What do you do when your dead ex-girlfriend rises from the grave and throws her decomposing body at you, demanding hot sex and a happily-ever-after ending?
Horror-comedy master Joe Dante gives his answer in "Burying the Ex", premiering at the world's oldest film festival here to the guilty pleasure of zombie flick aficionados.
Max (Anton Yelchin), who works in a horror-themed novelty store, moves in with girlfriend Evelyn (Ashley Greene) in the Los Angeles-set scenario, and swears his eternal love just before discovering her needy, controlling side.
But just as he works up the courage to dump her, she is hit by a bus and killed.
Encouraged by his womanising half-brother Travis (Oliver Cooper), Max moves on and meets kindred spirit Olivia (Alexandra Daddario). But human flesh-hungry Evelyn, nuttier than ever, returns and demands Max make the ultimate sacrifice.
The "Gremlins" director, who chatted with reporters in Venice via Skype from his bedroom in the United States, said he "hugely enjoyed" making the film, which scriptwriter Alan Trezza developed from his 2008 short of the same name.
"This is a movie for those who love this genre. It's a pretty retro flick but it tries to bridge the gap between modern-day rom coms and cult classics," he said.
"It's a zom com, about that one special ex, the one who keeps coming back."
Trezza said he'd been inspired by American director George Romero, the master behind such horror classics as "Night of the Living Dead" and "Creepshow".
"I've always been a huge fan of George Romero's films. 'Night of the Living Dead' is about race relations, 'Dawn of the Dead' is about consumerism. I realised no-one had used the zombie film as a metaphor for a relationship gone bad," he said.
- Zombies with a soul -
"I wanted to make the emotional deterioration of the relationship physical, and there was only one man who could get the right balance in tone between horror, comedy, romance and drama: Joe Dante," he said.
The film also gives a shout out to Tim Burton, the master of the macabre behind "Edward Scissorhands" and "Sleepy Hollow".
When Travis first stumbles upon the risen Evelyn, he cries out to Max: "There’s a freaking Tim Burton movie in your living room!"
Cooper, a former comedian who gets some of the film's best lines, wasn't in Venice to promote the film, but told the production team beforehand that he was intrigued by the idea of shaking up the traditional portrayal of zombies as brain-dead scavengers.
"Here the zombies are real people and they're kind of the same soul and type of person they were before they died. I don't know that I've seen that in a zombie movie," he said.
Shot in only 20 days on a low budget, the flick pays homage to a vast array of B movies and cult favourites -- such as the broken neck scene in "Death Becomes Her" -- and drew big laughs from gore lovers in the Venice audience.