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I don’t understand all the hate harbored for Life After Beth. It must be a byproduct of zombie burnout. Life After Beth is an endearing tale of undead, unrequited love. Although this is a zombie horror comedy, Life After Beth is heavy on the drama but it still delivers laughs thanks to versatile actors.

While Aubrey Plaza plays the titular Beth, Dane DeHaan stars as Zach—heartbroken and trying to put his life back together after the death of his girlfriend. Naturally, that inciting incident happens at the outset of the movie. Although their relationship was already deteriorating, Zach feels guilt mourning Beth and seeks comfort by spending time with her parents—Maury and Geenie (played by John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon). During a late-night game of chess, Maury sparks up a joint to enjoy with Zach. As usual, John C. Reilly is fucking awesome and he doesn’t get enough credit for his acting chops.

Slocums

There is a warm, genuine sense of humanity in Reilly’s performance as Maury, which Zach cannot find at home with his fucked up family. Zach’s parents, Noah and Judy (played by Paul Reiser and Cheryl Hines), are self-obsessed and more concerned with superficial things like why Zach isn’t eating. When Zach comes back from Beth’s funeral, his brother asks him how it went—as if it can go any way but awful.

Zach’s brother, Kyle, is played to perfection by Matthew Gray Gubler. Most famous for his role on Criminal Minds, Matthew Gray Gubler has a magnetic energy that makes him a likeable asshole despite the fact that his character’s sole dream is to shoot things and keep shooting—a.k.a. The American Dream.

Orfman Brothers

Life After Beth definitely benefits from a strong supporting cast (even Anna Kendrick makes a cameo), but there’s no way the movie works without Dane DeHaan as Zach. DeHaan is a phenomenal actor who plays the comedic role shockingly well, but his best value comes with bringing an emotional weight to the movie. Due to DeHaan, you feel the impact when his girlfriend mysteriously rises from the dead.

Was Beth just fucking with him? How can she be alive and dead? What the hell happened?

DeHaan and Plaza

Although this is obviously a comedic take on the zombie genre, don’t discount the serious nature of the story. Dealing with loss is a central theme to Life After Beth. Everyone copes in their own way. But if you had the chance to do things differently, wouldn’t you grab onto that opportunity and never let it leave your grasp? It’s heart-wrenching to see Zach go through the gamut of emotions trying to deal with the death and subsequent resurrection of Beth. However, it turns out that Beth isn’t the only one.

Unfortunately, the great foundation built in the beginning of Life After Beth eventually starts to fall apart. The second act grinds to a halt in terms of pacing and humor. As a result, the movie is slightly uneven with its tone shifting from comedic to dramatic to gravely serious—although some laughs come in the third act. I can understand why some people may not love Life After Beth, but there’s plenty here to enjoy that no one should absolutely hate this movie. I was not tired of the story at any point.

As a romantic comedy zombie horror, Life After Beth doesn’t feel like any other movie.

There’s a certain undeniable charm to this movie because of the execution of the story by its cast.

Eat Me

Not even Beth understands what is going on. She can’t remember a thing. I can’t recall watching Aubrey Plaza in anything before, but she leaves a lasting impression as Beth. You are always on edge when she is on the screen because you feel the unpredictability of her character. She doesn’t remember dying and everyone is trying to keep that fact from her. In a sense, you can connect with why her family wouldn’t want to question it. It’s a miracle, after all…right? There’s a very particular Pet Sematary vibe.

The soil in a man’s heart is stonier. Even a man’s stony heart should be warmed by Life After Beth. Grief and remorse are central beats to this story, which writer/director Jeff Baena handles with a deft hand.

Sometimes, dead is better.

Sometimes Dead is Better

4 out of 5 stars

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