Life After Beth Blu-ray Review
Are you sick of zombies yet? Ever since the premiere of THE WALKING DEAD I’ve told myself every year that we’ve reached the tipping point and it’s only downhill from here, but THE WALKING DEAD has proved to be a formidable remedy and kept zombies on life support while moviemakers continue to scramble and find the next WORLD WAR Z cash cow. LIFE AFTER BETH isn’t a new lease on life, but it’s helping pump some more oxygen into the corpse of the genre.
LIFE AFTER BETH has things we’ve seen before and in some cases, done a lot better. Yes there are zombies. Yes its humans and zombies foregoing the hunger for flesh and experiencing the pleasures of the flesh. But what makes LIFE AFTER BETH enjoyable is its deadpan delivery and disregard for horror movie structure and zombie rules we’ve all come to accept. That might be because it’s not a horror or a zombie movie because the dead are rising from the ground in our lead character’s most dire time.
Zach (DeHaan) is mourning and it seems like no one can understand the amount of pain he’s dealing with. His girlfriend Beth (Plaza) has died from a snake bite while on a hike. His parents see his grieving process as a passing phase and his brother rolls his eyes. He seeks solace in Beth’s parents, played by John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon. It seems like marijuana is becoming a common trope for the sign that a pair of parents are cool and hip, but Zach bonds with Beth’s parents over a doobie and their last memories of Beth. This is where we learn a peculiar fact. It’s that Zach and Beth were having problems and his remorse isn’t for her loss, but more the fact that he feels guilty that he neglected her wants and needs.
Luckily he doesn’t have to spend his life wondering about the “What ifs” because Beth is back. That sunny smile and flirty disposition stands before him, but something’s not right. The parents don’t know what happened to bring her back, so they do the most logical thing they can think of, keep her in the attic. They don’t want to tell anyone about what’s happening and Beth seems to have these strange new ticks, like carrying garden dirt up to the attic to pad her surroundings with, constantly wanting to go for a walk and not even the slightest curiosity about her death
From scene one, Plaza is fully committed and her devotion never dwindles in the slightest. Plaza is known for her cynical character on PARKS AND RECREATION and it’s refreshing to see her in something that doesn’t play off her strengths, but instead allows her to build up something new and show off her acting range. Watching her go from affectionate, loving, and kind to jealous, psychotic and carnivorous, is a real treat and gave me a hearty, sadistic laugh.
As Beth’s body deteriorates, the laughs are amped up. One moment she’s smiling and admiring Zach as he strums his acoustic guitar on the beach, the next she’s torching the lifeguard beach house nearby in a fit of rage and letting out inhuman screams. While the script is meant as a comedic piece, it has a little commentary on the status of relationships. It touches upon breaking up, losing someone and the acceptance of both of those potential scenarios. It focuses on how to deal with the pain of letting go, albeit in a grotesque way as Beth simply gnashes and claws at her surroundings while Zach finds a way to say goodbye a second time.
WARM BODIES, SHAUN OF THE DEAD, and RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD III come to mind when conveying what happens to romantic relationships when the zombie apocalypse strikes. While SHAUN OF THE DEAD is the obvious outlier for greatness, the others attempted the zom-rom-com mix, but without enough ingredients to satisfy those three hungers. LIFE AFTER BETH has an equal amount and with its runtime, it’s just enough to please, but not wow.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 1:85:1) The dull rustic color of the picture comes through clear on this blu-ray. The detail of this movie allows the viewer to be grossed out by Beth’s deterioration throughout.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The transitions from scene to scene are smoothly mixed. Just like the picture, it comes through crystal clear.
Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Jeff Baena and Actors Aubrey Plaza, Dane Dehaan and Matthew Gubler: How can you go wrong? The stars and the director have gathered together to talk about this funny movie, and instead they sound bored and their dialogue feels forced. Little, if anything, seems to be talked about. Tidbits of information are dry and the banter between the group borders on intentionally awkward and “I was paid to be here.”
Life After Beth: The Post Mortem (15:48): A collection of interviews with the actors and director. Nothing in these interviews seem natural. It feels entirely way too generic in terms of most behind the scenes looks. The stereotypical praise of each other, the script, the filming, everything. That’s not a bad thing, but everyone feels wooden.
Deleted Scenes (19:45): Nearly 20 minutes of deleted or extended scenes. Nothing that really stands out here except a few scenes that may have added an ominous ambience, which wasn’t necessary for this movie.