Version: Grimm Up North festival screening
Photography/visual style: 7/10
It's astonishing how broad the range can be even within a sub-genre of films. Life After Beth is best described as a 'horror comedy', and yet it is completely different to other horror comedies I saw on the very same day.
The comedy comes from the situation, not the characters, who are played pretty straight. Beth (Aubrey Plaza) comes back from the dead, forcing her boyfriend Zach (Dane DeHaan) and parents (John C Reilly and Molly Shannon) to confront their grief and the conflicted feelings they have about her and their lives with her. Over the film, her behaviour becomes more abnormal, and other undead appear, causing increasing chaos.
The pacing and balance of the film are remarkably well managed. Plaza does a great job with her performance, slowly showing increasing signs of deterioration from ordinary teenage girl to mindless zombie, and each other character's reaction to the bizarre situation is shown to be ridiculous at one point or another. I note that director Jeff Baena's main other contribution to film is co-writing the script for David O. Russell's surreal comedy 'I Heart Huckabees', and I think he should really be seen as a writer who has taken up directing.
Lots of ideas are explored through Life After Beth, such as grief and the way our memories change as time passes. There is a little bit of action and tension, but mainly this is a melancholic, thoughtful piece which brings humour out of the behaviour of normal people in an abnormal situation. It's a writer's film, and an actor's film, and I found it rather touching as well as entertaining.