Life After Beth, dir/wr. Jeff Baena, Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, Molly Shannon, John C. Reilly, Anna Kendrick, Cheryl Hines, Paul Reiser
There seems to be something of a resurgence (or reanimation, if you like) of zombies on our screens. Trailblazed undoubtedly by AMC's The Walking Dead, now in its fifth year (and renewed for a sixth), we've had many, many variations on a theme; like vampires, zombies' similarly undead counterparts, there's great pathos to be rung from creatures caught between two realms. Baena's film vaguely treads Edgar Wright's Shaun Of The Dead path, a romzomcom that could easily be an April Ludgate dream-sequence in an extended episode of Parks And Recreation. The flimsy plot concerns Zach (DeHaan) grieving over his girlfriend Beth's (Plaza) death at the fangs of a snake whilst out hiking. But a few days later, Beth is back at her parents' house, breezy and hazily-memoried about recent events. Zach, who was having doubts about their relationship pre-bite, now feels conflicted at having his girl back and with it, another chance at happiness, but suspicious of her somewhat changed temperament. The set-up is the best part of the movie with some genuinely provocative musings on grief's screaming heartache and the morality of accepting the unnatural to assuage such pain. But the film seems less content on exploring Beth's ebbing humanity (something even The Walking Dead hasn't successfully confronted - yet) and instead descends into tired comedic armageddon of the sort we've seen many times before. Plaza, whose ever nimble-footed Janus-face can go from heart-meltingly adorable to the most bloodless of death-stares in a fraction of a heartbeat, enjoys a persuasive transformation as the darkness takes over, and DeHaan, so memorably nuanced in his psychosis in Josh Trank's Chronicle, barely has much of a character arc with which to truly make an impact. Too weak-lined for a comedy and too toothless for horror, Life After Beth too finds itself trapped in a netherworld of uncertain identity.