It takes a bright mind to bring new life to the zombie film these days, and even more so for the sub-genre of romantic zombie horror/comedies. Not because the subject matter is extremely difficult or anything; there just happens to be a dearth of bright minds behind the endless stream of undead-centered movies churned out on a yearly basis. While it has its share of tonal problems, Jeff Baena’s directorial debut, Life After Beth, stands far above the middle ground with exuberant performances from a star-studded cast and a sincerely bizarre sense of humor.
Baena, who co-wrote David O. Russell’s I Heart Huckabees, also wrote the screenplay for Life After Beth, which hones in on one particular instance of the dead rising, set on the outskirts of a larger outbreak. After a lovely opening that gives audiences their only peek into Aubrey Plaza’s Beth while she’s properly alive, the film settles in on Zach (Dane DeHaan), a young man anxiously grieving over Beth’s death-by-snakebite. Unable to find closure for a relationship that was in mid-turmoil, Zach pals up to Beth’s parents, Maury and Geenie, played with gleefully unhinged paranoia by John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon. But that friendship takes a strong left turn once he makes a certain discovery.