Aubrey Plaza’s deadpan, off-kilter, unpredictable manic energy seems perfectly suited for horror in general and the Zombie World in particular. And though Life After Beth had a whole bunch’a problems, Plaza – as usual – never fail to impress.
As one critic put it, “It's an age-old story. Boy loses girl. Boy finds girl. Boy realizes girl is undead.” And that basically sums up the premise. Conceived by writer/director Jeff Baena (Horse Girl,I Heart Huckabees), who also by pure coincidence happens to be married to Aubrey Plaza, the story doesn’t follow any classic zombie rules. Beth herself – killed by a snake bite – remains coherent for a long time, though increasingly hot-tempered and violent, until things get truly out of control in the third act.
Not a big hit, not terribly well-received, it seems to have more in common with “bedroom community” zomromcoms like Fidoor Warm Bodies than it does with Night of the Living Dead. But Plaza carries it well and – for the most part – makes it work. She’s also aided and abetted by an astonishingly strong supporting cast, from Dane DeHaan to John C. Reilliy to Molly Shannon and Cheryl Hines and Paul Reiser and Matthew Gray Gubler and Anna Kendrick – Anna Kendrick! -- as the ‘final girl,’ of a sort.
Some good laughs, some memorable moments (love that refrigerator!) and a ‘must-have’ for the Aubrey Plaza completist, this one’s worth a few drinks and a lounge on some quiet Saturday night.
Native Americans vs. Zombies in a Grim, Effective Film
Movie / Post-Apocalypse / Underrated
With so many low-budget zombie movies sneaking in through streaming services or film festivals, it’s easy to miss unexpected quality and creativity when it appears. Here’s an example.
Blood Quantum (sorry, kind of an awful and pretty much inexplicable name) has your standard virus-based flesh-eaters, and the opening scenes that establish it are deceptively familiar. But the truly intriguing part comes after a timeshift, as we focus on the stories that rotate around the effect of the zombie apocalypse on the First Nations and an already devastated Mi’kmaq reservation – a reservation that survives because Native Americans seem to be immune to the zombie virus, maybe because of their connection to the Earth itself.
Virtually all the principle players here are Native Americans, and many of them came from and went on to fascinating careers. Elle-Maija Tailfeathersis a multi-award-winning actor, writer, producer and director; her co-star Michael Greyeyes paid his zombie-dues in multiple episodes of Fear the Walking Dead,showed up after Blood Quantum, in the not-wonderful V Wars, and was excellent in the underrated mystery series Home Before Dark. He also has the dubious distinction of playing Rainbird in the otherwise awful remake if Firestarterin 2022. No George C. Scott, maybe, but at least the part was played, more than passably well, by an actual member of the First Nations as Stephen King meant it to be. The writer and director, Jeff Barnaby, is a member of the Mi’kmaq himself, and continues his work on projects based on the realities and fantasies of native Americans, past present and future.
It’s a bleak and brutal plot and worldview, but not without good reason, and probably one of the best – and most overlooked – ‘serious’ zombie movies of the decade.
28 Weeks Later: A Good But Not Great Sequel To The Classic
Sequels are an iffy business. For every Alienor Evil Dead 2 there are half a dozen lame, tired, and uninteresting sequels to pretty great movies, even in the world of the undead. By our estimation, 28 WeeksLater falls somewhere in the middle… but then it’s got a lot to live up to when it comes to its ground-breaking predecessor.
Of course, we all want to know what happened with Rage and all of the UK after the initial outbreak. The solution to move a few months downstream seemed promising; the main plot of trying to establish a “safe zone” in the middle of deserted, infected London seemed less so. And the fact that Danny Boyle, who remained as executive producer, stepped away to direct the hugely underrated Sunshinedidn’t help.
The action is great, the jump scares are well-earned. And like the first film, it’s got a great cast, including Robert Carlyle, Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner (hey, remember him?) and some guy named “Idris Elba“ (Look him up. He has promise.). The notion of following two impulsive and dumb-ass kids was a fairly unpopular decision, and the lack of shock and detail of the first film made most zomfans go, “Yeah, it was okay, BUT…”
Still: You could do way worse when it comes to a sequel, and there are plenty of packages where you can buy both movies together. The makings of a great movie night!A