Box Office Democracy: Life After Beth

Horror movies need to have a metaphor.  Slasher movies are historically about our attitudes about sex, Nightmare on Elm Street is about the fear we have of not being able to protect our children, even Shaun of the Dead was about the dangers of complacency.  I bring this up because Life After Beth has a terrible time conveying its metaphor.  Sometimes it seems to want to be about dealing with grief, other times it seems to be about moving on after a break up, it sometimes even feels like it’s trying to draw an equivocation between those two feelings.  Unfortunately, it never picks exactly what its about and it makes the film feel directionless and kind of boring.

Aubrey Plaza is a delight to watch in this movie.  Overlaying a kind of flighty 21 year-old girl with a person slowly turning into a zombie is a stellar idea and Plaza delivers a performance with stunning depth.  The slow build with that character as she pushes her extremes incrementally until she becomes first an erratic lunatic and, finally, a flesh-eating beast.  She shares the screen most often with Dane DeHaan who seems to be a little out of his depth and gets through the film just by doing different variations on sad and surprised.  Not even a clean surprised though it’s a sad frowny surprised.

Much like having better action scenes could have saved The Expendables 3, being funnier could have saved Life After BethLife After Beth is one of those indie comedy movies that often feels like it’s too good to have jokes in it.  There are a couple of laughs early and a few more later on but the middle section of this film is only funny when Matthew Gray Gubler is on screen and those moments are few and far between.  Even the sublime John C. Reilly is left in the unfortunate position of alternating between delivering flat pieces of exposition and being very serious.  It’s a waste of talent and it’s a shame to see.  Even Molly Shannon, who I am not comfortable with seeing move to mom roles, gets more laugh lines.  It’s a shame with all this talent they couldn’t make me laugh more.