Joe Dante, or Maestro Dante as he’s known on the Lido, didn’t physically make it to town for the world premiere of his zombie romcom Burying The Ex. Instead, he appeared via Skype from Hawaii, but that didn’t dampen Venice festgoers’ excitement at seeing the latest from the Gremlins helmer. The out of competition pic got a fantastic reception at the screening I attended. In the flesh in Venice to support the film were stars Anton Yelchin, Ashley Greene and Alexandra Daddario along with writer Alan Trezza.
The film’s worst-nightmare scenario sees Max (Yelchin), a nice guy/horror fan trying to get out of a relationship, but whose intended ex (Greene) dies in an accident just pre-breakup talk. Soul searching, mourning and a meet-cute with a new girl (Daddario) follow. Problem is, that’s also the time the dead ex claws her way out of the grave to return to her guy and be together forerver.
A fan of the horror flicks of George Romero and how his films are seen as metaphors for bigger issues, Trezza realized, “No one had used the zombie genre as a metaphor for a relationship that’s gone sour.” The result is a wacky/scary romp; it’s also a love letter to Los Angeles and some of the town’s filmic history.
Dante and his cast praised being able to shoot the decidely LA story in the real deal. They considered New Orleans, but “the script was so LA specific, so LA central… The fact that you’ve got real locations and these people act like they live in Los Angeles” was key, Dante said. The production was able to figure out a way to make the picture in Los Angeles — basically shooting in a seven block radius dowtown. Dante noted that was “amazing because no one does that anymore… I can’t think of a recent movie that I’ve seen that is so much of Los Angeles.”
For Trezza, shooting in LA was important to make the “extraordinary elements” of the film believeable. “I wanted to set it in reality, and Los Angeles is also a great filmgoing city,” Trezza said. “There are revivial houses, there are screenings at cemeteries. It’s pretty much a film lovers’ town.” Max at one point attends a screening of Night Of The Living Dead at the Hollywood Forever cemetery. They also shot part of the movie at the New Beverly.
Yelchin noted with upset the decline of film shoots in LA. It “was the home of genre where the studios would crank out these pictures and there’s kind of an odd irony to the reality that most movies don’t get made in LA, that it’s cheaper to make genre pictures elsewhere… Now we’re sitting here saying, ‘I can’t believe we made it in LA.’ When I read (Burying The Ex) I thought that was a really beautiful thing. You see the film is just about movies and the town is just about movies.” However, he added, “It’s really lamentable. Most people just don’t give a shit” about LA’s cinematic heritage. “It’s really unfortunate. They really should. That’s the town, that’s what it was built on and I think it’s important that this movie addresses that.” There may be hope ahead with a big boost to California’s Film and TV Tax Credit Program getting closer to reality.