Burying the Ex (2014): Anton Yelchin and Joe Dante Comedy Gore

Anton Yelchin and Ashley Green, Max and Evelyn Director Joe Dante, who brought the world Gremlins back in 1985, teams up with Anton Yelchin (Star Trek, Odd Thomas) to deliver a hysterically funny comedy horror with more than a little gore and a lot of genre references. Written by Alan Trezza (who wrote and directed the 2008 short film of the same name) the film is about nice guy Max (Yelchin) whose girlfriend is needy and clingy, even after death.

Max works in a “Halloween” horror shop and while unpacking a “Satan Genie” he and his girlfriend agree to be together forever. The genie glows and later when Max asks Evelyn (Ashley Greene) to meet him at the dog walking park to break up, she is hit by a bus and dies.

Olivia (Alexandra Daddario), the owner and proprietor of the “I Scream” ice cream parlor asks Max out on a weird date, they go to the cemetery and pass by Evelyn’s grave. She climbs out of her coffin to return to her boyfriend and things quickly spiral out of control.

Soon, Max has his zombie girlfriend controlling his life from beyond the grave. True love becomes difficult for him as he fights to keep seeing Olivia and tries to put Evelyn back into the ground.

This is an honest to goodness laugh out loud film. Dante has lost none of his directorial touch with the horror/comedy genre. While this film has none of the unique creepiness of Dante’s 2009 film The Hole he has shown that the return to his comic roots was a brilliant move.

Anton Yelchin may have become a household name with his portrayal of Chekov in the new Star Trek film franchise but he is no stranger to the horror genre. Odd Thomas in 2013 had Yelchin playing the title character and doing a decent job. Arguably, this film (based on a Dean R. Koontz novel of the same name) was less comedic and more of a foray into the world of fantasy/horror.

The actor does a brilliant job playing the hapless nice guy who inadvertently ends up with a zombie girlfriend. Just as impressive is Alexandra Daddario as the girl who is his real soul mate. A young lady who loves all the things he does and is a walking pop cultural reference book. Dante fills the movie with references to other horror films and even appears to tip his director’s hat to Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead at the end of the movie.

Real kudos go to Ashley Greene as Evelyn, the girlfriend from hell. Her comedic timing is brilliant and she is perfect as the “zombie in denial” still in love with her perfect boyfriend. Greene sells it, full stop.

Burying the Ex is not meant to be high art, it is a bit of fun and Dante shows his familiarity with the genre that he does so well. Dick Miller even shows up and film fans will remember Miller from Gremlins, Small Soldiers and a number of other Dante projects, including the director’s stint on the Eerie, Indiana television series (Dante directed several segments)  episode The Losers in 1991.

Fans of the genre will have a heyday picking out the different references and the various clips from horror films. This is a 4.5 out of 5 star film, not completely original enough for a full five, but funny enough to warrant the almost full complement. Great entertainment that is streaming on US Netflix at the moment. There is not too much gore, it is a comedy horror after all, just enough to keep it from being too “kiddy.” A real Dante delight.

The Hole (2009): There’s Something Down There

Directed by Joe Dante and written by Mark L. Smith, The Hole is a horror film that is aimed at the teen audience no doubt. But despite the fact that the targeted demographic is quite a lot younger than I am, I enjoyed the film immensely.

The film stars Chris Massoglia (Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant),Haley Bennett (The Haunting of Molly Hartley), Nathan Gamble (The Mist) and a brilliant (too small) cameo by acting veteran Bruce Dern.

Brothers Dane (Massoglia) and Lucas (Gamble) and mother Susan (Teri Polo) move the quiet suburbs of Bensonville from New York. While the family is settling in their new home, the boys discover a hole in the basement that has been covered and locked. With the boy’s curiosity peaked, they pry open the hole’s lid while mom Susan is at work.

Once they open the lid, they find out that the hole appears to be so deep that there isn’t a bottom to it. They enlist the help of their next door neighbour Julie (Bennett) to find out if she knows about the hole. Perplexed they decide to leave it alone and close the lid. But it appears that when they opened the hole, they let something out.

All three of the children have something scary happen to them. Lucas has a fear of clowns and a clown puppet shows up in his room, alive. Dane is visited by a large, very strong scary man and Julie is visited by a ghost in her dark bathroom.

Bruce Dern as Creepy Carl.

After watching the hole all night to see if anything comes out, Julie tells the boys about the previous owner of the house “Creepy” Carl (Dern). They decide to visit Carl and find him sitting in a room where he is surrounded by light bulbs. Carl admonishes the boys for opening the hole and tells them that by doing so they’ve let “the darkness” out and it will get them.

As the children leave, Carl’s light bulbs start going out and he is left in the dark screaming.

The rest of the film is about the three kids battling the things that come out of the hole. They try to defeat the hole and the darkness.

Although this was a horror/thriller aimed at a young teen audience, the movie works well. It was filmed in 3D and opened to positive reviews. I did not watch the 3D version; I watched the blu ray DVD and still enjoyed the film.

The Hole is very similar to the 2003 film Holes which was aimed at a similar demographic. Unlike Holes with its too simple plot and childish villains, The Hole has genuinely creepy ghosts and scary monsters.

The film has an “open” ending which seems to suggest the possibility of a sequel but it appears that despite the good opening reviews the film itself did not make enough money to qualify for one.

Despite the fact that I did enjoy the film and the creative ways that the three kids disposed of the monsters (or ghosts) I felt it could have benefited from more Bruce Dern (more cowbell, I need to hear that cowbell) and less of the neighbour girl. But that could have just been me.

The actors all do a capable job and the film is definitely worth watching. Although The Hole is not in the same league as the 1987 film The Monster Squad, it is just as enjoyable.

Scary clown puppet.