Thursday, January 21, 2021

#2,528. The Dead Don't Die (2019)

The 2019 zom-com The Dead Don’t Die strikes the perfect balance between a genre outing and a Jim Jarmusch film, and I had a great time watching it!

The normally quiet town of Centerville is thrown into chaos when the dead start rising from their graves. Police Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) and his deputies Ronnie (Adam Driver) and Mindy (Chloe Sevigny) do what they can to protect their town, but it’s Zelda Winston (Tilda Swinton), Centerville’s very strange funeral director, who might ultimately prove most useful in defeating the zombie horde.

The Dead Don’t Die gives us the macabre and the quirky in equal measure. The characters, played by such Jarmusch regulars as Murray, Driver, Tom Waits (as Hermit Bob, a vagrant who patrols the nearby woods), and a few others are always interesting, and that little trait that the director gives his zombies - each one uttering a single word that encapsulates what we assume was most important to them while they were alive - was a nice touch (the first two zombies, played by Iggy Pop and Sara Driver, can only say “coffee”, which might explain why they attacked the local diner). All of the citizens of Centerville are a little bizarre, but none more so than Tilda Swinton’s Scottish undertaker, and I loved where they ultimately went with her character.

Headshots and all, The Dead Don’t Die is still very much a Jim Jarmusch film; the morning after the attack at the diner, Chief Robertson is called to the scene, where he makes the gruesome discovery. Before long, both of his deputies also turn up and walk into the diner - one by one - to see the carnage for themselves. In most other films, we’d only see the mutilated corpses when Chief Robertson arrived, then the faces of Donnie and Wendy after the fact, when they walked back out. But Jarmusch spends time with his characters, and follows each one inside to give us their initial reactions to the bloody mess in front of them (by doing so, we, the audience, see the gory outcome of the undead attack three separate times).

But The Dead Don’t Die is a zombie flick as well, with all the high drama and dread that goes hand-in-hand with the subgenre (in one very intense scene, Chief Robertson is finishing off as many of the walking dead as he can when he happens upon a zombie who used to be a good friend).

I really enjoyed The Dead Don’t Die, so much so that I’d now rank it right up there with Mystery Train and Dead Man as one of my favorite Jim Jarmusch films.
Rating: 9 out of 10 (see it immediately!)

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