At first glance, Burying the Ex looks like little more than another entry into the surprisingly persistent zom-rom-com subgenre, joining the likes of Warm Bodies (2013) and Life After Beth (2014) in asking how an unquenchable thirst for brains might affect one’s relationship prospects. Burying the Ex brings with it some pedigree at least.
Director Joe Dante remains best known for horror-comedy highlight Gremlins (1984) and its sequel (1990), which matched madcap comic sensibilities and inventiveness with an irrepressible dark streak, inspiring hope that his return to the genre could help lift Burying the Ex above its B-movie plot (and budget). Unfortunately, despite a few moments of twisted inspiration, the film is disappointingly reliant on predictable gross-out humour and persistent sexist undertones, with little room left over for genuine horror.
Anton Yelchin’s Max is busy falling out of love with girlfriend Evelyn (Ashley Greene, almost unrecognisable from her appearances in the Twilight franchise), and is in fact ready to put an end to things, when the universe takes the decision out of his hands by placing Evelyn in the path of an oncoming bus.
One mourning montage later and Max is ready to move on with the Hollywood-quirky, ice cream parlour-owning Olivia (Alexandra Daddario) until a rather undead-ed Evelyn returns from the grave, ready to pick things up where they left off.
To keep the already stiff plot from falling apart, screenwriter Alan Trezza makes the decision to keep zombie-Evelyn’s lust for brains at bay at first, but instead leaves her dominated by a rather more human form of desire. The result is a zombie film that’s remarkably bloodless, swapping brains for bad breath and jokes about necrophilia.
Most frustrating is the steady undercurrent of sexism, perhaps inevitable in a film that’s essentially an extended riff on a joke about an evil ex-girlfriend. For the most part, Evelyn is a standard-issue uptight annoyance, there to call Max’s love of horror films childish or tell him off for wearing his shoes indoors. She’s also strangely reviled for her environmentalism, a touch that feels spectacularly dated in 2015.
Despite all this, the film might be inoffensive enough were it not for Max’s half-brother Travis (Oliver Cooper), whose sole function for most of the film is to spout tired sexist jokes as obnoxiously as possible, a task he pulls off with considerable aplomb.
For a film with a zombie at its core, and frequent explicit, fanboy-baiting celebration of B-movie horror classics, the most frustrating thing about Burying the Ex is just that it has so little interest in putting any horror on the screen itself.
Sub-par rom-com plotting, and a preoccupation with how totally icky zombie sex would be, leave the film’s frights about as fresh as its titular ex, and just as lifeless.
Burying The Ex is available on VOD and Digital Download from June 19th