Genre: Comedy, Horror
Directed by: Joe Dante
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Ashley Greene, Alexandra Daddario, Oliver Cooper
With its satirical edge and abundance of pop-culture references, renowned director Joe Dante’s Burying the Ex harks back to those deliciously fun horror-comedies of the 80’s. Had it actually been produced thirty-odd years ago it would likely have been a pioneering movie in the subgenre, akin to Dante’s 1984 classic Gremlins. As a modern day zom-com, however, Burying the Ex is about as lifeless as Ashley Greene’s decayed corpse.
The always-watchable Anton Yelchin stars as Max, a twenty-something horror film aficionado who works in a kitsch Halloween shop but dreams of one day owning his own novelty store. Max’s main obstacle in life, other than his lack of tangible funds and his waster of a step-brother, Travis (Oliver Cooper), is his overbearing environmentalist girlfriend, Evelyn (Greene).
When the couple move in together and Evelyn’s crazy is cranked up a notch, Max realises he wants out. His escape is rather neatly dropped into his lap when Evelyn is killed in a freak accident and, though he feels varying degrees of grief and guilt, Max soon strikes up a better matched relationship with the sweet hipster, Olivia (Alexandra Daddario), who shares Max’s encyclopaedic knowledge of classic horror movies.
Max’s happiness is short lived when Evelyn rises from the grave – thanks to a tacky yet magical Satan genie – and turns up at his doorstep more clingy than ever and looking to seal their “always and forever” deal. Whilst trying to shield Olivia from the re-energised, super strong and super horny Evelyn, Max and Travis plot to bury the ex for good. If only it were that easy.
Burying the Ex started life as a 15 minute short in 2008 and it’s obvious that the plot has been stretched horribly thin to fit the 90 minute feature film running time. There’s a sense of playfulness hidden deep, which briefly surfaces for air during one of Travis’ droll one-liners or Max’s references to horror movies, but these moments are few and far between, overshadowed by the generally bland script and one-dimensional characters.
Comparisons to last year’s Life After Beth, which starred Dane Dehaan and Aubrey Plaza as his resurrected girlfriend, are inevitable. Both movies have essentially the same basic story wrapped up in different paper; they’re quirky and offbeat but severely lacking in charm. The only thing that worked in Life After Beth’s favour was a bigger marketing campaign and perhaps a higher profile cast, whilst Burying the Ex has flown largely under the radar until now.
Yelchin’s performance as mild mannered Max keeps the film grounded, while Alexandra Daddario shows a surprising level of warmth and charisma that didn’t come across in her Percy Jackson big-screen breakthrough. There’s a simmering chemistry between the duo but it’s never given enough time to develop into something we should really care about. Then there’s Ashley Greene who plays Evelyn with a heavy dose of fun, clearly unafraid of looking disgusting as her rotting skin peels off and she vomits embalming fluid all over Max.
Burying the Ex was filmed in 20 days on a low budget and in that respect the end result is quite an accomplishment. Unfortunately there’s still no escaping the fact that this is a film that belongs in the 80’s, and not in a retro cool, nostalgic way. Give me Gremlins any day.