Digesting ‘Life After Beth’
MANILA, Philippines—You would definitely expect a zombie-centric film to be dark, full of thrill, or plainly just about running for your life. But the Jeff Baena-directed “rom-com-zom-dram” (romance, comedy, zombie, drama) movie “Life After Beth” entails much more than that, if not something entirely different.
Written 12 years ago by Baena himself, “Life After Beth” features rising Hollywood star Dane DeHaan as Zach Orfman, and deadpan-style comedy actress Aubrey Plaza (as Beth Slocum). Plaza plays Beth, the girl who dies an untimely death due to a fatal snakebite, while DeHaan is Zach, Beth’s boyfriend who later on struggles to accept that Beth is gone for good.
Out of need for comfort, and solace perhaps, Zach finds himself visiting the Slocums more often than he used to. He plays games with Beth’s father, Maury (played by John Reilly), and he suddenly develops strong fixation on things his deceased girlfriend left behind.
But one night, Beth’s parents suddenly stop answering his knocks on their door. This, of course, is unacceptable for the coping young man as he finds no logic behind the adults’ strange acts. Out of curiosity, Zach grabs every chance he could to peep inside the house.
While he was on it, he was probably expecting to see either Maury or Geenie (Beth’s mom played by Molly Shannon), but what he saw next left him asking more questions. A lady was inside the house, she was moving fast, but he was sure she’s dressed like Beth. No, he is certain. That person is Beth.
Totally freaked out, Zach forces his way into the Slocums’ house. And when he succeeded, there his reward was. A conscious, moving, (living is still arguable), but an unquestionably pretty Beth.
When he saw the entire thing for his own good, Zach freaks out even more not just because the Slocums kept the “resurrected” Beth a secret from him, but because he doesn’t understand a single thing going on.
At the back of his mind, Zach knew exactly what is going on. Beth is back from the dead, but she is nowhere near being “resurrected.”
Zombie! What a frightening thought for the young Zach, but indeed, Beth has come back as a zombie.
It took him a while to react on Beth’s return, but later on he decides to make the most out of this weird but very much wanted second chance with his girl. And that was when the rollercoaster ride with a twist, begun.
If the movie has to be summed up in one word, the most applicable term for it would be bizarre.
Why, wasn’t it a full-fledged zombie flick? No, it wasn’t.
But weren’t there zombies? Yes there were, plenty of them in fact.
However, towards the climax, it felt as if the film itself wasn’t sure whether it would take the ultimate zombie-dom path or the zombie-becomes-human-friendly path.
Beth, the zombie, was obviously on her way to complete beastliness. But it was just her. The rest of the undead gang were rather harmless, not even daunting. Was it because Beth was the first to re-appear that’s why she’s also the first to turn into a human-eating zombie? But wait, what caused the outbreak in the first place?
Perhaps the answer to all this is simple.
Looking beyond the human-turned-zombie coat of the story, there lays the existence of an emotion, the human desire, to have a second go in something so ultimate and irrevocable about life.
Death, in this case, is comparable to change. How prepared are you to cope should you encounter a life-changing experience? In one scene, Beth suddenly throws a fit then she accidently burns an entire wooden lifeguard station down. The silhouette of the lovers running away from the blazing edifice speaks so much of transformation: The house eventually ending up in ashes, Beth becoming the monster she is bound to be, and Zach losing the relationship he wanted so bad to keep.
But the bigger picture is: The town falling prey to the zombies.
In the last sequences of the film, it appeared that there are a few others besides Zach who survived the apocalypse. With much courage, and desperation you can say, these people braved the unwanted change that dawned over their city, their homes, and practically their lives.
Were they prepared for it? Maybe yes, but the mere fact that they survived, it could only mean that they had the determination to do so. They had the heart to accept and embrace change, and this in the end led them to experiencing the positive type of transformation, the metamorphosis, which gives birth to something beautiful.
From valor flew out the butterfly of survival, a winged form of hope, which will help the brave ones start anew.
Well the movie is, after all, life after Beth.
Life After Beth is out in cinemas nationwide today.