I think Life After Beth looks good. And not only because I have a soft spot for wordplay. And rather than ramble on for a thousand words, I thought I’d distil this anticipation into three easily digested chunks.
Because it’s Tuesday.
And we all need a bit of help of a Tuesday…
1. It is Subversive
It begins with death. I don’t need to highlight the inversion of tropes there, but while this isn’t the usual apocalyptic zombie tale, it does begin with the end of the world, at least for two families. And while it appears to depict the traditional creeping decay into zombiehood (I don’t wanna live there) this is less about the titular Beth losing her life, but instead losing her humanity.
Sure, it sounds a bit wanky when I put it like that. But it also sounds fresh. And with Transformers 4 – The Re-Shitening raking up hundreds of millions of dollars in mere days, I’m game for some innovation. Aren’t you?
2. Zombies are presupposition
Clever films recognize zombies are a prevalent theme in popular culture. Heck, they’re basically part of its DNA. They understand that the audience doesn’t need a lump of exposition explaining the what and the why and the how. The audience just goes “Oh. A Zombie. Ok. Next.”
A lesser movie would squander scenes as characters deny, doubt, question, muse and generally dance around the fact that there are zombies in their movie. These were understandable responses forty years ago. In 2014 it’s tedious, it’s wasted footage and it’s bland screenwriting. The audience more often than not just wants to get a bloody move on.
Life After Beth looks like it gets a bloody move on.
3. An intentional mesh of Drama and Comedy
I’m not ignorant of the fact ‘Dramedy’ is an emergent subgenre. But do I think the blend is more intentional here. (Yes, I assuming much from a two minute trailer. But then again, I’m mean to…)
Zombies are an inherently absurd creation, not just their notion but also their nature. Everything from their shuffling gait to their apathetic groans and gnashing grins is resoundingly ridiculous. But more than most motifs, they’re mostly treated with sombre reverence and respect. Hilariously gruesome as it might be, the Zombie apocalypse is nothing to joke about.
A keen acknowledgement of this dichotomy is evidenced not only in Life After Beth’s tone, but also in her cast. Dane DeHaan is a fine and respected fledgling actor best known for his dramatic chops. Inversely, Aubrey Plaza is fast becoming the face of sniping, vicious humour. But no-one more than John C. Reily better personifies the tone here – A performer shot to the upper echelon of comedy in recent years actually began his journey as lauded dramatic performer. Sure enough, the cast doesn’t make the film. But they certainly help it on its way.
And just for good measure, one reason to be wary….
1. Writer/Director Jeff Baena lives with leading lady Aubrey Plaza.
In the carnal sense.
When was the last time something like THAT was a good sign…
Life After Beth shuffles its way into cinemas on October 3rd.