DIRECTOR Jeff Baena WRITER Jeff Baena STARS Aubrey Plaza; Dane DeHaan; John C. Reilly DVD & BLU-RAY 2 February
At this point in cinema we are surely at complete zombie overkill, and yet Life After Beth works well. Director-writer Jeff Baena’s suburban zombie apocalypse doesn’t offer an explanation for events, but focuses on the reconnected relationships between the living and the dead, and does so in a deadpan, often very funny way, its self-aware script going for a certain weirdness over slapstick. In fact the film is at its best when Baena lets his camera pick out the new quirks in life that living with a zombie brings up — think Woody Allen meets Shaun of the Dead — especially as our human characters struggle to cope around their returned loved ones.
Life After Beth’s main strength is a cast of seasoned character actors that take the material seriously. Both John C. Reilly and Paul Reiser as the fathers of the young odd couple are perfectly cast, and Anna Kendrick continues to show that she improves any film she appears in as Beth’s boyfriend Zach’s potential new love interest. Best of all is Audrey Plaza in the title role, who on the basis of this and her work in Parks and Recreation deserves to be a breakout star. Sweet and disturbing in equal measures, she steals every scene with a mixture of murderous rage and teenage angst.
Things do go off the boil a little as Baena shows more of the widening zombie epidemic, but Plaza holds it together until a satisfying conclusion that, while treading familiar ground and hardly reinventing the genre, proves there’s still life after death.