Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Review: Excellent "The Dead Don't Die" Recalls George Romero "Dead" Movies

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 24 (of 2020) by Leroy Douresseaux

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

The Dead Don't Die (2019)
Running time:  104 minutes (1 hour, 44 minutes)
MPAA – R for zombie violence/gore, and for language
PRODUCERS:  Joshua Astrachan and Carter Logan
EDITOR:  Affonso Gonçalves


Starring:  Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny,Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Selena Gomez, Austin Butler, Luka Sabbat, Rosie Perez, Iggy Pop, RZA, Carol Kane, Maya Delmont, Taliyah Whitaker,Jahi Winston, and Tom Waits

The Dead Don't Die is a 2019 zombie horror-comedy film from writer-director Jim Jarmusch.  The film features an ensemble cast and is set in the peaceful town of Centerville, which finds itself beset by a zombie horde after the recently dead start rising from their graves.

The Dead Don't Die opens in the town of Centerville, which has the motto, “A Real Nice Place,” emblazoned upon its welcome sign.  Strange things have been happening in the town, or so say Centerville Police Department Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) and Officer Ronald “Ronnie” Peterson (Adam Driver).  After answering a complaint one evening, these officers of the law notice that its 8 PM in the evening and it is still daylight.  Ronnie discovers that his watch and cell phone have stopped working.

There are news reports about pets behaving strangely, and Centerville's Farmer Miller (Steve Buscemi) has learned that his farm animals have disappeared.  According to a young inmate at a local juvenile facility, “polar fracking” has altered the Earth's rotation.  And the song, “The Dead Don't Die,” by country singer-songwriter, Sturgill Simpson, is always playing somewhere in town.  When night finally falls, the dead start to rise from their graves.  By the second evening, Centerville is experiencing a full-on zombie invasion, and, as Officer Ronnie already knows, all this will “end badly.”

I choose to interpret The Dead Don't Die as a remake and re-imagining of the classic 1968 horror movie, Night of the Living Dead, the forerunner of the modern zombie movie.  That film was co-written and directed by the late George A. Romero, the forefather of what is now known as the zombie apocalypse horror genre.  Obviously using Night of the Living Dead as a blueprint and using the cinematic language that Romero invented, writer-director Jim Jarmusch offers a deadpan ode to the seminal zombie movie.

In The Dead Don't Die, Jarmusch certainly has a better cast and better production resources than Romero had for Night of the Living Dead.  What Jarmusch maintains from the original film is its social commentary and satire and black humor, although Jarmusch gives his black comedy a spin of dry wit.  Jarmusch also breaks the fourth wall and throws in some out-of-this-world B-movie silliness, via the always brilliantly on-point Tilda Swinton as Centerville's newest resident, the Scottish mortician, Zelda Winston.  Swinton's short time on the screen alone is reason to see The Dead Don't Die.

Everyone in this delightfully diverse and eclectic ensemble cast makes the most of his or her onscreen time.  Some movie critics and reviewers have criticized The Dead Don't Die for being too dry and too deadpan.  Quite the contrary, I say.  I believe that this film's “dry” tone is a commentary on humanity's inescapable dark fate, the result of our childish desire for too many things that we really don't need.  Our hubris when it comes to the way we deal with the natural world and the natural order, and the insatiable greed that can never fill the hole in our metaphorical hearts could bring us a fate worse than death.  That is why I think that The Dead Don't Die is the smartest and purest zombie film since Romero's first three “Dead” films.

8 of 10

Saturday, October 31, 2020

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