What if your monstrous ex girlfriend really was a monster? That’s the basic premise behind Burying the Ex, the latest horror comedy from genre master Joe Dante (Gremlins). But while the film has flickers of the director’s charm and flair, Alan Trezza’s intriguing concept lacks the imagination and the execution to really raise the dead.
The characters are painted in the broadest of strokes. Anton Yelchin’s Max is an earnest horror geek who lacks the guts to break-up with his rather improbable girlfriend Evelyn (Twilight’s Ashley Greene), an overbearing eco-warrior who has little patience for Max’s enthusiasms or his stoner horn-dog of a half-brother, Travis (Oliver Cooper).
To the relief of everyone (judging by the tragically poor turnout at her funeral), Evelyn is swiftly killed off in a sudden street accident, leaving Max free to fall in love with Alexandra Daddario’s Olivia, the horror-loving owner of an ice cream shop who seems like a perfect fit for Max. That is, until Evelyn rises from the grave – thanks, apparently, to a curse placed on her by a random talisman at Max’s junk shop – and becomes determined to revive her relationship with her unwilling ex.
Daddario is the standout performer here as the cute and quirky love interest who only exists in the movies, exhibiting a sparky chemistry with Yelchin’s Max when afforded the opportunity. Unfortunately, this enjoyable duo are kept apart for most of the story as Dante shunts focus onto Greene’s undead ex, a character so wildly erratic in personality – she’s apparently obsessed with saving the environment, but is also more than happy to bunk off work for a mid-afternoon bunk up – that it’s impossible to buy into her as a real person. And that’s before she gets hit by a bus and returns with a fresh craving for human flesh.
Of course, you don’t go to a horror comedy expecting fully rounded characters. The far bigger issue here is the sheer lack of invention in the storytelling. The movie started out as a 15-minute short based on Trezza’s unique premise (well, until Life After Beth came along), and it shows. While the twisted love triangle idea feels rife with potential for a schlock-tastic riff on the Bunny Boiler concept, Trezza simply doesn’t know how to expand the story.
Instead, we get a watered down product that seems caught between being a romcom or a referential horror movie. This is especially apparent in Trezza’s bland interpretation of zombiedom. Undead Evelyn returns with all her mental faculties fully intact and is surprisingly horny for someone who’s just spent a couple of months rotting in a box. She’s then left to slowly decay in Max’s apartment while our supposed hero takes his time figuring out just how to get rid of her on a more permanent basis.
In the face of such static storytelling, you find yourself echoing Travis question when he learns of Max’s failed attempt to lob-off Evelyn’s head: “Where’s the blood? Where’s the gore? Where’s the viscera?”
When Dante does finally show a little verve in the final act, intercutting between a new-love scene and a human-versus-zombie throwdown as Evelyn discovers a taste for human brains, it’s over in a flash. This brief glimpse of what the movie could have been only serves to heighten our disappointment with the final product.
That Burying the Ex was filmed during a hectic 20-day shoot is obvious. The story feels rushed and is as tonally inconsistent as its characters’ personalities, proving to be a waste of a clever premise and a capable cast. This is one zombie film that is better off staying dead and buried.
Runtime: 89mins; Genre: Horror/Comedy; Released: September 4th 2014
Director: Joe Dante; Writer: Alan Trezza
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Alexandra Daddario, Ashley Greene, Oliver Cooper
Click here to watch a trailer for Burying the Ex