I’m a Joe Dante fan. That is something I cannot hide. His early work made him a horror icon, and Gremlins stands as one of my favorite movies of all time. These are facts, and if I ever get to meet Joe Dante, I’d like nothing more than to buy him a drink and hear him reminisce about the good old days. You know, the exciting, creative times that yielded scene after scene of infectious horror fun.
Basically, any time before Burying The Ex happened.
It’s not that Dante created a soulless romcom disguised as a cheeky horror comedy. It’s more that any voiceless filmmaker could have made Burying The Ex. No scene glistens with Dante’s typically demented polish, and everyone involved seems to be phoning it in. There’s not a single genuine moment of chemistry to be found between the three members of this undead love triangle, as each scene only feels more staged than the last.
I wasn’t a huge fan of Dante’s previous effort, The Hole, but at least there were glimmers of wild, unbridled ambition in the form of evil living toys and a dark alternate dimension. Maybe this is all just a sick marketing ploy to bring in viewers by using Dante’s name? Please, let it be so.
Anton Yelchin stars as Max, a starry-eyed boyfriend who moves in with his controlling girlfriend, Evelyn (Ashley Greene). Expecting nothing but bliss, Max begins to see a side of Evelyn that starts to consume his freedom, and questions about his relationship status begin to swirl. After a bit of debate with his half-brother Travis (Oliver Cooper), Max decides to break things off cleanly, but fate has other plans when Evelyn is hit by a bus before the deed can be done. Max spirals into a guilt-ridden depression, but is brought back to life by a sweet ice cream shop owner named Olivia (Alexandra Daddario). Ready to move on from his past relationship, only one thing stands in the way of his new life with Olivia – the reanimated corpse of his ex-girlfriend.
It might sound like a dark, romantic romp loaded with zombie clichés, but the horror elements of Alan Trezza’s script are glossed over and only slightly touched upon besides obvious nostalgia callouts. George A. Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead can be seen playing during certain scenes, Max references movies like 28 Days Later, and Olivia teases her counterpart by dropping old-school genre lines, but it’s all surface value recognition. Like there’s a forced nature to service zombie genre fans on a baseless level. Evelyn doesn’t really turn into a fully rotted zombie, because she rises from the grave shortly after dying, so her skin still glistens like a naturally-blessed Goth girl. She’s far too pretty to be a zombie and Dante refrains from turning her into a grotesque mess of decaying parts besides a few scenes where Evelyn snaps her bones back into place like a gymnast made of rubber bands.
So, if horror fans are only being serviced in passing, one would assume a magnifying glass would be put on more romantic elements, right? Wrong. Max and Evelyn’s relationship can best be summed up by their dialled-in sex scenes. You know, where two actors emerge from under a blanket together and make comments about how much dirty fun they just had! The bond between Evelyn and Max is continually watered-down, and Greene’s performance as a pushy, overly-bubbly tree-hugger comes across as something better suited for an ABC Family Primetime Special. Yelchin, on the other hand, seems like he’s barely present, even though the beautiful Ashley Greene is standing right in front of him. And the award for most boring cinematic relationship built on sex goes to…
Alexandra Daddario, on the other hand, plays a timid, awkward horror nerd who continually talks about an ex-boyfriend who chose a life of Christian rock over having sex with one of today’s hottest female actresses. Sorry, but I don’t buy any man in America declining such an offer from Daddario, so immediately her character becomes the most unbelievable on screen persona of 2015. But even she struggles to find any defining characteristics besides some purple highlights in her hair, and Olivia is reduced to being an anxious malted milkshake purveyor who spends most of her time twirling locks of hair or running back on her words.
Also, she wins the award for most oblivious airhead ever, after continually falling for Max’s Looney Tunes-esque cover ups whenever she walks in on Evelyn’s presence. Max’s shower is running, Eveyln yells out for some shampoo, and all Olivia has to hear about are thin walls to completely write the scenario off. Oh boy.
If crazy dating scenarios involving your presumed-to-be-dead ex-lover are your thing, wait for the release of Nina Forever to get your fix. Burying The Ex is an empty, hollow, lifeless corpse of a film that squanders an otherwise intriguing concept around almost every wacky turn, despite having Joe Dante at the helm. It’s the kind of movie that names an ice cream shop “Ice Scream” (or something along those lines, we never see the spelling) and gets super excited about it. While cute in small doses, that little showing of charm translates into utter boredom when spanning the film’s yawn-instigating entirety. Imagine vanilla ice cream without the vanilla flavoring – that’s Burying The Ex.
I refuse to believe Burying The Ex is a Joe Dante production, as it's far too lifeless and drab. Sorry. I just don't buy it.