The Dead Don't Die (2019)

director: Jim Jarmusch
release-year: 2019
genres: horror, comedy
countries: USA
languages: English

I had absolutely no idea that Jim Jarmusch made a new film. And a zombie film, at that. And starring a hundred extremely famous people, at that. I feel like this is more on their marketing team than on me. A now-quite-old Bill Murray opens the film with a slow, disinterested, deadpan comedy routine while Adam Driver watches the show. The credits list a hundred famous people, then Bill and Adam disinterestedly drive around slowly, disinterestedly talking slowly. This must be a "slow zombie" film. If they're fast zombies, Bill isn't going to survive 10 seconds.

The world would be a better place if all cops were Bill Murray.

And then it just… keeps being slow and disinterested. It's not just Bill and Adam, the whole cast seems like they don't want to be here. The radio is disinterested. The news shows are disinterested. Steve Buscemi breaks out of disinterest to show some mild annoyance, and that's the biggest emotion of the first half hour.

He's not even interested enough to commit to the racism.

The environment is, more or less, Twin Peaks if it took place in Ohio. Sleepy, small-town America with its sleepy, small-town police station and its sleepy, small-town roadside diner. Actually, I'm pretty sure it's Pennsylvania since they keep making George Romero references.

No cherry pie, though.

Its thing seems to be foreshadowing. But like… pointedly. Slowly, repeatedly, obviously. It would be banging the foreshadowing over your head, but it's much too disinterested to bang. It's more of an annoying prodding.

I don't think things are going to end well.

The guy from Brandon Cronenberg's Antiviral is the sleepy, small-town gas station / comic book store clerk. He's pals with RZA, the UPS delivery dude. Oddly enough, he's probably the best at deadpan delivery, or at least tied with Murray. Everyone calls him Frodo, because they were probably watching Archer. Some little cartoon stars light up around Selena Gomez's head when she smiles at Frodo.

He's much better in this than in Antiviral.

Between scenes, Tom Waits wanders around in the woods looking at things with binoculars and mumbling.

There is no risk of Tom Waits being explained.

In classic horror movie style, a hand breaks out of the soil near a gravestone. Iggy Pop slowly and disinterestedly emerges from the ground. He slowly and disinterestedly feeds on the staff of the sleepy diner. They aren't fast zombies, but they are strong and decisive. This town is doomed. They don't eat the brains, but mortally wound the staff and then drink a couple of pots of coffee.

The lighting isn't particularly great.

Danny Glover slowly, though unusually interestedly, describes the situation to Bill Murray, who remains entirely disinterested. Adam Driver shows up in the most interesting little electric Smart car, though he himself remains uninteresting and disinterested. He repeats exactly what Danny Glover said. Danny Glover says, "that's exactly what I said." Chloë Sevignignignigny shows up to repeat the same thing that Danny Glover said.

They think it was an animal.  Or a pack of animals.

Adam Driver skips all of the shenanigans and just says, "I'm thinking zombies." They head to the graveyard, Bill Murray says "so what exactly are we looking for, zombies?", and then he falls into an empty zombie grave. They're both pretty disinterested, regardless. Tom Waits is following them with binoculars, and is getting slightly more interested than dis-. Adam Driver is well-versed in how to kill zombies, as is Frodo, because this is a universe in which people have seen movies before. They go around the town collecting weapons and nonchalantly informing the citizenry to watch out for zombies. The zombies turn out to be highly bullet resistant, and removing human heads turns out to be rather challenging. Nobody is even slightly interested in these developments except Chloë, who is briefly perturbed.

Bullet resistance does not stop Bill from firing.

Tilda Swinton cosplays as Legolas and studies the blade. Slowly and disinterestedly, mind you, while the disinterested steel guitar in the background twangs slowly out of tune. She has a Scottish accent, speaks like she learned how to human from a book, and looks like a vampire suffering from insomnia. Tilda works in the local mortuary, which is unfortunate during a zombie uprising, but she has been studying the blade so she is fine.

One of those statements turns out to be true.

Ghost Dog is slow, and Ghost Dog is great. Dead Man is slower, and Dead Man is greater. This film is just slow. The juxtaposition between the exciting, supernatural, world-ending happenings and the total lack of reaction from the townspeople is pretty much its whole thing, which is a fine juxtaposition indeed, but does not carry an entire feature-length film on its own. The performances of all of these great actors are neutered by the fact that they aren't permitted to react to anything; ultimately, everyone basically plays the same character aside from Samurai Swinton.

Best actor goes to Guy From Antiviral

It could all be a very clever homage to Night of the Living Dead, the only zombie film slower and more boring than this one. Chloë's absolute uselessness matches NotLD's sexist stereotypes, but I don't know where Samurai Swinton or muttering old Tom Waits comes in.

But there are certainly plenty of Romero references.

It descends suddenly into self-referential metamodernism and implodes on itself in a scene that will be copied several years later in Wes Anderson's Asteroid City. Tilda pisses off back to Scotland via express transport, and slow zombies stagger aimlessly across a field and disinterestedly finish off the town. Adam Driver will be back in 3 years to star in yet another deadpan apocalyptic comedy that will flop spectacularly at the box office.

Beam me up, Scotty.