Tuesday, June 22, 2021

BURYING THE EX on Zombie Day

 by Adam Riske

A movie’s quality is sometimes not the point.

What better way to celebrate Zombie Day for Junesploitation than to talk about a movie I’ve grown to love for very specific, personal reasons? I saw Burying the Ex in 2015 when it was first released on VOD and thought it was cute, maybe a little better than most reviews would indicate. I agreed with many of the critiques at the time that the movie was sitcomy, lacking in style, somewhat misogynistic, and a step down from the usual heights of a Joe Dante film. In many ways, Burying the Ex feels like more of a movie authored by someone other than Joe Dante and him cherry-picking classic horror references and homages to keep himself interested as a director-for-hire.

The film stars the late, great Anton Yelchin as Max, an affable guy working at a horror collectibles store in Los Angeles who’s dating a demanding, environmentally conscious woman named Evelyn (Ashley Greene) that is not his ideal match. Max stays in the relationship despite his better judgement until he meets a dream girl/screenwriter-construct named Olivia (Alexandra Daddario), who’s Max’s pop culture and spiritual soulmate (she runs a horror-adjacent ice cream shop that includes flavors like Fruit Brute!). Max intends to break up with Evelyn but she dies in a bus accident before he can do so and returns from the dead via a magic spell to be with him forever and ever. This causes a big problem for Max, who has since developed a tentative relationship with Olivia. Shenanigans ensue.
So why do I love Burying the Ex? It’s three reasons essentially:

1. I get to hang out with Anton Yelchin. He was an actor I always liked quite a bit who felt singularly quirky and sensitive and picked interesting projects. We just passed five years since his untimely passing and I’m now at the stage where I can watch Burying the Ex and not be distracted by the fact he’s no longer with us. Now it feels like I’m hanging out with the character and that’s great because Max is who I think of now when I remember Anton Yelchin.

2. I love love. The chemistry between Yelchin and Alexandra Daddario is strong and they make an adorable onscreen couple. Sometimes I’ll be at a horror convention or in a kitschy horror collectible store and see an older couple who have probably been together in horror bliss for many years and that makes my heart happy. Not to spoil anything, but when we see where Yelchin and Daddario wind up in the final moments in Burying the Ex, I feel like they’re headed in that direction and I almost get choked up. It’s an ending I always look forward to and going through the rest of the movie is a pleasure because I know I love where the film lands.

3. It’s a Los Angeles travelogue. People close to me know that L.A. is my favorite vacation destination and a place I can’t stand to be away from for more than a year without visiting. I love the film and music culture. I love the theme parks. I love the close access to the ocean and beaches. The food is great, etc., etc. On many days, I wish I was out living in Los Angeles. Burying the Ex (like another film I love called Love & Air Sex does with Austin, TX) gives me a mini vacation to a specific horrorhead version of Los Angeles, including a double bill at the New Beverly Cinema (Max and Olivia separately are seeing a Cat People/I Walked with a Zombie pairing) and stops at horror and novelty shops (just like the ones I love visiting in Burbank). In all honesty, I wish I was living the lives of Max and Olivia (zombies excluded, of course) and to experience it vicariously through a movie is one of the joys cinema can provide.
I realize I haven’t mentioned anything about the zombies in Burying the Ex and I probably should, this being Zombie Day and all, but you know what…I don’t really want to. That stuff is fine and Ashley Greene is game as the Ex of the title, but the hook of the film is so separate from what I love about this movie. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time writing for F This Movie! is that (on a personal level) quality is less meaningful than what moves you. A genre movie can speak to your human experience even stronger than a message movie and a detail in a movie that’s “not good” could mean more to you than 100 right decisions a director is making in an all-time classic. There’s room for quality, but I lead with my heart and my gut over my intellect when it comes to art.

So, if you’re like me and dig horror and romance maybe spend your Zombie Day with Burying the Ex. You might dig it…or just want to bury it…but I hope you dig it.

1 comment:

  1. As more movies I watch, as more important those small, probably "imperfect" pieces of art become to me, while perfectly polished movies leave me probably at awe for the craftsmanship, but maybe nothing more. Is it because we've seen a lot of movies and find it more important to be moved than to see something "perfect"? Or is it an increase of life experience and knowledge, that helps us to connect with, for example, the take on relationships in movies like BURYING THE EX? Probably both.