BURYING THE EX
Burying the Ex is Joe Dante back in his element. All the regular elements are there his touchstone Dick Miller is back playing a cop and looking reallly long in the tooth. The central character arc that runs through the film is essential Dante Anton Yelchin is a fan nerd who loves nothing more than 1950s science-fiction and horror (oddly enough, the very same films that Dante is constantly returning to in his films) and loves his girlfriend Ashley Greene but is frustrated by the fact she is a fanatical greenie. All of the films major plot points are demonstrated in term of references and homages to other films scenes from The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973) serve as backdrop to love scenes; Anton Yelchin lives in an apartment where every surface including the refrigerator is covered in classic movie posters; the point where he decides that his relationship is not working is when he finds Ashley Greene has taken down and folded his pristine condition classic movie posters. There are excited discussions about the discovery of YouTube clips of Bela Lugosi leaving drug rehab, while the scene from Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) with Lugosi mourning his wife serves as backdrop to punctuate Yelchins depression following Ashley Greenes death. His attraction to Alexandra Daddario comes after meeting her at a Val Lewton double-bill and their mutual recognition of Lewtons genius, while their first night together is spent at a screening of Night of the Living Dead (1968) in a cemetery. Yelchins best friend Oliver Cooper even uses Herschell Gordon Lewiss The Gore Gore Girls (1972) as whack-off material.
For all that Joe Dante is clearly in his element, Burying the Ex rarely works. Anton Yelchin is a likeable performer but Alexandra Daddario seems out of her depth. I can buy her playing a regular girl next door but she just seems too average for the Goth chick that the film has written her as mind you, this is a film so desperately traditional that it ends with Anton Yelchin proposing to Daddarios supposedly edgy Goth chick. At heart, Burying the Ex feels like a Tim Burton film indeed, the guy and undead girlfriend reminds of the same plot arc of Corpse Bride (2005) and what you feel it needed was less of Dantes endless fannish enthusiasm and more of Burtons kooky eccentricity when it came to the romance.
The situation and humour feels forced this is a film that seems to think Anton Yelchin using Youre dead to me as a break-up line is hilarious. There have been a number of other zombie relationship dramas in recent years see the comedies A Little Bit Zombie (2012) and Life After Beth (2014) and the more serious likes of Zombie Honeymoon (2004) and Make-Out With Violence (2008) but it feels like Joe Dante is making a zombie film circa 1993 not the smart and sarcastic beast it has become post-2007. Dante seems to even lack a sense of the dark humour at play and the comedy seems only one step above a flop like My Boyfriends Back (1993). Even as a zombie film, all we get is some very minor splatter and a single brain eating. Not long after this, the British film Nina Forever (2015) took the same essential plot we have and pushed the material into some truly extraordinary places.
Joe Dantes other films are: the original Piranha (1978); the werewolf spoof The Howling (1980); the third episode of the anthology Twilight Zone The Movie (1983); Gremlins (1984); Explorers (1985), probably his best film, about backyard teen inventors; Innerspace (1987), a parody of Fantastic Voyage (1966); episodes of the comedy skit anthology Amazon Women on the Moon (1987); the urban paranoia black comedy The Burbs (1989); Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990); Matinee (1993), a homage to filmmaker William Castle; The Second Civil War (1997); Small Soldiers (1998), a film about warring toy soldiers that disappointingly imitated Gremlins; the toon film Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003); and The Hole (2009). Dante also created the delightful smalltown paranoia tv series Eerie Indiana (1991-2), and produced the genre series The Osiris Chronicles (1998) and Jeremiah (2002-4), as well as the film adaptation of the comic-book The Phantom (1996).