By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Smartly written zombie movies often have socially relevant messages to offer through their violence and gore. This can be genuinely said about filmmaker Jim Jarmusch’s foray into the genre. With The Dead Don’t Die, Jarmusch takes on the environmental sins of humanity, though he does so with a slightly heavy hand. Nevertheless, Jarmusch puts a wonderfully comedic spin on the genre that channels his lovable penchant for eccentricity and the unconventional.
In the small, quiet rural town of Centerville, police officers Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) and Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) discover that all is not well in their mostly peaceful town. First of all, the sunset has not occurred at its regularly scheduled time. A local farmer’s animals (Steve Buscemi) are missing, and a bizarre massacre has taken place at the local diner. Apparently, the disruption of the Earth’s rotation is causing some bizarre events, ultimately culminating in the dead rising from their graves and attacking the living.
Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, The Dead Don’t Die doesn’t really come across like anything the filmmaker has previously done. This could be considered either good or possibly bad for Jarmusch. On the positive end of the spectrum, he has made a hilarious zombie comedy. However, at the same time, the movie seems more like the work of his contemporaries (Coen Brothers, Wes Anderson) rather than a work of his own.
Granted, if that’s what Jarmusch intended, then his mission is accomplished. Much like Anderson and the Coens, Jarmusch and his cast offer audiences a comedy-horror flick garnished with deadpan and meta humor. One particular gag does get overplayed, but tbat is the only exception in this otherwise hysterical affair.
Jarmusch has assembled a fantastic assortment of talents, some of whom he has worked with previously. Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, and Iggy Pop, Rza, and Tom Waits all offer either amazing performances or make some rather amusing appearances. As a master comedian and exceptional actor, Bill Murray is perfectly cast as Police Chief Cliff Robertson. Not to be outdone by a veteran actor, Adam Driver is no slouch whatsoever and often steals some of Murray’s thunder as his deputy Ronnie Peterson. However, the real standout of the movie has to be Tilda Swinton who gives an uproariously bizarre turn as local undertaker Zelda Winston, a woman who happens to be quite talented with a samurai sword.
Though this type of humor or film (for that matter) won’t appeal to all audiences, fans of peculiar comedies are sure to enjoy Jim Jarmusch’s entry in the zombie-comedy subgenre. Now that the talented filmmaker has tackled samurais, Westerns, vampires, and now zombies, I am curious what genre he has in mind next. Regardless of what he does next, it is almost certain to be an interesting experience.