The Dead Don’t Die (2019)
The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

Genre: Horror Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 43 min.

Release Date: June 14th, 2019 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Jim Jarmusch Actors: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloe Sevigny, Tilda Swinton, Tom Waits, Caleb Landry Jones, Danny Glover, Steve Buscemi, Selena Gomez, Rosie Perez

 


 

W

hile police chief Clifford Robertson (Bill Murray) and officer Ronald Peterson (Adam Driver) patrol their sleepy town of Centerville, the duo begin noticing several strange occurrences. Missing animals, nonfunctioning cell phones, and overlong daylight hours portend the dead rising from their graves to feast on the living. As zombies begin prowling the streets looking for prey, Cliff, Ronnie, and a ragtag band of survivors, including panicky policewoman Minerva “Mindy” Morrison (Chloe Sevigny), pop culture-obsessed gas station attendant Bobby Wiggins (Caleb Landry Jones), and piercingly-visaged undertaker Zelda Winston (Tilda Swinton), attempt to navigate the increasingly dangerous city to find safety.

At the start, a serious situation with Hermit Bob (Tom Waits), who brazenly shoots at two police officers, is just one of those small town routines that fails to inspire constabular action. And with Bill Murray involved, it’s difficult not to be put at ease – perhaps even calmed by his mere presence. If Murray can shrug off danger, why can’t the audience? The country theme song  (by Sturgill Simpson, advertised so many times it would seem this film is hoping to promote sales of it) that follows further cements the notion of unruffled dispositions; surely this film will be more of a comedy than a horror thriller.

“Something weird’s going on. This isn’t gonna end well.” Writer/director Jim Jarmusch’s signature slowness and artsy fourth-wall-breaking gimmicks are quick to intervene, joined by his usual attention to conversations, as if commonplace mundanity might suddenly transform into something shocking. Here, a polar fracking exposition sardonically warns not to trust scientists as total planetary destruction looms. This is soon joined by a skewering of consumerism, as if Jarmusch wishes to reiterate an oft-discussed, underlying theme from “Dawn of the Dead.” But while Romero’s picture provided understated commentary, “The Dead Don’t Die” pummels the concept into viewer’s skulls so repetitiously it’s as if they’re under a zombie attack of their own. And before the metaphorical components get underway, the lead-in to the actual undead mayhem is incredibly lengthy; nearly 30 minutes pass before a corpse quivers with re-animated life.

Problematically, the film isn’t focused on comedy, nor horror, nor much of anything at all, save for the environmental violations by humanity that are so deserving of a hyperbolic revenge by Mother Nature. “The Dead Don’t Die” spends a majority of its running time introducing characters – so many, in fact, that just when viewers might believe there can’t be any more room for additional roles, another trio enters the frame. The repetition is exhausting and none of it is terribly unique; even when Swinton’s eerily-eyed, peculiarly-accented, samurai-sword-wielding mortician behaves like an extraterrestrial, it’s hardly surprising. Jarmusch seems to revel in weirdness for the sake of weirdness, frequently disrupting the film’s flow for an uninspired, repeated joke on how the unfolding events are just a mere work of fiction, barely residing in the structure of a motion picture.

A distinct wryness does permeate the dialogue, but it’s not enough to sway the film away from its lack of fresh content, its ham-handed approach to both comedy and horror, and its unimaginable dullness. It’s been a long time since someone crafted a boring zombie movie, but this production can be aptly summed up as such. A few yucks (wastefully devoid of humor and never taken far enough for competent scares), Iggy Pop as a zombie (a figure who practically needs no makeup to play the part), and Murray attempting to recite his humdrum lines with a glimmer of sincerity can’t boost the film into a state beyond that of extraordinarily dull. Jarmusch’s direction is all about mediocre oddness, not subtle eccentricity or extreme bizarreness. His failure to commit to one end of the spectrum or the other places this feeble work squarely into the realm of disappointing monotony.

– The Massie Twins

  • 2/10