Hipster helmer Jim Jarmusch’s star-studded zom-com is as dry as a newly risen corpse.
We’ve seen enough zombie movies to know that when the dead start walking, the living start running. But in the sleepy rural town of Centreville, USA, the situation is met with surprising indifference by the local cops (Adam Driver and Bill Murray in a delightfully droll double act) and residents.
Or perhaps not so surprising if you’re familiar with Jarmusch’s idiosyncratic output (Dead Man, Only Lovers Left Alive). The somnolent characters – one of the greatest casts ever (dis)assembled for a zombie movie – put the dead into deadpan, ensuring that the film’s one joke lasts the distance.
Joining Driver and Murray are Chloe Sevigny, Steve Buscemi and Danny Glover, but it’s Tilda Swinton’s sword-swinging Scottish mortician that’s alone worth the price of admission. Jarmusch regulars Tom Waits and the already cadaverous Iggy Pop also show up as an observant hobo and caffeinated zombie, respectively.
Jarmusch looks to the films of George A. Romero for inspiration. The opening shot recreates the one from Night of the Living Dead, and his zombies wistfully crave the comforts of the living – in this case coffee, chardonnay and Wi-Fi – just like the shopping mall ghouls from Dawn of the Dead.
He also concocts a cool trigger for the zombie apocalypse – polar fracking has knocked the Earth off its axis – but for the most part is simply content to play with genre tropes. The screenplay does suffer from laziness at times – supporting characters vanish abruptly, and the absurd climax suggests that the characters’ apathy may have rubbed off on Jim.
Fitfully funny and never quite as clever as it thinks it is, The Dead Don’t Die is no Shaun or Dawn but still engages on the strength of its starry cast, sangfroid tone and small town ambience.
In cinemas: September 26, 2019
Starring: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton
Directed by: Jim Jarmusch