Burying The Ex film review: Where did Joe Dante go wrong?

Why horror-comedy Burying The Ex doesn’t quite live up to Joe Dante’s high standards

Joe Dante, king of enjoyable hard-edged family films – how did it go wrong?

Burying The Ex is a simple tale of a man who regrets moving in with his girlfriend. There’s some fun to be had in Anton Yelchin’s dilemma, as he finds that killing your zombified ex (Ashley Greene) isn’t as easy as it looks in horror movies, but on the whole the film is a muddle of clichés.

The film is at its best in the all-too-brief moments where it cuts loose and indulges in pure comedy horror, and Greene’s performance ironically comes to life once the poorly written Evelyn is dead.

But the film suffers from being entirely unsure of its audience. The characters swear and talk graphically about threesomes, and yet the film is incredibly coy. It’s the sort of movie where people somehow have sex fully clothed and all the violence is unseen, even though it’s cartoony. It’s like Dante wants to make a more grown-up film than he’s known for, but he keeps veering instinctively towards a PG tone.

No-one involved in the film ever seems to have met a young person or a woman (one poor girl has to deliver the line “OMFingG”). Max, a ‘nice guy’, is predictably caught between his uptight ex and a horror-loving Manic Pixie Dream Girl, a trope which is getting pretty tired.

The film is stuffed full of horror references and aimed at genre lovers, and yet there is nothing in the film that is new. Clichés are ticked off routinely, with no attempt to subvert them. Yelchin sleepwalks through the movie, with only Greene’s neurotic zombie providing any entertainment value.

Had this movie come out in 2013, it might have been hailed as a moderate success. But it misses the zeitgeist by a couple of years and has the misfortune of arriving on the heels of the far superior Life After Beth.

By comparison, Burying The Ex is stale, predictable and – the ultimate fail of a horror-comedy – neither funny nor scary.