Cannes Film Festival 2019: Day 1

Opening Film Cannes Premiere – an ubercool satirical, deadpan zombie horror comedy by Jim Jarmusch that never quite comes alive.


by Alexa Dalby

The Dead Don’t Die

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Centreville, a small town in the middle America that consists of main streets and diners, so normal it’s not, suddenly falls prey to a plague of zombies clawing their way out of their grassy graves in the town cemetery. Bill Murray, Adam Driver and Chloe Sevigny are the local cops whose job is to sort this out. Cue much slow-paced deadpan humour and running gags accompanied by Sturgill Simpson’s eponymous country and western twanging.

The cause of the zombie uprising is polar fracking that has tilted the earth off its axis and put everything – night and day, life and death – out of whack.

There’s a huge cast of stars including Tilda Swinton as Zelda, the weird new mortician in town wielding a very professional samurai sword, Steve Buscemi as the unlikeable farmer whose animals are mysteriously disappearing, Danny Glover as the kindly odd-job man, Tom Waits as an extravagantly haired hermit observing it all through binoculars, Iggy Pop as a zombie looking basically like himself, Caleb Landry Jones as a storekeeper movie buff, Selena Gomez as an out-of-town teen, and many others. It looks like it was a hoot to make.

It’s a very self-conscious Jarmuschy slow-building riff on ’50s zombies tropes in a contemporary context. You could, if you like, also take it too as a comment on man-made climate change and the environment, the trashy consumerism that is eating our souls and prevailing contemporary world politics – bringing the rise of violent movements which the decent people of middle America, or middle anywhere, are powerless to stop.

Oh, and it’s the second movie I’ve seen recently with flying saucers (Ash is Purest White), so maybe that’s a thing too.

The Dead Don’t Die premiered as the Opening Film of the Cannes Film Festival 2019.

The Jury.

Join the discussion