Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Burying the Ex

Joe Dante has been a favorite director of mine for some time now.  I don’t think he’s been given as much credit as he’s deserved, but I’m here to tell you and remind you of a few classics he’s made.  In short—and in my opinion—he’d bursted onto the scene with the great werewolf film, The Howling, which was memorable for the amazing werewolf transformations seen throughout the film, nearly on par with An American Werewolf in London.  Other notable films from Dante include Piranha (the 1978 version), a segment from Twilight Zone: The Movie, Gremlins and its sequel, The ‘Burbs (a guilty pleasure of mine), Small Soldiers, a couple of episodes of the cable television series, “Masters of Horror,” The Hole, and the film I’m going to discuss today, Burying the Ex.

As a measure of Joe Dante’s vast motion picture knowledge, I would appeal to your own film interest and listen to his insights on the website, Trailers From Hell, where he—as well as countless other directors and producers—narrate their opinions over trailers of older films as well as some new ones.  I’ve especially enjoyed Dante’s expositions over the trailers from sci-fi films of the 1950s, as he usually had firsthand experience with them, being able to explain that he’d actually seen some of these films when they were released  in theaters.

Unlike Joe Dante, a lot of directors who had made a name for themselves back in the day sometimes lose that appeal over the years.  I can easily say that John Carpenter is my favorite director of all time, directing so many memorable movies in the 1980s, yet it appears he has kind of lost his touch over the years.  It could be that these directors just can’t cut it anymore or it’s just that movie studios forget about them and won’t give them the money for anything they believe in.  But Joe Dante seems to remain in the positive column, never looking as if he’s losing his movie-making steam.

Speaking of the Trailers From Hell website, that was the first time I’d heard about the film, Burying the Ex.  Its trailer was actually featured on the website and Dante himself was the narrator of the video, breaking it down and presenting it in a marketing point-of-view.  I’d liked the plot description and knew that Dante excelled in the comedy-horror fusion of films, so I knew I had to see it. 

You know the drill…here’s the synopsis…

Max (Anton Yelchin) has regrets over moving in with his girlfriend, Evelyn (Ashley Greene), but those feelings are compounded when she dies.  After her death, Max meets and falls for a local ice cream shop employee, Olivia (Alexandra Daddario), and begins to have a relationship with her.  Evelyn ends up coming back from the dead as a zombie, but one that is intelligent and wants to continue with Max as if nothing has happened.  He then has to juggle his relationship with Olivia while hiding the fact that Evelyn is back from the dead and wants to continue her life with Max.

Obviously, after reading that synopsis, you can tell that this movie has a comic tone to it and I’d stress there’s definitely more comedy in  Burying the Ex than there is horror.  The only reason that horror would be in the mix is the inclusion of someone coming back from the dead in the story as well as the quandaries that said someone gets themselves into throughout the film.  We all know that zombies are typically mindless creatures that simply try to eat people with no speech or comprehension, but Dante changes the rules here and I like where he went with it.  Much like the zombies from The Return of the Living Dead, the zombie here has rational thought and speech, only falling back to its instincts when feeling hungry.

I can certainly relate to Anton Yelchin’s character of Max in this film, how he’s a big horror movie fan and loves the classic movies as well as the newer scare flicks.  The way he’s put down for his love of the genre definitely mirrors my life as I’m always alone in my positive opinion of horror films between my wife and I.  Other than that, Yelchin has a way to play the everyman so eloquently and nonchalantly, and he’s always the good guy that’s so likable.  I’m sure we can all agree that Anton Yelchin’s performances in other films were always enjoyable and he undoubtedly added something special to them.  From his unbelievable performance in Hearts in Atlantis through his portrayal of Chekov in J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek series of films, without question he’ll undoubtedly be a favorite of mine and will be sorely missed after passing away last June at the age of 27.  Even seeing that he’d died so young, his list of performances in is staggering...I had no idea he’d been in so many productions.

The supporting cast in Burying the Ex helps the film as well in its exceptionalism.  Ashley Greene playing Max’s girlfriend has just the right touch of likability, yet mixes the slight bitchiness in there perfectly, to make us understand why Max would continue his relationship with her.  Even as her character slowly turns into a zombie, she adds the perfect blend of a normal pretty girl with the nastiness of someone—a zombie—decaying into a walking corpse.  All that with a nonchalant hint of humor gives this movie the right amount of a dark comedy that I think most people would enjoy.

Seeing that this flick is a rom-com wrapped up in a zombie genre type of film, it still has the ingredients of your typical funny chick flick.  Like other films before it, the archetypal plot of a guy stuck in a love triangle with two girls, there’s always the friend who is loud, a little unlikable, and will tell it like it is.  In this movie, that part is played by Oliver Cooper as he embodies the character of Travis.  With Yelchin playing the straight man here, Cooper gives us some of the laughs to keep the whole situation lighthearted.

Playing the part of Olivia is Alexandra Daddario, an actress who has been making a name for herself in the last decade or so.  I first had seen her in Texas Chainsaw 3D in 2013 and have noticed her in such films as Bereavement (2010) and San Andreas (2015).  She does exceptionally well here as an obvious soulmate to Yelchin’s Max due to their shared interest in everything horror.  The interaction between Daddario and Yelchin felt real and genuine, never seeming forced, as if these two were a real couple.  As I’d said, this film is basically a romantic comedy and the former-girlfriend-coming-back-from-the-dead aspect could be taken out, leaving this film just as enjoyable. 

When checking out the writing credits, I’d noticed that Alan Trezza is credited for this film.  The amusing thing about this is that he’s been only credited for three projects, one of which is a short film with the same name as this one.  I had never seen it, but the synopsis basically describes the same situation in this film, with only the name of the main character changed from Max to Zak, as well as being all different actors and actresses.  The remaining project within his résumé, Sanctuary, hasn’t been completed yet and doesn’t even have a release date listed.

Anyway, I’ve discussed this film enough…what’s my final “bit” on Burying the Ex?

Joe Dante has not lost his touch, giving us a movie that is as witty and entertaining as a lot of his classic films, and I was pleasantly surprised.  The film has many amusing scenes, the plot is well-written, the cast works well together…this could’ve been something seen in the 80s and might’ve been held high as a classic today.  But, of course, the movies with the copious amounts of CGI in today’s films, as well as tons of marketing for that abundance of forgettable stories, are the ones that get the attention.  But don’t let that stop you, take my word for it and go rent this movie.

Thanks for reading!

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