While zombie rom-coms aren't original (see Shaun of the Dead or Warm Bodies), this take on the genre has such a deadpan tone that it feels refreshingly unpredictable. While the plot sometimes seems like it's going to spin completely out of control, writer-director Jeff Baena (who wrote I Heart Huckabees) holds it together with clever twists and turns and smart, witty dialogue. And the terrific cast helps balance the humour and horror with a hint of emotional depth.
It opens as soulful teenager Zach (Dane DeHaan) is grieving about his recently deceased girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza), who was killed by a snake bite. As Zach and Beth's parents (John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon) help each other get over the shock, they are startled when she arrives back home as if nothing happened. Utterly unaware that she's undead, Beth can't understand why Zach is looking at her strangely, while her parents become super protective, refusing to let her outside for fear that someone will spot a dead girl walking around. Then Zach begins to notice that Beth isn't the only person in town who has come back to life. And when he runs into old friend Erica (Anna Kendrick), Beth's jealousy seems to trigger a full-on zombie invasion.
By focussing on the warped relationships between the characters, the film keeps the audience both involved and entertained. The humour is a mix of bone-dry dialogue and riotously nutty visual gags that escalate as the story progresses. And there are constant wrinkles in the plot, such as how Beth conveniently can't remember breaking up with Zach before she died. Or how Zach's gung-ho brother (a scene stealing Matthew Gray Gubler) reacts to the growing threat of the walking-dead. And by combining real heart with silly comedy and even some genuine scariness, filmmaker Baena manages to make some sharp observations about both love and grief.
Continue reading: Life After Beth Review