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Thursday, 27 August 2015

Netflix Film Of The Week: Life After Beth (2014)


Having run out (for the time being) of episodes of Parks & Recreation to watch on Amazon Streaming, I had to get my Aubrey Plaza fix from somewhere and so turned to Netflix for her 2014 "rom-com" Life After Beth.

The first thing you should know about this film is that, regardless of what the publicity material says or the presence of a number of comedy actors in the cast, Life After Beth is not a comedy.

Yes, it has moments of levity, but overall it's a dark, quirky, psychological horror (as well as one big metaphor for coping with the end of a romantic relationship), heavy on the character material, light on laughs.

After the death of his girlfriend Beth, Zach Orfman (Dane DeHaan aka Harry Osborn from The Amazing Spider-Man 2) is, naturally, heartbroken but finds solace in the continued support of Beth's parents - Maury (John C. Reilly) and Geenie (Molly Shannon) Slocum.

However, suddenly, they want nothing to do with him, won't take his calls or answer their door. Distressed, Zach sneaks round to their house... and sees Beth (Parks & Recreation's awesome Aubrey Plaza), apparently alive and well.

Although her memory is slightly scrambled (she doesn't remember dying for one thing), Beth appears fine, but while her parents allow her and Zach to rekindle their relationship, they refuse to let Beth go outside (worried that people will see her).

Eventually, of course, the young lovers decide to break curfew and head to the beach, but once there Beth starts acting even weirder, her mood swings and memory lapses become more violent and she ends up destroying a lifeguard hut!

And that's just the beginning of the oddness, as Zach starts to realise other people, long thought dead, are reappearing.

The situation rapidly spirals out of control as it becomes clear that a full-blown zombie apocalypse has broken out...

No reason is explicitly given for Beth's resurrection, although there is a running suggestion that her father has been cursed by their Haitian housekeeper for certain improprieties. This idea gels well with the resolution of the zombie issue as well.

Life After Beth is an odd fish, with some moments evocative of fare as diverse as The Leftovers and Carnival of Souls, as the occasional dreamlike moment makes you question the truth of what you are seeing.

Ultimately, it's a clever little piece about relationships and 'moving on' with as little emotional baggage as possible.

And, as well as a cameo by Parks & Recreation's Jim O'Heir as Chip the Mailman, there's a nice in-joke when Beth is on the phone supposedly talking to someone called "Andy" who 'really understands her'.

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