Life After Beth is a one-joke movie. It’s a pretty good joke, I have to admit, but once it’s revealed the film keeps milking the gag until the life goes out of it. Aubrey Plaza (best known for Parks and Recreation) plays a girl named Beth who’s just died, leaving her boyfriend (Dane DeHaan) utterly distraught. He seeks comfort from her parents (John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon), but when he arrives at their house the day after the funeral he gets a tremendous shock: Beth is still alive. Or that’s how it seems.
Normally I wouldn’t reveal more than that—and if you still don’t know the premise, stop reading now—but the trailer for Life After Beth gives away the joke: the reason she’s back home is that she’s become a zombie. With each passing day, she’s less human and more rabid.
Plaza throws herself into the part and does a great job, never winking at the audience, but DeHaan is placed in the position of being a straight man, reacting to her increasingly gruesome behavior. Perhaps if writer-director Jeff Baena had approached his character in a more farcical manner the movie would be funnier. I lost patience with it.
I was rewarded, somewhat, by a fantastic sight gag that occurs near the end of the film…but it, too, is included in the trailer. That makes it hard for me to recommend investing an hour and a half in Life After Beth.