Well it’s time for a new one. This time we’re looking at zombie / horror-comedy(?) Life After Beth. Released this year, IMDB describes this movie as :
A young man’s recently deceased girlfriend mysteriously returns from the dead, but he slowly realizes she is not the way he remembered her.
So, this is the directorial debut of writer Jeff Baena (I Heart Huckabees), who also wrote this film. It might be one of those movies that seemed a little bit better on paper, or it could just be that I’m feeling sort of exhausted with zombie films, but this movie falls a bit flat for me. Now, that’s hard for me to admit, because my long-standing crush on Aubrey Plaza really makes me want to like this movie, but I just can’t. It did, however, give me a new appreciation and enjoyment of the film Warm Bodies.
The movie is centered around one of my least favorite new actors, Dane DeHaan (Chronicle), who just falls flat every time I see him. I may be biased when it comes to him, as I found him wildly unlikable in Chronicle, and he may be forever tainted for me. However, I think it’s a fair assessment that following him around this movie is pretty tedious, and I just really didn’t enjoy him at all in the movie. There are some good and likable performances in the movie though, John C Reilly and Molly Shannon are pretty funny, though really under-utilized. Aubrey Plaza is pretty likable in the movie, even when she goes full-zombie, however she’s just not enough to keep the movie on the rails. We also get a pretty fun performance from Matthew Gray Gubler (Criminal Minds) and Anna Kendrick (Scott Pilgrim vs The World), both of whom just aren’t in the movie enough. Paul Reiser (Aliens) is also in this movie, but he’s ultimately pretty forgettable.
Casting issues aside, and the fact that we are strapped to a very unlikable character and actor for nearly the entire movie, it also suffers story problems. It takes a long time to really get going, and even once we know the direction the movie is going, it still continues to keep its slow pace. Running at only 91 minutes, it really feels much, much longer than it is. It seems to focus too long on being quirky and ‘indie’ than actually telling the story concisely and in an interesting way. It has some funny jokes sprinkled throughout, and in the end when Zach (DeHaan) murders a fully-zombied Beth (Plaza), it comes off as cold and almost a bit disturbing. Zach is also immediately set up with a new love interest, and it all just feels weird an unnatural.
I really did want to like this movie, it seemed like a possibly fun, quirky horror movie but it just doesn’t deliver. It could have been as simple as casting someone with charisma as Zach, or maybe picking up the story pace a little bit, instead of assuming that the indie-cred from Huckabees would coast you through. It’s not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, and does have some genuinely funny scene (one that comes to mind is Molly Shannon feeding her fingers to her zombie-daughter), but doesn’t go far enough to be a black comedy, and isn’t broad or charming enough to be a regular comedy.
Overall, close but no cigar. At least for me. Have you seen this movie? What did you think?
My huge crush on Aubrey Plaza remains un-tainted, but this movie just didn’t work for me.
FINAL GRADE : C