The Dead Don't Die | Third Space

The Dead Don't Die

Tue 10 Mar 2020
Is this a zombie film or a comedy?

2 out of 5 stars

Over the past few decades, people have been getting ready for the zombie apocalypse, but the reality is that the invasion has already occurred. Zombies continue to dominate film, television and literature and their attack does not seem to be slowing down. The undead influence has invaded multiple genres despite finding their history in horror. In the same tradition of Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead, director Jim Jarmusch has reanimated these creatures in his latest dark comedy.

Centreville is a small farm community in middle America where bizarre things are happening to the locals. Police Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) and deputy Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) have to go through and respond to various calls relating to missing animals, unexplained deaths and inexplicable issues with the earth coming off its axis. While over at the local diner, the hardware store owner Hank Thompson (Danny Glover) and Farmer Frank Miller (Steve Buscemi) discuss the latest radio update. The announcer talks about how polar fracking is causing unexplained phenomena across the globe. Everyone in the small community begins to notice the effect of these bizarre accounts and then when two citizens are attacked by zombies, things quickly go from strange to freaky.

The two police officers regroup back at the local police station and work out a plan with a fellow officer, Mindy Morrison (Chloë Sevigny) and Zelda Winston (Tilda Swinton), the funeral parlour owner and newest member of the community. With Sturgill Simpson’s “The Dead Don’t Die” playing on the radio, the team work through the streets of Centerville trying to assist any of the remaining survivors and figure out what to do next. As the law enforcement agents attempt to calm the nerves of the public and address their own fears, Ronnie shares his tagline for the film, “This isn’t going to end well.”

Jim Jarmusch’s intention seems to be to capitalise on the comedic stylings of his talented cast to create a classic dark comedy. The difficulty proves to be found in the execution which is a challenge that is too big for the cast and crew. The deadpan delivery of each actor’s performance may evoke uneasy laughter from the audience initially, but after a while the joke falls flat. Fans of the eccentric director will recognise that the majority of his cast were included in his unique filmography. Which should lead to great chemistry in the film, but it feels like he pulled in a bunch of favours without a completed script.

Bill Murray and Adam Driver did have great chemistry and the apprentice seemed to be learning from the master of the stoic delivery. Early on in the film their interactions with one another and the stellar cast provide some comedic gold, but like the Sturgill Simpson song, things wear thin as the story continues. With the extensive ensemble cast, every character who seems to provide something worth adding to the story is killed or merely disappears from existence.

The disjointed nature of the screenplay was not helped by the statements on the environment and materialism. Inclusions that will cause zombie-like groans from the audience, because the apparent disconnect it generates from the overall story. The Dead Don’t Die becomes a series of short vignettes that are pieced together in a manner that resembles Frankenstein’s monster as opposed to a groundbreaking comedy.

REEL DIALOGUE: What does it mean to be human?

It is the existential question that has plagued philosophers, theologians and university professors for centuries. The zombie genre brings forward this concept violently and uncomfortably. The Bible states that we are made in the image of God, which means that God has a special place for us. So, what is the consideration for the definition of what it is to be human?

Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:31

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