A man (Anton Yelchin) loses his unbearable girlfriend to an accident, but when he moves on to a sweeter gal he discovers his ex has returned from the dead and still very much the jealous type, in Burying the Ex. A woman (Kim Basinger) makes a desperate bid for motherhood only to discover that the price is far higher than she expected, in The 11th Hour.
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Max (Yelchin) is a nice guy whose biggest dream is to open and run his own horror-themed memorabilia shop. He currently works for someone else in just such a store, but he knows it would be so much better if he was in charge. That ‘grass is always greener’ mentality is also rearing its head in his relationship with his girlfriend, Evelyn (Ashley Greene). She’s something of a control freak who shows no respect for his rare genre posters or personal space. Even worse, she’s a vegan. Can you imagine such a horrible person?! Max meets his soulmate in the somewhat unbelievably perfect Olivia (Alexandria Daddario) – a young woman who owns her own ice cream shop – but when he makes plans to break up with Evelyn he instead watches as she’s hit and killed by a bus.
Everything’s better from that point on, until it isn’t. Evelyn crawls out of the grave looking to get some sexy time in with Max, and he’s forced to juggle two girls craving his attention while struggling to keep either one from finding out about the other. Hilarious!
First, the bad news. This is Joe Dante’s worst film. There is no good news.
Burying the Ex is a slighter version of last year’s already slight Life After Beth, and while it’s more violent than that Aubrey Plaza-led zom-com it lacks both laughs and heart. The comedy feels forced both as written and performed, and at no point do we find ourselves affected by the loss of life or the discovery of love.
Much of the fault rests with Alan Trezza’s script (his feature debut) as not only does it lack tonal balance between its stabs at comedy and the grim and gruesome antics of the undead, but it also neglects to create characters that are the least bit likable or believable. Evelyn seems perfectly normal at first until the film needs her to be a bitch at which point she becomes an over the top queen bitch. Max should be someone we root for, but he’s such a whiner and pushover that it’s difficult to care, and that’s even before we see his lack of emotional concern over the deaths striking so close to home. And Olivia? She’s so perfect she’s even pretty okay with Max’s lies about his cannibalistic ex.
As sad as it is that Dante’s first film in five years is a stinker none of us should be all that surprised. His heyday was ‘78-’93 where he crafted such glorious cinematic experiences as The Howling, Gremlins and The ‘Burbs, but the years and decades that followed offered only a handful of films that grew less and less memorable. His reliably manic energy is still visible at times here, but it stops and starts throughout feeling more like last gasps than actual intent.
Burying the Ex displays genuine love for genre films, but it’s all in the periphery – the references, the wall art, etc. Its horrific elements are half-hearted (with the possible exception of one unexpected Vamp-like kill) and lack anything resembling dramatic or emotional weight. The comedy is equally uninspired. By the time the film ends with the weak chuckle of victory we’re left only with the joy that Dante was given one more chance behind the camera – and that Dick Miller is still available for cameos.
Burying the Ex is currently available on VOD, iTunes and limited theatrical release and hits DVD on August 4th, 2015.
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A couple rests peacefully in bed as the rumbles and flashes of a storm outside echo around them. A small light enters the house, floating and self-illuminated, and works its way towards their bedroom door before revealing its human-like form and fluttering wings. The being whispers an apology into Maria’s (Basinger) ear, and her husband awakens to the wet warmth of her miscarriage. This isn’t her first, and a subsequent doctor’s visit confirms that after this eighth miscarriage left her technically dead for two minutes Maria is officially unable to bear children.
She refuses to accept this uterine death sentence, but after her husband makes it clear that he’s done trying – and that he has no interest in adoption saying instead “Can’t we just be sad together?” – she falls into depression. Her purpose returns though, along with the voice (“I am still here. Come find me mommy.”), and after hearing about a specific Eastern European town’s troubles with sex trafficking and unwanted babies she heads out on a spontaneous road trip to purchase a newborn. Her journey brings her in contact with a drug-addicted little person named Petit (Jordan Prentice), a terribly cruel Russian (Peter Stormare) and an inner strength she didn’t know she possessed.
Writer/director Anders Morganthaler has made an odd film that seems as unsure of its point as it does its execution. The child’s voice might be a sign of madness, or not. The ending might insinuate something untenable, or not. The only constant is Basinger’s performance which shows a dramatic urgency both her character and the film lack.
Maria is a Managing Director for a large shipping company, and by all accounts she’s successful at it, but we only see her acting incompetent, naive and indifferent. She’s broken before the film begins, and while that wouldn’t be a problem if the main interest here was narrative-based – if the story was about her journey of survival or back towards functionality – the end result is a severe lack of viewer sympathy for her struggles. The film seems to want us to support her and view the husband as in the wrong, but she’s never less than imbalanced. And the ending does that perception no favors.
There are some early flourishes – the opening “angel” and a fetus model that comes to subtle life – that promise more vitality than the film ends up delivering, but for much of the film the only draw is the “relationship” between Maria and Petit. The pair banter, converse and flirt with mutual respect, and the actors show individual strengths even if they never approach a comfortable chemistry.
It’s a slight element to hold viewers’ attention on though, and that thread breaks as the film moves the two leads into a messy and ultimately insulting third act. Morganthaler’s script makes a choice that is questionable at best and heinous at worst, but regardless of which way you lean in the final minutes it’s also a dramatically empty and pointless conclusion based on the film’s own setup.
The 11th Hour shows the beginnings of a story taking form – character drama, road trip, new awareness – but it loses its way during the third act and bleeds out across the screen. So consider this me whispering in your ear to avoid this movie all together.
The 11th Hour is currently playing in limited theatrical release.