Burying The Ex (2014)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #509

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Number of Views: One
Release Date: September 4, 2014 (Venice), June 19, 2015 (United States)
Sub-Genre: Comedy/Horror
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 90 minutes
Director: Joe Dante
Producers: Carl Effenson, Kyle Tekiela, Frankie Lindquist, Mary Cybriwsky, Alan Trezza, David Johnson
Screenplay: Alan Trezza
Special Effects: Kevin Berve
Visual Effects: Carlos Fueyo, Connor Meechan
Cinematography: Jonathan Hall
Score: Joseph LoDuca
Editing: Marshall Harvey
Studios: Voltage Pictures, Elevated Productions, Act 4 Entertainment, Scooty Woop Entertainment, ArtImage Entertainment
Distributor: Image Entertainment
Stars: Anton Yelchin, Ashley Greene, Alexandra Daddario, Oliver Cooper, Ozioma Akagha, Mark Alan, Erica Bowie, Archie Hahn, Tomoko Karina, Stephanie Koenig, Wyndoline Landry, Julia Marchese, London May, Dick Miller, Katie Roberts

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Suggested Audio Candy:

Electroillusion Poison Love

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I have fond recollections of growing up in the eighties and no small part of that is on account of Joe Dante. Nurtured by Roger Corman, Dante shot to fame with Piranha before accumulating a quintet of heavy hitters over the course of the next decade with The Howling, Gremlins, Explorers, Innerspace and The Burbs. While he has continued to work pretty consistently since, large studio ventures have been few and far between, and it would appear that his most fruitful years are now way back in the slipstream. However, every few years, we are treated to a new Dante flick and, despite his last theatrical release The Hole struggling to make a return, there are still more than enough glimpses of the unquestionable talent that opened so many doors in the first place.

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His latest venture Burying The Ex started life in 2008 as a fifteen minute short by Alan Trezza; featuring scream queen Danielle Harris in one of its three pivotal roles. This project has evidently been a labor of love for Trezza as it has taken six years for this to mature into a full-length feature and it does so on account of his screenplay. Quite how Dante became involved is unclear but he must’ve seen something to encourage him to offer his services and many have been touting this as his comeback movie. Harris is nowhere to be seen but, in Anton Yelchin, he bags himself one helluva leading man. You see, never underestimate the power of Dante.

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Yelchin first showed up on my radar with Jon Poll’s 2007 film Charlie Bartlett, proving himself more than capable of carrying a fair weight on those slender shoulders. As Charley Brewster in Craig Gillespie’s undervalued Fright Night remake, he consolidated his claim and, in the titular role for Stephen Sommers’ Odd Thomas, convinced me that he’s headed for the apex. His attachment to a project has since become something of a rubber stamp of quality in my eyes and any director savvy enough to snap him up is a shrewd motherfucker for sure. Dante is off to a rolling start and the stars appear to be aligning.

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Here he plays store clerk and horror junkie Max, an unassuming fellow with the usual insecurities and humdrum daily existence. While, on the surface he appears to be a pretty unremarkable everyman, he clearly has some game as he has managed to punch above his weight and bag himself a keeper. His relationship with live-in girlfriend Evelyn (Ashley Greene) seems stable and the pair look decidedly akin to love’s young dream at the offset. Appearances can be deceiving as Max soon finds himself in a situation far from ideal. While Evelyn is undoubtedly hot, and dynamite between the sheets, she is also rather high maintenance and anally retentive to boot. Moreover, she is strict vegan and something of an eco-warrior when not dressing up in nurse costumes to deliver on his personal fantasies.

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Suddenly Max feels trapped as the realization dawns that his potential soul mate is actually something of a buzz killing irritant. His portly “half-brother” Travis (Oliver Cooper) isn’t convinced either and encourages that he further explore any nagging doubts over the viability of his suitor. Further alarms sound when his over possessive girlfriend reveals her green-eyed monster and directs it squarely at ice cream store owner Olivia (Alexandra Daddario) after a seemingly innocuous conversation. Once she takes it upon herself to redecorate their apartment without prior consultation and then makes him feel like the bad guy for being peeved, it becomes painfully clear that Evelyn simply has to go.

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This presents an uncommon conundrum for Max as he has historically been on the receiving end of marching orders and has no idea how to break her fall. Enter a small twist of fate as he prepares to give her the bad news. Hit by a passing bus and killed almost outright before his very eyes, Evelyn ceases being an issue and our messenger of sorrow is unexpectedly let off the hook. Having said that, any relief is offset by overbearing guilt as he feels very much responsible for her passing. A mourning period ensues as grief-stricken Max attempts to come to terms with his part in the tragedy but, after a chance meeting with kindred soul Olivia, the gloom eventually starts to lift.

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Unbeknownst to the fledgling lovers, Evelyn isn’t the kind of gal to give her man up without a fight. Moreover, she is provided with a second chance thanks to a vow she made in the presence of a wish-granting statue by the name of Satan-Genie prior to her untimely death. It takes more than a little decomposition to keep this girl down and she returns to her beloved Max to pick up precisely where they left off. Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a classic love triangle, and poor Max finds himself right in the thick of it as he attempts to juggle his allegiances. On one hand he has like-minded Olivia, looking good enough to eat and sharing his devotion for all things horror. On the other is the fast-spoiling Evelyn, looking like she may well eat him and with little to share other than second-hand embalming fluid.

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Dante runs with it and wrings every last drop of comedy out of the three-way dynamic in an attempt to bring life to a fairly uninspired script. Considering this took six years to come about from initial conception, the screenplay is remarkably bare of bones, and his very best efforts aren’t quite enough to sideline us to its deficiency. Thankfully, all three leads excel, Greene is on-point as our festering third wheel and the chemistry between Yelchin and Daddario is absolutely unmistakable, taking their blossoming love interest to a whole new level. Given the flat dialogue they are required to recite, they locate true common ground and this curbs any potential catastrophe.

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If I had to single out a prize winner, then it’s Daddario hands down. What could so easily have been a one-dimensional character is something far greater and she casts a spell of her own with her arresting blue pleasure orbs. As you should be more than aware by now, Keeper loves him some peepers, and hers are pure Shangri-La. Even more critically, she brings an innate likeability to Olivia, which leaves us rooting for her safe passage first and foremost. Max has orchestrated his own fine mess and deserves to sweat a little but, heaven forbid, she pays dividend for his misinformed life choices. On this evidence, Daddario is very much set to break out and her recent stint as Natacha Rambova in American Horror Story: Hotel further corroborates this claim.

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Burying The Ex is, by all accounts, a rather unremarkable film, lacking both the wit and wisdom to be regarded as anything other than middle-of-the-road. In lesser hands, I would struggle to fight its corner and Dante’s direction is admittedly more static than is customary from him. Good casting can make all the difference and great casting can convince an audience to overlook any glaring lack of substance and bury any damning evidence. Thanks to three treasured turns from Yelchin, Greene and Daddario, I would still dig this dainty little slice of irreverence up for a rainy day. Like Max, I never was much good as the dumper.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10

Grue Factor: 2/5

 

For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: While a little more splatter wouldn’t have gone amiss, there are splashes of deep red offset against Evelyn’s garish green emulsion and a little harmless zombie snacking to prevent our tummies from growling too forcefully. On the pelt front, one close-up of Daddario’s pendulum-like cleavage is all it takes to thank God for hi-definition.

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Read Gremlins Appraisal

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