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The Dead Don’t Die

Year: 2019
Production Co: Animal Kingdom
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Writer: Jim Jarmusch
Cast: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloë Sevigny, Tom Waits, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Tilda Swinton, Caleb Landry Jones, RZA, Rosie Perez, Carol Kane, Iggy Pop, Selena Gomez

The idea of Jim Jarmusch doing a zombie comedy would ordinarily be enough to send indie film fans into an apoplexy of excitement. Unfortunately, it apparently wasn't enough to do the same for stars Bill Murray or Adam Driver or apparently Jarmusch himself.

You wouldn't expect action on a par with Michael Bay or Zack Snyder or gore from the likes of Takashi Miike or The Evil Dead coming from Jarmusch, but it's staggering just how inert the whole thing is, all the energy sucked out of it like a dead body letting go of its final breath.

There's a global catastrophe going on as the Earth's rotation is apparently slowing down, days and night consequently much longer. In the small rural town of Centerville, however, the problems of the world couldn't seem further away to police chief Cliff (Murray) and young deputy Ronnie (Driver).

That is until the dead start rising from the grave to attack and devour the living. Cliff, Ronnie and their colleagues all take the zombie apocalypse amusingly in their stride, few of them breaking a sweat or even raising a voice above country-bumpkin-cops-in-small-town level.

In another movie the deadpan nature of the characters and script would be a point of comic tension in the middle of a splatter horror subject like the zombies apocalypse. But here it all comes across as leaden, nobody interested in being there and leaving you to wonder why you should be.

Like the town's Scottish, samurai-inspired mortician (Tilda Swinton), Jarmusch has also written and included a few completely oddball and quirky characters and elements to tack onto the edges of it, as if he had to fill the running time (or whatever quota of weird hallmarks Jarmusch sets himself) with something.

Ordinarily, as a director of films that have something to say, you'd also expect Jarmusch to have a metaphor or subtext in all this dead air. The first one, of Earth's strange behaviour being a result of climate change, is ham fisted. The second, of the zombies as stand-in for mindless consumption, mumbling about things they loved in life ('coffee, coffee' and 'wi-fi, wi-fi') was done far more elegantly decades ago by George Romero in Dawn of the Dead.

There's also a completely bizarre fourth wall break motif where Ronnie, who's been saying how badly it's all going to end throughout the movie, reveals that he knows as much because he's read the script (yes, of the movie you're watching), Cliff then marginally pissed off because Jarmusch has only furnished him with scenes he's in. What it's supposed to do apart from jarringly remind you you're watching an indie drama director trying to make a smart horror movie is an utter mystery.

As for the story – there isn't one. Zombies attack and the characters run around town trying to deal with it, none of them raising an eyebrow at bodies torn to shreds on the floor of the local diner or sitting trapped in their car in a field, besieged by growling living dead. It won't be enough to make you raise a single gaps or laugh either, let alone an eyebrow. Avoid it like the dead.

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