The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

Jim Jarmusch puts the dead into deadpan as zombies threaten small-town America in The Dead Don’t Die.

Dead Funny?

by Alexa Dalby

The Dead Don’t Die

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Centreville, a sleepy 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 more of a hoot to make than it is to watch.

It’s a very self-conscious Jarmuschy slow-building, not wholly successful 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. That’s more terrifying than a graveyard full of zombies.

The Dead Don’t Die premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and is released on 12 July 2019 in the UK.

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