Part horror romp, part screwball romance, part live-action cartoon, "Burying the Ex" feels like exactly what it is: a Joe Dante (2003's "Looney Tunes: Back in Action
") movie made on a lower budget than the veteran filmmaker is accustomed. In recent years, the director of '80s staples "Gremlins," "Explorers" and "The 'Burbs" has found it increasingly difficult to get projects greenlit by major Hollywood studios searching for marketable remakes and $100-million-plus franchises. For his latest film, he has a thriftier price tag from which to work and a script by Alan Trezza that is comically sly if not consistently open to close logical scrutiny. The results are uneven but fun all the same, a quirky black comedy with a game cast and a hip sense of its specific Los Angeles subculture of cinephiles and horror buffs.
In romantic relationships, Bloody Mary's Boutique store clerk Max (Anton Yelchin) has always been the person who gets dumped, which makes it all the more uncomfortable when he decides it is time to end things with his controlling environmentalist girlfriend Evelyn (Ashley Greene). They previously vowed to be together foreveran oath heard by a Satan genie that recently arrived at the shopand so when Evelyn is hit by a truck and killed before Max can break up with her, she thinks nothing of returning from the grave to pick up where they left off. Max is at first shocked and scared by the return of the gradually decomposing Evelyn, and then he becomes annoyed when she refuses to take a hint. With infinitely more copacetic new girlfriend Olivia (Alexandra Daddario) in the dark about Max's ex back from the dead, he must figure out a way to get rid of Evelyn before her growing hunger for human brains gets the best of her.
Set primarily in the weeks leading up to Halloween, "Burying the Ex" is a cool, genre-busting addition to one's autumnal watch list. The film rings so true early on, particularly in the strained interplay between Anton Yelchin's (2014's "Odd Thomas
") Max and Ashley Greene's (2012's "The Apparition
") inconsiderate but not unrealistically caricaturized Evelyn, that one must agree to make the shift when the plot heads into more fantastical territory. Joe Dante's good-humored approach suits the picture well, but less convincing is Max's reaction to Evelyn's undead arrival. That he never opts to go to the authorities and isn't immediately forthcoming to Olivia about Evelyn's death (let alone her zombified return) are improbable contrivances on hand to stretch the running time. Fortunately, Yelchin is an ingratiating protagonist, Green is comedically inspired as the iron-handed, cadaver-faced Evelyn, and Alexandra Daddario (2015's "San Andreas
") is sweetly down-to-earth as Olivia. Scenes set at the New Beverly Cinema and the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (where an outdoor screening of George A. Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" is taking place) give color and specificity to the L.A. setting. "Burying the Ex" may not be a breakthrough along the lines of "Gremlins," but it is a cheerily macabre lark and a welcome fresh entry to Dante's oeuvre.