A new film by Joe Dante, the director of such cult movies as Piranha, Gremlins, The Howling and The ‘Burbs, should always be cause for celebration, especially as his recent credits – with the notable exception of the superb The Hole – have been forgettable TV like CSI: NY and Hawaii Five-0. A return to the horror genre is particularly welcome – on paper, at least. But rather than re-animating the career of the once-great director, Burying the Ex hammers another nail in its coffin.
Anton Yelchin (Chekov in the new Star Trek films) is the supposedly lovable nerd Max, who scooters to his job at a year-round Halloween store –an apparently dream job for a devoted horror buff, yet one for which Max seemingly has nothing but disdain. Max is similarly unenamoured with his girlfriend, Evelyn (The Twilight Saga’s Ashley Greene), an environmentally-obsessed vegan eco-blogger who adds to these apparently egregious life choices by redecorating their apartment with hypoallergenic rugs, consigning Max’s beloved giallo posters to a drawer, after – gulp – folding them. When Evelyn throws a major Jell-O wobbly at Max’s apparent flirtation with artisanal ice cream seller Olivia (Texas Chainsaw’s Alexandra Daddario), Max is struck by the realisation that he wants to end the relationship – just as Evelyn is struck by a bus. The inconvenient timing of this is aggravated by the presence of a convenient Satanic genie icon, which fiendishly interprets Evelyn’s wish for she and Max to be “together forever” as an excuse to bring the ex back from the dead, just as Max is beginning a tentative relationship with Olivia. Oh, the humanity!
Alright, I’ll admit it: even on paper, it’s a pretty risible plot outline, even if you could forgive the wince-inducing depiction of the film’s only female characters (both gamely played) as Sex-Mad Bitch and Sex-Mad Kook, each of whom inexplicably has the hots for the charisma-challenged Max. Alan Trezza writes women as though he has only heard of them, but never actually met one, and it’s dispiriting that he can’t muster much warmth in the living characters, let alone the dead one. Outmoded sexism, lazy plot devices, a tin ear for dialogue, and an inability to muster much in the way of laughs from what is supposed to be a comedy, are just some of the script’s shortcomings. “You broke my heart,” Evelyn tells Max. “I know, but it’s not beating any more,” comes the rejoinder. Oh, my sides!
Not all of Burying the Ex’s problems can be blamed on its makers. Back in 2008, when Alan Trezza wrote and directed the identically-titled 15-minute short from which Dante’s film is derived, “my zombie ex-girlfriend” was a relatively fresh idea; since then, of course, we’ve had the pleasure of Life After Beth, a zom-com superior to Dante’s in every respect. My advice would be to rent that instead, and leave Burying the Ex to die a quiet death, unmourned by any but the most ardent Dante fan.
David Hughes (@DavidHughesTwit)