Film review: ‘THE DEAD DON’T DIE’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

The Dead Don’t Die is indie film darling Jim Jarmusch’s typically idiosyncratic take on the zombie movie. With a phenomenal cast that includes Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Steve Buscemi, Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny, Iggy pop and Tom Waits this should have been a riot.   While it has a few gruesome horror moments and flickers of humour, it rarely works as a genre film or genre parody.

The film sees a series of strange circumstances infect the quiet nowhere town of Centreville. Farm animals are disappearing and daylight hours have gone haywire with the sun still shining at 10pm. It all seems to be connected to a global environmental catastrophe but events take a weirder turn when the undead start bursting from their graves to munch on the living.

Jarmusch almost makes some pertinent political observations about contemporary America here. With a town named Centreville as his battleground he seems to allude to the ideological war raging in the heartland under the current POTUS. The fact that events are tied-up with a human-caused environmental disaster and that one character wears a ‘Make America White Again’ cap leaves us in no doubt as to Jarmusch’s political intentions. The zombies aren’t the metaphor for mindless consumers we saw in some of the ‘Living Dead’ films, instead they’re a slightly clunky analogue of a society that wanders around glued to their phones ignoring issues like climate change.

Unfortunately, after setting the scene, Jarmusch forgets politics and lapses into his familiar enervated quirkiness as characters with blank facial expressions emit a string of droll comments. Very little of this is funny and the film moves about as fast as a member of the undead. What was presumably meant to be the film’s comic highlight, the deadpan banter between police officers Bill Murray and Adam Driver falls flat, their conversations aren’t just dry they’re dehydrated.

Jarmusch simply doesn’t use the cast to their full potential and none of them have much impact. Tom Waits, who looks like a cross between the late great Roky Erickson and Sasquatch here simply hobbles around in the forest grumbling to himself. The only performer making any sort of impression is Tilda Swinton in a weird turn as a Samurai sword-wielding Scottish mortician. It just seems like Jarmusch decided it would be a bit of a lark to assemble some movie buddies and make a slap-up zombie flick.

The Dead Don’t Die is a disappointment that sails close to being a dud.

Nick’s rating: **

Genre: Horror/ comedy.

Classification: MA15+.

Director(s): Jim Jarmusch.

Release date: 26th Sep 2019.

Running time: 103 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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