Tuesday, October 27, 2015

#DoubleFeature - Life After Beth/Burying the Ex

One tells the story of an ex-girlfriend who is brought back to life as a zombie and it's all about moving on.

The other is the story of an ex-girlfriend who is brought back to life as a zombie and it's all about moving on.
When there's no more room in HELL, these reviews will walk the BLOG:

Who would have thought we would get two very silly similar movies announced around the same time?

Me. Because we totally get this all the time since the beginning of the cinema to this very day. Whenever someone comes up with a brilliant unique new different idea, you can bet someone else just thought up the same idea. It's that simple.

Anyway, while I was highly awaiting for a new Joe Dante film right after his quirky The Hole back in 2009, I remember when he first announced his next movie would be a parody take on zombie films.

And thus it was announced his next film would be a zombie comedy about a zombie ex-girlfriend coming back to life to haunt the guy that tried to ditch her, annoying him beyond death as he tried to move on with a new girl.

And right when 2014 came up, we got Life After Beth a zombie romantic-comedy film written and directed by Jeff Baena!

And Joe Dante's Burying the Ex only arrived much later by that end of the year.

Who copied who? It's difficult to say. And it's not really important. I'm pretty sure both films came from generally similar ideas but the final product couldn't be any more different.

Movie: Life After Beth 
Directed by Jeff Baena
Release date January 2014 (Sundance)/August 2014
Genre Zom-com/Horror comedy film
Country USA

The first to be released at Sundance in January 2014 was Life After Beth, which we would only get in August before the home release this year.

This one was much more of a "zom-com", a new subgenre of zombie films/and horror comedy films. It was written and directed by Jeff Baena and it has a much simpler "feel good" indie film feel to it.

The film stars the great Aubrey Plaza from Parks & Rec as our titular Beth, the zombie, Chronicle star Dane DeHaan, the hilarious Molly Shannon and the inimitable John C. Reilly, with the lovely Anna Kendrick, Cheryl Hines, Paul Reiser and Matthew Gray Gubler.

Our story takes place just a short time after Zach's girlfriend Beth died. They were having some relationship issues and were just about to split. Zach has a lot of problem moving on, he can't stop thinking about Beth and ignores everything in his life, he still carries her scarf around. He's spending a lot of time with Beth's parents Maury and Geenie (more so than his own family). Zach's mom tries to set him up with this sweet girl named Erica to help him move on.

From one day to another they just stop meeting him. He tries to get inside their home only to be forced to calm down by his own cop brother Kyle. 

Zach catches a glimpse of Beth at their house - is she alive?! He tries to confront them only to find out Beth alive!! Was this all just a prank? He doesn't understand it. How is it possible? And why have they been hiding her?!

But after checking on Beth's grave he finds this huge hole in the ground. Turns out Beth is a zombie now!

Beth gets increasingly more violent while people in town start acting weird. People long thought dead are coming back up.

The only that seems to calm Beth down is smooth jazz. She gets out of control and even eats someone! Dead relatives show up everywhere. We get a whole zombie outbreak on our hands. Beth now a full-fledged zombie eats her dad and bites her mom.

Zach can't still decide to take Beth our, he takes the chance to fulfill one last promise by going hiking in the mountain...

Life After Beth is a really funny zombie film that seems like the perfect mix of romantic comedy, horror comedy and indie film. 

The cast is really, really good. The always hilarious lovely quirky Aubrey Plaza did a great performance as this undead zombie girlfriend that gets increasingly worse through the film. Slowly transforming into an ugly abomination. Both set of parents were great! And DeHaan was pretty good too.

I loved all the little details and attention paid to the story here and there. There's a lot of hints of the incoming zombie invasion in the background through the film, so that didn't come out of nowhere.

All in all, it's a really fun zombie film that breath some fresh new ideas into the genre... well, not counting the similar movie below.

Overall: Life After Beth seemed to come out of nowhere back in 2014. Where I expected a quickly improvised zombie film to cash in on Joe Dante's return, instead I found a smart zombie comedy indie film, well written, well acted and with a lot of (undead) heart.

It's a well directed quirky unconventional romantic comedy. With some great horror comedy that perfectly mix into the story. It plays with the usual tropes of the genre and despite ending the way you would expect it, the story and the characters are simply charming.

Zombies don't change how you are, they just slowly reveale who you truly are.

All in all, it's a smart movie, a lot better than I expected it to be. It's not that far from the staple of the zombie horror comedy genre inaugurated by Shaun of the Dead, it even follows some similar beats to it. It's clever, plays with the zombie genre to offer something different. The finale is kind of an expected surprise, you knew this was coming but it's still fun.

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Necronomicons!

Movie: Burying the Ex
Directed by Joe Dante 
Release date September 2014 (Venice International Film Festival)/June 2015
Genre B-movie/Horror comedy/Zombie film 
Country USA

After returning to the genre with a film aimed at the younger crowd with The Hole, Joe Dante's next film was now targeted at the slightly older teen horror fans.

Burying the Ex is also a horror comedy/zombie film. This one was released at the end of the year in September 2014 at the Venice International Film Festival first before its actual release this June after some delays.

The film was actually based on a 15-minute short film writer Alan Trezza made back in 2008. Back then it featured Danielle Harris, and I personally kinda wish the actual film would still have her. After some good reception Trezza then expanded the script into a possible full-feature where it finally caught the eye of master of horror Joe Dante back in 2014. Funny fact the guy was also named Zak back in the short, but it was finally changed for the film.

This one stars Anton Yelchin, the great crazy Ashley Greene, Alexandra Daddario and Oliver Cooper.  

The story revolves around this guy named Max who is stuck in this dead-end relationship with an over-manipulating girlfriend named Evelyn who keeps changing Max for something he isn't. She hides his horror film posters collection in drawers, she's forcing a vegan lifestyle on him and worse than that she gets crazy whenever she's afraid he might break up with her.

Long story short, Eve is killed in an accident the day Max finally musters the courage to break up with her. 

After Eve's death, as awful as it sounds, Max's life finally gets back on track. He gets really great along this new girl Olivia who he met in an ice cream parlor. 

But Evelyn comes back.. thanks to a weird "Satan Wishing statue" from Max's job at the creepy Horror store, Eve rises from the grave as an undead zombie! And she won't just let Max go. TOGETHER FOREVER!!

This is very much a Joe Dante production. The film oozes a lot of love towards the horror genre and has a ton of nods to it.

Our two female leads are both pretty good, although I wasn't entirely sold on our male lead. Max's "half brother" was great though and he brings much of the needed comedic relief in the film (and gets a very Shaun of the Dead-conclusion to his arc). Ashley Greene was pretty good as this overly possessive zombie ex.

This film has a very EC Comics feel to it. Like most Joe Dante features from Gremlins to The Hole, going through The 'Burbs, etc., it feels like an horror short story from the likes of Tales from the Crypt or Creepshoow. A mini horror feature with Joe Dante's signature style.

The movie revolves around regrets you have in life. And having to move on. 

It's a pretty funny low budget B-movie which some great horror comedy for all. It's a playful zombie comedy with all of Dante's trademark touches. 

The film was made of a pretty modest budget and it only has a few locations (maybe four?).

There's a lot of old horror movie throwbacks from clips prominently shown through the film with cameos from the likes of Christopher Lee to Peter Cushing and George Romero's classics.

Also notable, the film had a pretty good score composed by the Evil Dead composer himself Joseph LoDuca.

Overall: Burying the Ex is a pretty funny horror comedy film.

It's kind of quirky, odd and bizarre. It takes place in LA but mostly revolves around this generation of horror fans, which the movie is aimed at, and not the usual hipster types you see in genre films nowadays. It's a really fun playful zombie film with plenty of charm and a solid ending.

The film has good intentions, a fun spirit and it's entertaining. And a lot better that most of what you get from the oversaturated zombie genre these days.

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Necronomicons!

And that is it for today's DoubleFeature!

Both movies share a very similar premise but they're completely different from one another. They do share a few very similar scenes here and there but otherwise they couldn't be any different.

They're both about letting go and moving on though, which when you think about it really fits the usual zombie tropes.

But Life After Beth is a much more positive indie film about letting the past behind while Burying the Ex is a Joe Dante-style small budget horror comedy about mustering the courage to simply act.

While thematically they work surprisingly well in their release date order, I kind of suggest watching these films the other way around,  with Joe Dante's Burying the Ex first and leaving the feel good tone of Life After Beth for the end.

Watched back to back, they certainly make for a perfect movie night-double feature!

That's all for this time's DoubleFeature!

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