Jarmusch's Zombie Film

Bill Murray, Chloe Sevigny and Adam Driver in Jim Jarmusch’s Zombie film.


The next entry into the Jim Jarmuscch IMDb profile is, “The Dead Don’t Die,” a zombie movie.

Jarmusch has a certain style that one would think would not mesh well with a zombie horror film.

One would be wrong. “The Dead Don’t Die” takes place in the small town of Centerville.

This is a town were suddenly everything is not quite right. The moon looms large in the sky, the hours of daylight are seemingly unpredictable, and the animals are acting unusual. The news reports are scary, and scientists are concerned but no one foresees the strangest and most dangerous repercussions awaiting this small town and the world.

Centerville will see the dead rise from their graves and feast on the living, and the citizens of Centerville must battle to survive.

The two lead actors in “The Dead Don’t Die” are Bill Murrray and Adam Driver. Murray has worked with Jarmusch before on one of Jarmusch’s better films, “Broken Flowers.”

In “The Dead Don’t Die” Murray is a subdued character. The very “wise” character of Chief Cliff Robertson is a very deadpan and dry version of a small town and very life-lorn police officer. He is also the character, out of the lead duo, that tries to sound optimistic as the situation gets worse and is somewhat situationally ignorant as Zombies is not what he thinks is happening.

Murray’s Chief Cliff Robertson is the character all the others look to for answers.

Adam Driver’s Officer Ronnie Peterson is the younger but “knowing” character. The two play off each other and with each other the best of any of the other characters in “The Dead Don’t Die.”

One of the best lines in “The Dead Don’t Die” explains Driver’s character best, at least in relation to Bill Murray’s character and to the film itself. At the beginning of the film, right after the credits, the two police officers are riding in their car.

The song, “The Dead Don’t Die” by Sturgill Simpson plays on the radio. Driver’s character claims to like the song. Murray’s character says the song sounds familiar.

Then Driver’s character says something unexpected, he says “Well, because it is the theme song.” It is in fact the theme song to the film. This is very 2019 and very meta. “The Dead Don’t Die” is a very self-aware and meta film.

Driver’s character is the character who often bears the meta weight during the film, as he is the “knowing” character. My favorite “knowing” parts are when Driver’s character consistently says, “This is going to end badly.” It gets funny and plays out in a beautifully meta way by the end of the film, even as “The Dead Don’t Die” goes off the rails in the end.

There are a few more characters worthwhile in “The Dead Don’t Die.” Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny, and Selena Gomez all make appearances in the film.

The supporting characters range from good to bad.

Officer Mindy Morrison is a constantly the nervous/scared and questioning character.

Chloe Sevigny’s character of Officer Mindy Morrison plays wonderfully as the secondary secondary small town police officer to the main duo. Morrison questions the “knowing” Ronnie Peterson and the “Wise” of Chief Cliff Robertson.

The underwhelming of the supporting cast comes in two ways. Tilda Swinton’s Zelda Winston is an interesting character at first but ultimately feels out of place and does not fit in the film. Zelda Winston and her character arc are also what makes “The Dead Don’t Die” fall off the rails by the end of the film. The arc her character takes just ends up not fitting with the rest of the film.

The second underwhelming character is the one played by Selena Gomez. Gomez plays Zoe, an out-of-towner choosing a bad time to come into town. The Selena Gomez character is engaging in more ways than one. Gomez’s Zoe plays well with every character her character engages with in the film, but her character is not in the film long enough to matter and her character feels like it should matter. This is a mistake.

Jarmusch didn’t make too many mistakes but he did make a few. Those mistakes all add up to incongruities in story and the film itself. There are just too many things that don’t fit and they do not play well with the things that do.

Jarmusch should have stuck with the simple Zombie formula while just adding the meta parts and his humor. The very meta social commentary by the zombies and herds of zombies is one of the best parts of the film.

Zombies are often singularly minded and focused on eating. Jarmusch adds one other thing that his zombies are singularly minded about and focused on. These things are different for different zombies and each added thing that each zombie is singularly minded about is an everyday human experience.

One zombie is looking for candy, another is obsessed with fashion, but my favorite is the one looking for wifi.

Jarmusch is obviously making a comment on society and these are the types of things he should have stayed with because too many things fall off the rails in “The Dead Don’t Die.”

Those things that do fall off the rails all lead to the ending. The ending is wonderful and extremely bad.

“The Dead Don’t Die” turns into this sci-fi channel absurdity as the film takes off from just Zombies and ties in other supernatural things.

Well, “The Dead Don’t Die” does end badly. Maybe, that is exactly how Jarmusch wanted it and with most everything Jarmusch does, you either like it or you don’t.

I don’t see too many audience members being in between.

iRATE SCORE: 2.5/5

Jason Guyer is an avid moviegoer and works in the graphics department at the Eagle Times. For questions or comments he can be emailed at guyerj@eagletimes.com

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