“A serviceable romantic zom-com.”
While other directors in his league have long gone retired or switched to other genre, Joe Dante continues to create suspense and horror flicks. His repertoire includes Piranha (1978), The Howling (1981), Gremlins (1984) and its sequel (1990), and more recently, The Hole (2009). His newest horror movie, Burying the Ex, is screened out of competition at the 71st Venice International Film Festival. Is this flick a great addition to his resume? Or is it just another forgettable film?
The film is about Max (Anton Yelchin) and he being torn between two beautiful women – one is presently alive, the other have just risen from the grave. Max’s life is quite simple. He is a salesman in a horror novelty store called Bloody Mary’s. Some complications happen when her girlfriend Evelyn (Ashley Greene) moves into his apartment. Micromanaging, needy and almost vegan, Evelyn is a lot to handle and Max finds himself unable to connect with her. Unknowingly, the couple promise an undying love in front of a wish-granting devil idol which Max receives mysteriously.
Having enough of her, Max is about to break up with Evelyn when she is hit by a bus and instantly dies. Soon after the funeral, Max finds a new love in Olivia (Alexandra Daddario) who runs an Ice Cream Store called I Scream with some creepy-named homemade flavors. They share many common interests, particularly in the horror department.
But nah, first love never dies and fresh from the grave, Evelyn rises and returns to Max. With her decaying body, Evelyn, or Zevelyn as Max’s half-brother Travis (Oliver Cooper) fondly calls her, wants Max to become a zombie as well so they can spend the eternity forever. She still does not know that Max initially wishes to dump her. With each passing day, Zevelyn’s zombie needs awaken while Max falls deeper with Olivia. And when all truths come out, the trio plus Travis will be up to an ultimate battle for survival.
Burying the Ex is not deep but it is certainly a fun movie. Dante knows how to bring fun in a natural way. The dialogues are witty and actions are reminiscent of old school comedy such as the Zevelyn’s spew of embalming solution and awkward broken neck. Dante also expertly provides a fluid transition of emotional rooting to the characters as we feel some kind of tingling to the adorable Max-Evelyn, and then to sympathy for Max alone as Evelyn goes over-the-top, and finally to the much sweeter Max-Olivia tandem. Even Zevelyn has some warmth, despite her rotting body.
Unlike similar films, Burying the Ex has an overlit and sunny appearance. It does not look drab and depressing. Set in Los Angeles, it uses real landmarks and places which bring realism to the film.
The casts are also well put together. Yelchin serves Max right as the average-looking geeky and boyish type which easily lures the hot chicks. Greene is having fun as both the bad girlfriend and the bad zombie ex. She is undeniably beautiful even with her decomposed looks. Daddario also has a kind and pretty face. She has that mysterious aura which make you want to get to know her more. She strikes much better chemistry with Yelchin than Greene which the movie is ought to.
On the other hand, the film employs worn-out horror clichés like the devil icon and weird DIY book on how to kill zombie. Yet, it is not really clear why Zevelyn is killed. We know how – zombie Travis pierced him in the head, though Max and Olivia had performed the same earlier. What has been really done to break the devil’s spell?
Other than that, the film is quite more verbose than it should have been. Yes, the dialogues are well-written but the movie feels bloated with talks. Travis is noisy with his sex talks while Max keeps whining about his ex. The movie also has several awkward pauses and breaks, and combined with its inexpensive-looking set, it feels like more a TV episode than a whole film.
Burying the Ex is not exactly a horrifying movie, maybe except with that one good kill – Travis’ death. It leans towards being a romantic comedy with horror subplot and not the other way around. However, the film is undoubtedly fun. So if you are up for a chill with slight gore, then pick up some popcorn and watch this film.