There’s been much talk about Jim Jarmusch’s latest flick The Dead Don’t Die. A horror-comedy featuring an incredible cast of Jarmusch regulars and newcomers, the film begins with an interesting premise before slowly drifting to a weird and ultimately unfulfilling ending.
The plot focuses on a group of people in the small town of Centreville, who are dealing with a zombie invasion. Polar fracking has lead to the earth being tilted off its axis, causing all manner of strange things to occur, in particular, the dead returning to life.
At the centre of the zombie apocalypse is Jarmusch favourite Bill Murray as police Chief Cliff Robertson. Murray is deadpan as usual and seemingly playing himself, which is never a bad thing. Investigating a series of gruesome murders, he’s joined by Adam Driver’s Officer Ronald Peterson, who’s surprisingly adept at killing zombies, and Chloe Sevigny’s Officer Minerva Morrison, who slowly loses it as the deaths ramp up.
The trio interact with a collection of interesting townsfolk, including Steve Buscemi’s racist Farmer Miller, Danny Glover’s hardware store owner Hank Thompson, Selena Gomez’s travelling hipster Zoe and Tilda Swinton’s strange mortician Zelda Winston, who’s also handy with a samurai sword.
The film has a somewhat serious tone in the vein of George Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead (1968) but with a sprinkling of humour adding levity to proceedings. Like most Jarmusch films, the script is fairly minimalist with a heavy focus on character, but it fails to really go anywhere after the initial zombie attack. It feels like an excuse for Jarmusch to put some terrific actors together in scenes and that’s about it.
The banter between characters, particular Murray and Driver is fantastic, but it doesn’t often serve the story. There are also a number of self-referential moments throughout the film, particularly in regards to Sturgill Simpson’s “The Dead Don’t Die,” both the title of the film and its theme song. While these moments provide a few laughs, they add nothing to Jarmusch’s story and feel out of place.
Tom Waits’ Hermit Bob provides a commentary on the outbreak during the film as he watches the carnage unfold from the bushes. Through his eyes we see civilisation breaking down, with the film seemingly Jarmusch’s take on the negatives of commercialism and how the baby boomers generation of humans are driving the world to its untimely doom. Or maybe I’m reading too deep into things and this is just a standard zombie flick?
Whatever point he’s trying to make, the film begins to fall flat by the third act. Not even a cameo from Iggy Pop as a coffee-loving zombie can save this one. Despite a witty script and some fantastic acting performances, The Dead Don’t Die is an average zombie flick that fails to live up to the hype.
The Pontiac LeMans driven by Selena Gomez’s character is the exact make and model as the one seen in the prologue of the original Night Of The Living Dead.