A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Life After Beth is a zombie comedy with some romance thrown in (aka a "romzomcom"). Zombie killings mostly take place off screen, but there's lots of blood, as well as shooting, shouting, and arguing. Language is strong, with several uses of "f--k" as well as words like "c--k" and "a--hole." Characters kiss and fondle each other, with sex definitely on their minds. They do have sex in one scene, but no nudity is shown. A zombie girl is shown naked in one scene (breasts and butt). The main character smokes pot in one scene and a cigarette in another. Zombie fans will likely want to see this, as well as any big fans of stars Aubrey Plaza or Dane DeHaan.
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What's the story?
After going for a hike alone, Beth (Aubrey Plaza) dies of a snakebite. Her boyfriend, Zach (Dane DeHaan), is having a difficult time dealing with her loss and is spending extra time with her parents (John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon). One night he arrives to find that Beth is still alive ... sort of: She's a zombie. She seems normal enough, so they keep dating. But Beth soon starts acting strangely, growing more and more out of control. Worse, more zombies begin showing up. Zach has a choice. He can either continue to pretend like nothing is wrong, or he can start preparing for a zombie apocalypse.
Is it any good?
The directorial debut of Jeff Baena, who co-wrote 2004's brilliant (albeit polarizing) I Heart Huckabees, LIFE AFTER BETH is a terrific modern-day take on the classic "Monkey's Paw" story. It depends a great deal on sly, sustained deadpan humor and weird comic detours. Some viewers may tire of repeated jokes -- like the fact that smooth jazz music tends to calm the zombies, or the full-sized oven strapped to a zombie's back during a long sequence. But these jokes are actually timed to escalate in funniness.
Baena's real achievement is balancing the humor with a truly heartfelt central story. DeHaan does a remarkable job of playing it straight during his genuinely painful romantic conundrum, while Plaza finds new angles to her usual wry comic persona. The two make a powerful connection. The great supporting cast is also used to wonderful effect. It's unlikely that Life After Beth will catch on with a wide audience, but a handful of dedicated cult fans will adore it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Life After Beth's zombie violence. How much does it show and not show? How do these choices affect the tone of the movie? How did it make you feel? How would it have changed with more or less violence?
How does sex affect the story? Is it an extension of how the characters feel about each other, or is it more gratuitous?
What's the appeal of zombie stories? What kinds of things or ideas do they represent in our culture?
- In theaters: August 15, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: October 21, 2014
- Cast: Aubrey Plaza, John C. Reilly, Dane DeHaan
- Director: Jeff Baena
- Studio: A24
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 91 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: pervasive language, some horror violence, sexual content, nudity and brief drug use
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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