When polar fracking tips the Earth of its axis, the ordinary citizens of quiet Pennsylvanian small town Centerville find that not only are the days getting longer but the dead are rising from their graves craving blood, guts and coffee and it’s up to the town’s police chief (Bill Murray) and his deputies (Adam Driver and Chloë Sevigny), aided by a mysterious sword wielding Scottish mortician (Tilda Swinton, who else?), to put an end to the menace and restore order.

If you’re wondering if you’ll enjoy The Dead Don’t Die, early on Adam Driver’s deputy policeman turns on the car radio and he and police chief Bill Murray listen to the film’s titular theme song, a country track by the metamodern Sturgill Simpson. “Why does this sound familiar?” asks Murray. “Probably because it’s the theme song,” replies Driver. Variations on this joke (and every other joke) are then repeated ad nauseum, the experience akin to being stuck with your Irish brother-in-law on a night out. Don’t worry if you didn’t laugh at his joke the first time because he’s just gonna keep flogging that dead horse until you do. Sure now, that’s the Craic!

What’s that Jim? People are just mindless zombies programmed to consume by Western capitalist society? Yeah, we know. Politicians and the media can’t be trusted? Well, pull me up a chair! And there lies the problem; Jarmusch brings nothing new to the table, he has nothing to say that hasn’t already been said before and really isn’t that interested in saying anything new so instead falls back on lumpen references and too-cool-for-school meta jokes delivered by a cast of indie darlings.

More Yawn Of The Dead than Dawn Of The Dead, Jim Jarmusch puts the dead in deadpan with lifeless zom-com The Dead Don’t Die, a smug, stilted, hipster retread of, well, EVERY SINGLE ZOMBIE MOVIE YOU HAVE EVER SEEN! Just not as good, Jarmusch creating in the process a zombie film that is, well, a zombie itself, simply going through the motions and lacking animation, feeding on the tired, spilled guts of the genre as it boldly goes where George A. Romero already went some four decades or so ago.

And, unforgivably for a zombie flick, the film lacks bite. Zombie films work because the zombies really aren’t that important. Sure, they’re a threat that’s going to eat you but it’s your fellow humans that are the real problem; that racist Southerner that you’re stuck in a cellar with, the small town sheriff leading a search-and-destroy mission, the twitchy soldiers you just know are gonna turn rapey first chance they get, the capitalist pig in their ivory tower who’s trying to figure out how to profit from the apocalypse. Zombie films work because they are about us, they are about society, they are about the lengths we’ll go to in order to survive, the things we’ll do, the heart of darkness that beats in all of us.

But indicting society just isn’t Jim’s bag. Sure Steve Buscemi’s redneck farmer is universally disliked, wears a red MAGA-style hat emblazoned with the far-from-subtle legend “Make America White Again” and bitches about the coffee being too black for him but he’s not actually racist, his only real interaction in the film being a coffee in the diner with Danny Glover’s black hardware store owner. So when he inevitably gets his guts torn out, we take no joy from it. He doesn’t deserve to go that way. And half the fun of a zombie movie is the anticipation and bloody retribution meted out to the local bigots and bullies, the smug authority figures, the hypocrites. Similarly, the hipster teens (led by Selena Gomez) who roll into town and poke gentle fun at Caleb Landry Jones’ town geek don’t deserve their fate either. But it’s also hard to care. Jim doesn’t care about his characters so why should you. They’re just a shallow means to an end, something to briefly distract the audience as the film shambles along as aimlessly as its undead thread.

With its horde of cameos (Iggy Pop and Carol Kane were born to play zombies, news reporter Posie Juarez may be the most significant role Rosie Perez has had in years…), Tom Waits amusingly foul-mouthed hermit, Tilda Swinton chewing the scenery like it’s fresh guts and Adam Driver’s laconic deputy intoning solemnly “This isn’t going to end well,” every chance he gets (and when asked how he knows replying “I read the script.”), The Dead Don’t Die was probably a helluva lot of fun to make. It’s a shame then that it’s not much fun to watch.

If you absolutely must see Bill Murray in a zom-com, just dig out your old copy of Zombieland.

Movie Review: The Dead Don't Die
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