Life After Beth depicts Beth after life

by Mark Burger

There’s such an abundance of zombie-related media these days that, even as a comedy, Life After Beth doesn’t boast much novelty, having been preceded (or predeceased) by the likes of Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Cockneys vs. Zombies (2012), to name a few.

That’s not to say the new film, which marks the feature directorial debut of screenwriter Jeff Baena, isn’t without its good qualities. For one thing, there’s an appealing cast on hand, headed by Aubrey Plaza (in the title role) and UNCSA graduate Dane DeHaan as her beloved boyfriend Zach.

As the film opens, Beth has recently expired, the victim of a snakebite. But a few days after her funeral, Zach is shocked to discover that she’s still alive (well “¦ maybe) and hardly the worse for wear given her recent demise. She’s a little dazed at first, but soon develops super strength, a fondness for easy jazz and spontaneous sex, a hair-trigger temper, and the inevitable appetite for human flesh.

In the meantime, other zombies start popping up – whoops, there goes the neighborhood. Life After Beth is set in one of those bucolic, bland suburban communities perennially ripe for satire. But it’s also essentially a one-joke movie, despite some inspired gags and the aforementioned cast. It kills time easily enough, but stretches the idea about as far as it can be.

John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon, both always-welcome, play Beth’s parents, desperately trying to insist that nothing’s really amiss. Paul Reiser and Cheryl Hines turn up as Zach’s folks, Matthew Gray Gubler plays his obnoxious rent-a-cop brother, and luminous Anna Kendrick drops in as a potential new love interest for Zach, which doesn’t sit well with Beth.

Hell hath no fury – and no hunger – like a woman scorned, even a dead one. Especially a dead one.

Life After Beth is scheduled to open Aug. 29 at Carousel Grande, Greensboro