The Dead Don't Die

The Dead Don't Die ★★★½

This is surprisingly... amusing? I like how low-key meta it is. There are loads of inside jokes and movie references but it doesn’t twist your arm into acknowledging them. They’re more like background music. It knows what kind of movie it is, and it’s playful with our perception of those actors, haphazardly breaking the fourth wall here and there, in a rather loose manner not so unlike those conversations in Coffee and Cigarettes. It knows we secretly think Tilda Swinton is an alien impersonating a celebrity in real life, so it makes her one. It’s a zombie movie, and it knows Bill Murray and 53 other celebrities are in it, but like, whatever. 

It’s singularly Jarmusch, if not second rate Jarmusch, but I’m not crazy about the argument that this isn’t a zombie movie but a Jarmusch film with zombies, which I think is absurd and reeks of fandom gatekeeping. Sure, Jarmusch‘s deadpan humor isn’t for everyone but this is a zombie movie all right, and somewhat unique at that, what with the climate change subtext. The sequence of animals retreating into the woods before the shit hits the fan feels like a cliche, but I don’t think it’s been done before in a zombie movie. It’s also pretty funny, the droll dialogue and the cops investigating the diner murder scene being highlights. But again I like cilantro in my cereal. 

One of my favorite zombie movie elements is when they gradually realize zombies actually exist; the more gradual and more detailed the better. Two of my favorite examples are in the more recent remakes, Dawn of the Dead and The Crazies. Nothing really sets the tone for the rest of the movie like a strong opening scene attacking the American way of life. But I also like those slow takes, and this takes the time for the small town citizens of Centerville to face the music. This is where it shines most. 

But I get why this rubbed many people the wrong way. What the fuck is up with Hermit Bob’s preachy narrations and zombies being the most hackneyed metaphor for addiction? Is Jim talking down to us, or what? Tbh I was having too good a time to be pissed off. In his defense, it could also be that he’s being glib about zombie movies routinely providing social commentary. I mean, “Coffee! Coffee!” If that isn’t making fun of those serious zombie movies, then Jim should join the undead. 

At least he will be looking so bonny.

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