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Senior Correspondent

‘Life After Beth’: Zombie Letdown

‘Life After Beth’: Zombie Letdown

Dane DeHaan and Aubrey Plaza in “Life After Beth”

How about a moratorium on zombie movies? At least until someone comes up with a truly novel way of approaching what is quickly becoming a very worn-out genre?

In “Life After Beth,” small-town doofus Zach (Dane DeHaan) is mourning the death of his girlfriend Beth, who went out for hike one morning and was bitten by a poisonous snake. As Jeff Baena’s film begins, Zach is dealing with her funeral.

Consumed by heartbreak, our hero starts hanging with Beth’s parents (John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon), sharing memories and bonding through mutual loss. His own family — Mom  (Cheryl Hines), Dad (Paul Reiser) and a trigger-happy security guard sibling (Matthew Gray Gubler) — would just as soon not have  his whiny self around.

One day Beth’s parents start acting strangely. They won’t come to the door. They close the shades.

A bit of sleuthing brings a shocking revelation. Beth (indie “it” girl Aubrey Plaza) has come back. She seems normal…albeit a bit distracted and flaky. But then she always was. How did this resurrection come to be?

Yup. Zombies.

“Life After Beth” tries to milk laughs out of Zach’s growing conviction that Beth isn’t quite right. Indeed, she becomes increasingly irrational and angry, her lah-di-dah attitude giving way to outbursts. Her skin turns sallow and begins to rot. Little by little she begins developing a taste for human flesh. And she’s not at all happy when Zach gets reacquainted with an old classmate (Anna Kendrick).

Before long there’s a full-blown zombie apocalypse underway, with dead folks clawing their ways out of the graveyard to frequent their old haunts. (In one of the comic gimmicks that actually works, Zach’s parents must contend with the long-dead former owners of their home, who show up expecting to move back in.)

For most of its running time, “Life After Beth” treads water, comedically and dramatically. Only near the end does it really find an appropriately demented voice when Beth, who has been strapped to a kitchen range, yanks the huge appliance from its moorings and begins marching around, sporting the stove like a massive backpack.

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