Blu-Ray Review: Life After Beth (2014, Dir, Jeff Baena)

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ATTENTION: It’s a cold hard fact that this review contains tremendous spoilers, so if you have an inherent, almost medical sensitivity to them I recommend NOT reading any further. You have been summarily warned!

When I’m interested in reviewing a movie I’ve never seen before I need to know what I’m getting into before I commit one or the other to it, which means locating a trailer. Life After Beth was the first movie I didn’t do that with, not did I know anything about the plot. I simply received a press release on the pending DVD and blu-ray and based on the people I know who are Aubrey Plaza fans I decided what the hell.

I’m not totally familiar with her. I only know of her from the few interviews I had seen on Attack Of The Show, one of the shows they used to have on the now extinct G4 channel. I quickly understood she was hot, odd and funny and connected to that comedy series, Parks And Recreation.

Plus the movie was a zombie comedy. I hadn’t seen a zombie comedy in a great while. Another reason I threw caution to the wind and requested a copy. My assumption, however, was that it wouldn’t be a keeper. I was wrong. Again. I enjoyed the movie and will now be adding it to my library.

Two things I quickly noticed once I started watching it: the kid playing Plaza’s boyfriend is Dane DeHann. Had I not seen this past summer’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 I wouldn’t have known who he was. He played Harry Osborn in that movie and for someone I was just seeing for the first time his presence in Spider-Man made an impression. Apparently, he can do quirky comedies as well as big ass Marvel action movies. And second . . . what the hell was Paul Reiser doing in this movie? I just didn’t peg Reiser as someone who would do a zombie comedy. He plays Dehann’s father. A small part, but he gets enough screen time to make his role worthwhile.

Plaza plays Beth Slocum, who as we see in the opening credits, is going off on a hike by herself. When the movie kicks in her boyfriend, Zach Orfman (DeHaan), his family and her family are mourning her death. On that hike she got herself dead after being bit by a snake. But that’s not the crazy part, Beth digs herself out of her grave one night afterwards and walks home with no memory of where she was, what happened on that hike or even that she was dead.

Zach discovers her resurrection by accident one day when her father, Maury (John C. Reilly), who he just became fast friends, suddenly won’t have anything to do with him. He goes over to the Slocum household and gets a glimpse of Beth walking around in the house. Understandably he goes batshit and tries to get in.

Later on Maury and Geenie (Molly Shannon), Beth’s mother, try to explain what happened, but it’s clear they have no clue what’s going on. They want to believe God brought her back to life, but as time goes on it becomes obvious Beth is a zombie.

Zombies in this film are a different breed from the ones we’re familiar with. Yes, they still crave flesh and brains and go all homicidal to get it, but the newly resurrected in this movie start out as normal human beings. The talk, they reason, the emote, they are indistinguishable from you and I. For the most part. They just don’t have any memory of their death, but the more time they spend “alive” the more they slowly revert into monsters. By the end of the movie Beth is a full-on corpse rotting flesh eater. She also has super strength. Yeah, the dead here have almost super hero strength. Oh, and they love hanging out in attics and smooth jazz relaxes them.

This movie reminded of three previous films I had seen. Starting off, around the time Zach first discovers Beth is back from dead it reminded me of Ed And His Dead Mother (1993), but the crux of the story is about Zach trying to rekindle his relationship with a chick he used to love but can’t understand anymore because of her burgeoning undead tendencies, this aspect then reminded me of Return Of The Living Dead III (1993), and in the final act the movie hits a Night Of The Living Dead (1968) stride as we eventually learn Beth isn’t the only person coming back from the dead. Others are, too, but in a twist on the zombie apocalypse concept only this particular community is being hit with dead people walking. And it all comes to an abrupt end with things returning to normal in the final minutes of the movie.

That’s right, this zombie comedy has a happy ending, well, right after the sad one, but it’s all good, I enjoyed every minute of it.

I forgot to mention Zach has an older brother, Kyle (Matthew Gray Gubler), who’s funny as hell. He’s a wanna-be cop and he’s hilarious in every scene.

On October 21st Lionsgate releases the film on separate DVD and blu-ray editions with the extra features available on both.

Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.85:1 high definition widescreen—5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio—English, English SDH, Spanish

Extra features:

  • Audio commentary with Writer/Director Jeff Baena, Actors Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan and Matthew Gray Gubler
  • Life After Beth: The Post Mortem (15:18)
  • Deleted Scenes (11 scenes) (19:45)

Most of the deleted scenes were interesting but I can see why they were trimmed from the film. The Post Mortem featurette is fairly standard for a making of. The best extra is the commentary, probably because I’m predisposed to liking cast commentaries. This film, according to Baena, had been gestating since 2003. Yeah, it took them that long to get it made.

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