Throughout his career the mighty Joe Dante has always had a knack for successfully infusing horror with other genres. Gremlins saw him reach the darker side of a Spielbergian/Capraesque family drama and The ‘Burbs put a horror spin on a Hitchcockian thriller. Dante is at it again with 2014’s Burying The Ex, a romantic comedy injected with a lethal shot of zombie. It’s not Dante’s best work but it’s a charming little movie that’s an affectionate love letter to a bygone era of horror.
Anton Yelchin is Max, a young horror fan in a relationship with environmental blogger, Evelyn (Ashley Greene). Her overbearing persona becomes too much for Max and he decides to end things following advice from his schlubby brother Travis (Oliver Cooper). However, before Max can break-up with her, Evelyn is hit by a bus and killed. A depressed Max moves on with his life but things look-up when he meets Olivia (Alexandra Daddario), the owner of a horror themed ice cream parlour called…I Scream. Just when it looks like things are going well for Max there’s a major relationship road bump – Evelyn returns from the dead, eager to rekindle her relationship with Max. It’s obvious the chick didn’t understand the concept of ‘till death us do part’.
Charming without ever feeling crucial, Burying The Ex has enough fun moments to make it worth the 90 minute running time for fans of Dante and horror. It feels like a feature length episode addition of Tales From The Crypt rather than a fully realised movie. Maybe that’s because John Trezza’s script was based on his own short film. There’s a decent concept driving the story, but it doesn’t have enough energy to propel to feature length – the script needed to delve into darker territory, instead of being too superficial. It dances around concepts like body snatching and necrophilia and while Trezza never needs to go there, he could at least make the film’s horror elements a little more horrific.
Yelchin and Greene are solid enough in the leads (Greene verges on shrill), but it’s Oliver Cooper and Alexandra Daddario who make the biggest impact in the acting stakes. They inject the film with much needed energy and it’s a shame that they don’t have more screen time. Joe Dante fans will also be happy to know that longtime stalwart Dick Miller has a cameo appearance.
Dante’s film features a lot of horror references, with classic posters adorning walls and TV screens featuring the likes of Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Vincent Price. It’s a nice touch but it seems like a parallel world in which 20-somethings would like classic black and white horror movies and go to midnight grave yard screenings of Night of the Living Dead. It’s as if Dante is giving modern culture a dash of his own EC Comics filled youth.
Burying The Ex’s biggest letdown is the flat visuals. It looks like it was made on a very limited budget (it was) and there’s a bright plastic sheen that makes it look more like the work of a student filmmaker than that of man who directed some of the greatest movies of the 1980s. It’s not Dante’s fault that he had limited resources but cinematographer Jonathan Hall could have added some rich textures to the visuals to make them deeper.
A fun movie that’s much more light weight than many of Joe Dante’s other efforts, Burying The Ex is perfect fodder for horror fans of a certain disposition. It’s far from a classic but there’s enough decent in-jokes and quirky humour to make it worthwhile.