genre. Underneath it all, "Life After Death" tells the story of a boy who wishes desperately for a second chance, and that chance is much more than he bargained for.
Dane DeHaan plays Zach and when we meet him at the beginning of the movie, he is going to the funeral of his dead girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza). The night after the funeral, Zach spends time with Beth's parents (John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon) and learn that their house-maid is from Haiti. Zach turns to Beth's parents for comfort, but they soon begin to shun him. What are they shunning him from? Zach soon discovers that Beth is alive, and just as long as Zach keeps his mouth shut, Beth's parents will continue to let Zach see Beth. If he wants to take her out, he can only do it at night, so that nobody gets suspicious. Zach sees this as his second chance, Beth and Zach were on the verge of breaking up when Beth died, and now she has no recollection of that conversation.
Think this will end as a happily ever after? Sorry, think again.
I am beginning to believe that DeHaan will go down in history as one of the best actors of his generation. Zach is a funny, quirky, anxious character and DeHaan adds a human quality to each of those traits. If you don't know the name already, DeHaan is an actor you should all begin looking for. I have heard many complaints about Aubrey Plaza and how she seemingly plays the same role in everything. I disagree and I think she is given her best role of her career so far, and she completely nails it. Her transformation in this film turns ugly, and its not a role you can probably picture Plaza playing, but she sells it. Every minute of it.
The rest of the supporting cast is great, with Reilly and Shannon turning in wonderful supporting performances. I also like the appearances by Anna Kendrick, Paul Reiser (from "Mad About You!"), and Cheryl Hinds. Who really stole the show for me was Matthew Gray Gubler, who plays Zach's older brother. He's the typical older brother, fitted with older brother syndrome and works as a neighborhood security guard. I love the way Gubler brings this character to life. He paints his character with humor, with ticks and mannerisms and the genuine zing of inspiration.
I love that this is a zombie movie that is a slow burn. Too many times in the past, zombie movies throw us right into the action. While that is a smart move, it gets old after a while. "Life After Beth" really shows the developments day-to-day, and it surprised me how effective that set-up was. It was slow getting started, but it worked for the film rather than against it.
There are some minor script issues, but overall, there is never a dull moment in "Life After Beth." I will state that this is a very funny movie, and a lot of the humor is quirky and offbeat. If that isn't your type of humor, I'd say skip this. I was surprised too that when stuff gets crazy, it is not treated like a joke and the transitions never seem forced. Overall, what won me over was the sweet story of desperation, and how we wish for second chances, never really thinking about what those second chances will bring. "Life After Beth" is crazy, delirious entertainment.
FINAL GRADE: A-