After Beth Slocum’s death, owing to a nasty snake bite, her now ex-boyfriend Zach (Dane DeHaan) is in pieces over his loss. To keep himself feeling as close as possible to her, he becomes fast friends with her father, Maury (John C. Reilly), playing chess with each other until the early hours of the morning. One day, Maury unexpectedly stops returning Zach’s calls, an occurrence that Zach decides to investigate – especially after having spotted what he believes to have been Beth through the Slocum’s window. Zach eventually discovers that Beth is back, and living in her house, as if nothing has happened – except where Beth’s grave used to be, is now a big hole with claw marks.
Once this fantastic premise kicks in, where Beth has no memory of her own death, the movie begins to fulfil its potential as a downplayed, kooky romance where a supernatural tint that hides just outside the movie’s peripheral, feeds relatable, ordinary circumstances with the added problems that happen when you have a zombie for a girlfriend. Unfortunately, that fades quickly in favour of rapid attempts at jokes, and a plot that eventually crumbles entirely away from its important central relationship in favour of inappropriately high stakes and convoluted story tics.
It’s in this final act that director and writer Jeff Baena reveals that he believes his own idea has only so much steam, before it needs some much needed stuffing. Except the idea is a superb one, its simplicity allowing it the chance to be a particularly memorable ZomCom, opposed to the more action-orientated Zombieland and Juan of the Dead. But even though it has the Zom, there’s much missing in the way of the Com; while there are some particularly great laughs, mainly provided by Zach’s family members, the glibness of the humour comes from the movie’s own underdeveloped tone, a factor that cinema depends on no matter the genre.
As a result, it’s not just the characters in Life After Beth that are in constant conflict; it seems to be fighting a battle against itself, and is visibly losing the closer it gets to its deflated climax. Oh, and Anna Kendrick’s in it. Though it’s hard to care much when the director doesn’t either.