Black parody absorbs adolescent males as obsessively as facial blemishes on date night and perpetual insecurity about one's, er, romantic equipment.
And even Tom Sawyer found that being dead offers richer appreciation than anyone gets while alive.
So "My Boyfriend's Back" actually has some psychological weight behind it, as the teen-targeted film deals with zits, that other anxiety and, especially, the relative advantages of life vs. death.
Further, director Bob Balaban ("Eerie, Indiana," "Tales From the Darkside") and screenwriter Dean Lorey ("Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday") bring genuine horror genre credits into satirical play.
But even viewers able to get past the disturbing setup of the film's critical plot element will find an uneven mess of under-realized ideas and overdone grotesqueries.
Andrew Lowery plays Johnny Dingle, a high school kid who has had a life-long crush on Missy, played by Traci Lind ("The Handmaid's Tale").
Finally, he has vowed to ask Missy to the senior prom and contrives to impress her by "rescuing" her from a mock holdup in the convenience store at which she works.
Things go wrong, naturally. Johnny takes a real slug to the chest and asks Missy to the prom with his dying breath. So what's a girl to say?
Parody or not, this scene poses the film's worst problem. Too many young people die from handguns to play so lightly with the idea. Reprising the scene fairly gratuitously in the movie's climax adds to the insult, and Johnny's funeral is also played much too tastelessly for laughs.
Regardless, to only the mild surprise of the characters, Johnny's back the next day. He returns home as one of the undead, a cheerful zombie with a blue pallor to his face, a tendency toward decay and the firm intention of keeping his date.
"I didn't think you'd make it," says Missy.
"It's because I'm dead, isn't it? That's why you won't go out with me," answers Johnny.
If he's going to make it to the prom, he discovers (from Cloris Leachman in a bizarre role as the widow of another former zombie) he will have to change his diet -- to human flesh.
And now Missy is finally interested in him. But her macho boyfriend, her father and most of the people in town have a problem with "the dead boy."
There are some laughs. Johnny's teacher sternly says being dead is no excuse for being late to class, and his friend reacts to an unfortunate flesh-eating incident by saying, "You know colleges look at this kind of thing!"
Will boy zombie get girl? Will she bite off his ear again? Will boy return to life?
By this time, viewers may have come to the same conclusion about the movie that Johnny's friend did when he first hears of the phony holdup idea:
"This is desperate and sick."
"My Boyfriend's Back"
Starring Andrew Lowery and Traci Lind
Directed by Bob Balaban
Released by Touchstone Pictures