2015/06/19 21:00:21 +00:00 | Sean McClannahan

Joe Dante has always been a filmmaker that I've deeply admired and I feel that a good amount of his work doesn't get discussed nearly enough. I completely get this talented filmmaker's attraction to the EC Comics-style concept in Burying the Ex, but Alan Trezza's script is too lazy and uninspired for this movie to be anywhere close to a comeback for Joe Dante.

Obviously made under time constraints and budget limitations, with the proper nourishment and a proper rewrite from Dante himself, I could easily see Burying the Ex in theory being a project that could compliment Dante's sensibilities. His trademark influences of Mel Blanc-inspired frenetic humor and the dark surrealistic atmosphere absorbed from monster movie matinees would have been the perfect marriage for this movie's living dead love triangle concept. All Joe Dante needed was a solid script, because everybody knows there is only so much a filmmaker can do without a good screenplay.

Anton Yelchin, Ashley Greene and Alexandra Daddario are all in fine form and give their one-note characters a boost of elevation. The first one-third of Burying the Ex's 89-minute runtime is padded with the yin and yang antics of Max (Yelchin) and Evelyn's (Greene) insufferable relationship. Trezza's desperate-to-be-hip script easily paints Evelyn as the easy-to-hate, overbearing, not-too-bright environmentalist who figuratively suffocates the life out of their relationship until Max finally decides he's had enough.

Trezza seems to approach characters with complete self-awareness—Max is a horror movie nerd who dreams of running his own horror-inspired novelty store (not like the one he currently works for), he speaks in soft-spoken pop culture terms like Diablo Cody's Juno character on a bad day. There's, of course, seemingly a motivation to get out of his romantic dilemma in the form of his ideal horror nerd dream girl Olivia (Daddario), whom he awkwardly meets at a horror-themed malt shop. A monkey's paw-type scenario does the dirty work that Max doesn't have the courage to in ending his relationship with Evelyn, but of course you know how these accidental evil curse scenarios end up working themselves out.

When Max's ex returns as a slowly rotting corpse, the story mostly consists of a back-and-forth between Max fighting off Evelyn's unwanted sexual advances and keeping her a secret from Olivia as he pursues his interests in her. Two things keep this stretch of the movie from being a boring disaster: the fine chemistry between Yelchin and Daddario and Dante's burst of whimsical inspiration in providing ghastly physical comedy out of Evelyn and Max's predicament. There are times when I feel if Dante was working with a better budget and a wittier script, Burying the Ex might have soared to hilarious morbid heights like Robert Zemeckis' underrated Death Becomes Her. Gary J. Tunnicliffe also deserves credit for his gory creative effects work. He's come a long way from working on awful Hellraiser sequels to delivering blood in David Fincher's Gone Girl. Joseph LoDuca's zany score also adds atmosphere and personality to Dante's direction.

Aside from the script problems, one of Burying the Ex's biggest flaws is its cheap, made-for-television look. Even with great locations of L.A. like The New Beverly and Hollywood Forever Cemetery as the backdrop, Jonathan Hall's cinematography does no favors. I still highly regard Joe Dante and believe he has plenty more to offer in making movies. I hope next time he's in a better position to make something worthy of his talent.

Movie Score: 2/5