Max is a nice guy, but his over-bearing girlfriend is starting to get in the way of things. He knows it’s time to call it quits, but breaking up is going to be harder than expected.
Of Awkward Break Ups
Joe Dante is a solid filmmaker, but his work very rarely sees the light of day anymore. The last film he did was the long shelved THE HOLE, a PG13 kids horror about a new family in an old house that hides secrets better left untold. A retread idea that somehow in his expert hands turns out to be one of the better young tween screamers in a while. Burying the Ex is another film in that vein of seemingly already done ideas, but that Dante manages to find new life to breath into the subject.
Ever dated a person who was great when you first met, but then this other side of them comes out. The crazy, nut balls side of them that you had no clue was hidden away. Max (Anton Yelchin) is at that stage in his relationship with Evelyn (Ashley Greene). She’s had tragedy strike in her life and the result is she’s deathly afraid of losing Max, as well. This manifests in her inability to share him with anyone else. She doesn’t like his friends and has outbursts if another women so much as brushes coats with him. Max cares about her a great deal, but things are getting out of hand. He knows why she’s the way she is, but he can’t seem to calm her down from her self-emposed cliff. His brother (half-brother) Travis convinces him to dump her, but on the day when Max plans to do it, Evelyn dies in a freak accident. That’s the first 15 minutes. The rest is the beginning of Maxes nightmare. An almost Ex girlfriend who just refuses to die.
Dante has taken the worst aspects of relationships, dipped them in a mystical sauce then served them with bitter, bitter nightmare stew. Oh and you’ll laugh. Evelyn is every bit as overbearing as she was in life, but now with added stinky, rotten, undeadness to boot. All of this and she’s not going back to her grave without a fight. Did I mention this will make you laugh…
It’s a fun ride as zombie rom-coms go, but the filmmakers still managed to throw in some poignant commentary on the modern relationship in there. It harkens back to Dante’s own Gremlins which tackled the idea of kids and their pets. It’s a great mix of fun, scares, and sometimes creepy humor that comes together to make a film where things shouldn’t, but do matter. It’s more than you’d expect from a film of this sort. This isn’t to say there aren’t some pitfalls in the script, however, but things are better.
While there is thoughtful commentary laced in there, I would be remiss if I didn’t prepare you for the decidedly (and heavy handed at times) guy-minded scenarios that pock the film throughout. I’m unfamiliar with Alan Trezza, the screenwriter of this film, but I imagine him to be not too far from the personality of Travis, one of his characters. The story is told in a heightened way, as if it were being retold through the recollections of the horn-dog brother (half-brother) Travis. It works in the context of the film, but be prepared for fantasy in the characterizations; not just the makeup. An example of this is in the way the women are portrayed. The film reverses typical guy/girl roles by depicting the women as the ones with whom sex seems always on the mind. Not that the guys don’t think that way too, but the girls have them beat by a yard. The women are also far less discerning about their partners. Max’s new crush plays her character very awkward and unsure of herself. A role that usually goes to the guy in a romance film and it’s refreshing to see, but still not close to being normative. This is more of what guys wish girls were like in practice than how they are in reality.
Actor performances are serviceable. Nothing we haven’t seen from each of them in past work. This is a horror comedy and they all hit their marks, but you won’t be gestating over their dramaturgy after the film. Ashley Green (Evelyn) has the most to work with and the result is a standout performance. She plays the extra-needy girlfriend in life and the equally demanding girlfriend who’s also really dangerous in unlife. She’s convincingly repulsing. Anton Yelchin (Max) is the tortured yet hopelessly devoted boyfriend; the nice guy who just wants everyone to get along. Alexandra Daddario with her piercing eyes…sorry, I forgot what I was going to write.
Zombie infestation Lite
Although this is a zombie film, I appreciate that the zombie aspect doesn’t overtake the story. The film just happens to have zombies in it instead of the other way around. The emphasis is on the character stories and how they’re changed by the situation. It also keeps the cost of production down, but you get the sense that they wouldn’t have necessarily done too much more if they had the extra money in the first place.
Zombie makeup is unremarkable, but solid. Evelyn’s zombie changes over time, looking more and more undead as the runtime ticks on. There are some occasional CG enhancements that aren’t convincing, but because of their purpose it actually works quite well for the scenes. You’ve probably seen better zombies on The Walking Dead, but that’s not really the point here; as I mentioned, it’s merely a plot device. Also these aren’t totally traditional zombies in the Romero kind of way. One major difference is the undead in this film have far superior mastery of their faculties. Eating of brains is something they do out of like rather than as a craving, it seems. They’re intelligence is also unaffected by their rotting nature. Evelyn is crazy, but it’s not because she’s dead. She is also very self-aware; she knows she’s dead, but that won’t stop her from living her life as if nothing ever happened.
Dante and Back again
With The Howling, Gremlins, The Burbs, Innerspace, Matinee, and so many other solid genre works, Joe Dante has been responsible for much of the joy I get from going to the movies. It’s a real shame that we don’t see a tentpole a year from him and many other great creatives of his generation. It necessarily pales in ambition to his 80s work, but it’s still unmistakable Dante.
Burying The Ex is an understated, but worthwhile endeavor to watch. It’s probably not going to win viewership beyond the home video crowd, but as straight-to-video goes this is a good one. Seek it out.