Jim Jarmusch the king of independent American cinema re-invents the zombie movie with THE DEAD DON’T DIE as he did the vampire genre with ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE. THE DEAD DON’T DIE, however, is more of a comedy, the type Jarmusch is better known for, as demonstrated in his earliest works, STRANGER THAN PARADISE and DOWN BY LAW. There are two directors best known for deadpan comedy – Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki and Jim Jarmsuch. The film is arguably Jarmusch’s most ambitious to date, featuring an all-star cast and the film chosen to open the Cannes Film Festival this year in May.
It all starts to happen when the earth tilts out of its axis. “Something weird is going on,” says Centreville Police Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) to his partner, Officer Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) after a hilarious encounter with Hermit Bob (Tom Waits). Ronnie predicts that things do not look good to the very end, a line that the film comes back to several times at different points in the film. That night in Centreville, 2 zombies (Sara Driver and Iggy Pop) suddenly rise from their graves to kill the workers at the local diner. The reason for the earth’s off kilter is attributed, according to news lady Rosie Perez on TV, to fracking by the oil companies. More zombies rise from their graves the following night eating up many of the town’s residents as well as three teens (including Selena Gomez) who meet their death. Director Jarmusch does not skimp on the gory graphics, the corpses with their innards pulled out from their bodies left by the zombies, enough to make anyone throw up including the third police officer, Mindy (Chloe Sevigny). “This will not end well,” repeats Officer Ronnie. “How do you know?” Asks Chief Cliff to which comes perhaps the film’s most unexpected reply.
The film benefits from a superb cast, many of which are Jarmusch’s past collaborators. Adam Driver was in his last film PATERSON, arguably Jarmsuch’s best movie, Tom Waits in DOWN BY LAW and Tilda Swinton who steals the show as a sword yielding mortician of the town, speaking with her strong native Scottish accent. Drive demonstrates his talent for deadpan comedy here, Jarmsuch giving him the best lines. Other well known stars in the cast include Steve Buscemi as Farmer Miller, Danny Glover, RZA, Caleb Landry Jones and Carol Kane.
The film drags a bit running close to a n hour and three quarters. But it is Jarmusch style to let his film play along with long lazy takes that he made famous in STRANGER THAN PARADISE. Nothing much seems to happen except the zombies but that is the pleasure of a Jarmsuch film.
Do not expect THE DEAD DON’T DIE to be a masterpiece. After all, it is a zombie movie – the best thing it can achieve is cult status, as in George Romero’s zombie flicks. But the film is totally amusing aided by solid performances from his all-star cast and some hilarious writing coupled with a bit of parody.