2019, Movies

The Dead Don’t Die (2019,Jim Jarmusch)

This is a deliberately-paced, usually mildly amusing but occasionally laugh-out-loud funny zombie movie tribute film. To call it something other than a tribute film feels weird to me, because it feels like Jarmusch is more concerned with layering references – and possibly making some vague statement about consumption and climate change – than he is with telling a story.

This is a deliberately-paced film, as every Jarmusch film is. You might call it laconic. The humour is mostly mild and sporadic but there are a few moments where I laughed quite hard. You can spend the entire film playing “spot the reference” especially if you’ve seen Night of the Living Dead recently (or Zombieland). The whole social comment of Dawn of the Dead is laid on pretty damn thick, too.

The film doesn’t look great. I don’t know what he used to film it but the picture is noticeably not very sharp compared to most films I’ve watched on this today. Also the CGI is awful a lot the time, especially with the birds. I understand Jarmusch likes to make simple movies but you gotta think someone with his reputation could find someone to help him afford some better quality CGI (and whatever is wrong with the digital cameras).

I’m not sure what Jarmusch is up to here, beyond a film-length tribute to a horror movie he grew up with. The film isn’t funny enough to make up for its lack of plot. And Jarmusch goes meta with the humour, but only between Murray and Driver and only occasionally. Those gags would be better if they were consistent.

There is also a subplot (barely) that doesn’t seem to be necessary and doesn’t add much to the film beyond some set pieces. It’s hard to know why it’s there.

Some people have read some kind of climate change allegory into this. Maybe it’s there but I’m not sure the film is intelligent enough for anyone to worry about that.


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