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  Dead Don't Die, The He's Dead, Jim
Year: 2019
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Stars: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Tom Waits, Steve Buscemi, Larry Fessenden, Selina Gomez, RZA, Eszter Balint, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Austin Butler, Rosie Perez, Carol Kane, Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, Luka Sabbat, Rosal Colon
Genre: Horror, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: Smalltown cops Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) and Officer Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) are called out after a report of a stolen chicken from intolerant farmer Frank Miller (Steve Buscemi), but while they are sceptical the supposed culprit, Hermit Bob (Tom Waits), had anything to do with it, they find themselves shot at by him nonetheless. Robertson is an easygoing sort so uses his discretion to back away and leave Bob be, but on the drive back to the station, both cops notice something strange going on with the light - shouldn't it be getting dark by now? And why have their watches stopped? Could it be something to do with the polar fracking that has been going on?

The Dead Don't Die was a zombie movie with a difference, the difference being that not only were there the undead shambling across the screen (well, eventually), but the whole shebang appeared to have been written and directed by a zombie too. It wasn't, it was the brainchild of cult favourite Jim Jarmusch, but you could not envisage him winning many more fans when the general reaction to this was hostility, probably because it was the film of his with the widest release, away from the arthouses that were his usual stamping ground. So fans of popstrel Selena Gomez were likely to emerge from this very angry indeed, if they actually got to the end and did not give up on it.

There was certainly someone for everyone in the cast, Tilda Swinton returning to the Jarmusch fold after reportedly giving him the idea to make this while they were on the set of his other horror flick, Only Lovers Left Alive. That had been one of his best works, as the louche vampire lifestyle lent itself well to his particular brand of ennui and nothing much happening, yet curiously, although the lack of engagement with the world that a zombie displays sounded like another perfect match, there was a lot that did not chime here. It could be that no matter how slowly the flesheaters moved, a sense of urgency was always present in the air, since characters had to make the most of their limited time.

Here, however, urgency was the last thing on anyone's mind, especially as the two lead cops (named after a movie actor and a racing driver - is that a joke too?) are well aware they are in a movie and subsequently giving the impression of going through the motions in a genre outing, not because they did not like their director, but because it was apt for the deadpan, aloof technique of him at his least loveable. With circumstances getting so meta that the story was littered with references to George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead, you might anticipate a commentary on horror stylings, but the only commentary was a warmed-over set of observations that owed much to Dawn of the Dead, though had been handled a lot more snappily in Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead, which was more or less the reason this spoof existed in the first place anyway.

Not that Jarmusch could not be funny, he was a very witty man and plenty in his offbeat indies showed that off to great satisfaction, it was more that zombies forced him to be specific about things that were more amusing when left to the audience to pick up on. Pointed satire was not really his forte, and if the celebrities had been lining up for the cool by association opportunities show up in one of his projects, well that was a knife that cut both ways, and here it seemed more that The Dead Don't Die was being bolstered by the star wattage he had amassed. As the starry cast were cut down once zombified, and some of them barely had a cough and a spit before that happened, a general feeling of the pointlessness of existence made itself plain, where nothing mattered, not politics, not love, not fame, not compassion, not movie memorabilia, not anything, if we were all headed for the grave. Oddly, what this resembled was an item not often credited in zombie canon: Plan 9 from Outer Space. Only maybe not as funny. Music by Squrl.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Jim Jarmusch  (1953 - )

American writer-director of laconic, wryly observed dramas on a low budget. Deliberately boring films like Permanent Vacation and Stranger Than Paradise got him noticed, which led to the great Down By Law and episodic Mystery Train and Night on Earth. Then came his western, Dead Man, and his thriller, Ghost Dog, both in his highly individual manner.

Talk piece Coffee and Cigarettes was filmed over many years and saw a return to his episodic style, while 2005's reflective drama Broken Flowers was specifically written for star Bill Murray, who showed up in starry but inscrutable hitman drama The Limits of Control. Next was his first horror movie, Only Lovers Left Alive widely regarded as a late return to form. Paterson was a drama about a bus-driving poet, again acclaimed, but his return to horror with zombie flick The Dead Don't Die was widely bashed. Also appears in quirky cameo roles: eg. Leningrad Cowboys Go America, In the Soup and Blue in the Face.

 
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