We can thank – or blame, depending on your perspective – George A. Romero for single-handedly creating (or co-creating) the zombie sub-genre. Zombies existed before Romero came along almost fifty years ago with Night of the Living Dead, of course, but pre-Romero zombies weren’t the ravenous, cannibalistic hordes he created. They were still slow, shuffling, and (more or less) brainless automatons, tied, however, to Western conceptions of voodoo culture. Romero stripped zombies of their supernatural, non- Western elements, making them the product of a plague (radiation in the first film, a virus-like contagion in subsequent films). Since then, the zombie sub-genre has gone into death-like hibernation from time to time, but never truly disappearing. New angles or takes, however, have been hard to come by, with only the occasional twist or genre mash-up like Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, or Fido to break up the not infrequent monotony.
Writer-director Jeff Baena’s (I Heart Huckabees) feature-length debut, Life After Beth, falls into the horror-comedy mash-up mold, though it leans more toward black comedy than the broader, more moviegoer-friendly comedy of Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead. Like Wright’s film, however, Life After Beth combines the horror and romantic comedy genres, but again for different purposes and effects. (more…)