30th Jul2019

‘The Dead Don’t Die’ Review – Second Opinion

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Selena Gomez, Austin Butler, Luka Sabbat, Rosie Perez, Eszter Balint, Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, RZA, Carol Kane, Larry Fessenden, Tom Waits | Written and Directed by Jim Jarmusch


The Dead Don’t Die is the latest feature from director Jim Jarmusch and stars a gigantic cast list of Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Selena Gomez, Tilda Swinton and RZA, to name just a few. The film follows three police officers of Chief Cliff Robertson (Murray), Officer Ronnie Peterson (Driver) and Officer Mindy Morrison (Chloë Sevigny) in the peaceful middle American town of Centerville, of which finds itself and the characters battling an onslaught of a Zombie invasion.

Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die, on a very surface level approach, is equivalent to that of Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead. A sweeping comedic venture into the genre of horror. What differentiates these two features is the underbelly of what the films are trying to showcase. Wright’s comedy is just that – a comedic venture that wants to homage and excite, while Jarmusch’s latest is a total and utter deconstruction of the genre — examining conventional narratives and themes in a persuasively hilarious and insightful matter — not attacking but merely presenting the crux of genre convention in the most obtuse and fabulous of ways in circumstances of a meta-structure — exercising on the nose homages in a satirical approach.

The performances are all relatively restraint, aside from one or two specific roles that are purposely obtuse and outlandish. Driver and Murray, in particular, do not get to stretch their acting chops and showcase their range but put forward wonderfully comedic and charismatic roles. Tilda Swinton is extraordinarily “out there” and injects an abstract, albeit bizarre performance as samurai wielding Zelda Winston, with Chloë Sevigny adding a terrific layer of ridiculous over the top genre convention with her emotionally engulfing pefformance. All individual characters have their specific traits and in a particular set of ideas, almost as if they purposely built to suffice a specific plot device. Contextual decisions from Jarmusch of which are never overly explicit to the extent of why and what is trying to be said via their arcs.

It is somewhat perplexing that Jarmusch, a relatively divine and pure filmmaker who never outstays his independent route of filmmaking, would put himself to the task and evaluate the current state of horror. However, he does so in his atypical folk aesthetic and style, which is delightfully absorbing. The film plays out just as audiences would expect a Jarmusch vehicle to do so, revealing the motives of the feature in small on the nose details and before long literally explicitly stating its intentions.

There is some range of political subtext here that does not go amiss. Brutish red hat-wearing purists, minorities behind bars who far from irreparable criminals, and finally a dose of the weary foreigner. These elements do not engulf the picture whatsoever, as first and foremost this plays as a horror, but they are undoubtedly present to showcase some form of agenda, of which is slightly murky in the context of their directions.

All in all, it just is not clear why Jarmusch has created The Dead Don’t Die in the first place. The film is filled with bright and on the nose analogies and examinations both contextual and subtextual, but to what extent does it serve a purpose on a world stage aiming its sights on horror cinema?

The Dead Don’t Die is on limited release across the UK now.


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