So, with my reduced writing time this Halloween season, there have been several horror movies I’ve watched on a whim, started reviewing in my head, and then realized I’d never have time to sit down and write a proper review. That makes me sad, and instead of letting these thoughts go to waste, I figure I’ll take the time to at least whip out a few short, stream-of-consciousness style reviews of horror films you can watch on Netflix Instant this October.
With director Joe Dante’s name so prominently displayed in the marketing material for Burying the Ex, you may be forgiven for wondering if this could be a return to the madcap horror comedy he did so well in Gremlins. Despite the not so promising trailer, I was curious enough to give it a watch myself.
The plot is pretty simple. Max is in a serious relationship with Evelyn, a girl with whom he has nothing in common and is quickly stereotyped as the one-dimensional grating, clingy bitch type from the get-go. Just when he’s started to work up the nerve to break it off with her, she’s killed in a freak accident, only to then come back to life as a zombie, ready to pick their relationship right back up where they left off. Too bad Max has already developed a budding romance with the far more promising (in every way) Olivia. Super soft ball rotting corpse effects and terrible zombie humor ensue.
For such a simple plot the film really goes out of its way to spell out plot points and character details in excruciatingly on the nose bits of dialogue. Characters answer their work phones using long, cumbersome greetings that explain what their company does and what they do AT that company. By the way, Max works at a Halloween/horror novelty store full time, apparently as the only employee, and can pretty much come and go as he pleases, but he’s unhappy because it’s not HIS horror novelty store. His new crush Olivia owns and operates a horror-themed ice cream shop a few doors down. I get it, this takes place in Hollywood, but come on.
The dialogue is littered with horror references that are so basic and mainstream it feels like this was written by a 14 year old who discovered horror at 13. Yet the film treats these moments like a treasure trove of easter eggs for hardcore horror fans, and it’s frankly embarrassing. Not to be a horror hipster, but Bela Lugosi, Night of the Living Dead, and Fruit Brute cereal are not obscure references. Scream was more clever about this stuff 20 years ago.
Perhaps the blame for Burying the Ex’s failure shouldn’t fall to Mr. Dante though. This film is kind of terrible, but the problems are all at the script level. The acting, editing, and cinematography are adequate but unremarkable. It’s the writing that lets everything down. The shame of it is, you can tell they were going for a horror fan-centric tribute thing here, so it sucks that it had to end up so broad and filled with eye-rolling exposition and non-self aware cliches. For a horror comedy, it’s not the least bit frightening and, at best, only manages to be mildly droll in the comedy department.