With Anton Yelchin, Ashley Greene, Alexandra Daddario, Oliver Cooper, Dick Miller. Written by Alan Trezza . Directed by Joe Dante. Rated R for sexual content, partial nudity, some horror violence, and language. 89 minutes.
Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, director Joe Dante had a string of major hits like “Gremlins,” and “Innerspace,” but then his star faded and he drifted into television. (Some of his TV work has been quite memorable, such as “The Homecoming” episode of “Masters of Horror.”) His latest film, BURYING THE EX, hearkens back to his very early work (“Piranha,” “The Howling”). This is a cheesy, modestly budgeted horror comedy that should find its niche audience. Anyone looking for a romantic comedy involving zombies should check it out.
Max (Anton Yelchin) is a twenty-something with a knockout girlfriend named Evelyn (Ashley Greene). She’s ready and willing in bed, but she’s also very controlling in other aspects of their lives. She has no respect for his ambitions to open his own horror memorabilia shop and takes down his movie posters to put up bins for recycling. His half-brother Travis (Oliver Cooper) is an annoying and self-indulgent slob whom Evelyn treats with utter contempt.
For twenty minutes or so, you may wonder where all this is going, but then Evelyn dies in a tragic accident just as Max was ready to break it off with her. He subsequently connects with Olivia (Alexandra Daddario) who not only shares his love of all things horror, but operates her own ice cream parlor where all the flavors are monster-inspired. And that’s when Evelyn emerges from the grave, ready to resume her relationship with Max.
It’s a thin premise, but Dante brings in some comic and horrific effects (such as Evelyn vomiting embalming fluid) and scatters a variety of clips and movie references throughout the film. There’s even an appearance by legendary character actor Dick Miller–a regular in Dante’s films and a veteran of their shared background with Roger Corman–still going strong at 86. There’s also a macabre scene where people are watching an outdoor screening of “Night of the Living Dead” at a cemetery, which gets Max and Olivia so turned on they run off to her car.
The young cast is game with Yelchin, best known for playing Chekhov in the “Star Trek” reboots, playing a likable everydude. Greene’s slow transformation into the brain-craving zombie we’ve been expecting is fun, and Daddario is engaging as the woman obviously so right for Max. As for Cooper (“Californication”), it’s a matter of taste, as the aggressively stupid, vulgar, and insensitive character has become a staple of contemporary comedy. It’s become futile to complain about it. Even viewers who find his portrayal annoying (such as this reviewer) are likely to be won over by the end.
“Burying The Ex” is not getting a major theatrical release and will be available to most through iTunes and Video on Demand. Dante’s glory days may be behind him, but those who remember his work fondly will be glad he’s working, and getting the chance to bring his unique blend of comedy and horror together again.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is “Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide.” He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.