The Dead Don’t Die is a classic example of how marketing can abuse the cinema-going public into flocking to the cinema in anticipation of a certain type of movie based on its trailer, only to be completely underwhelmed. Packed with an awesome cast in Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloe Sevigny, Tilda Swinton, Tom Waits, and Danny Glover, to name but a few, we’re led to believe that the film would tap into a beating, bloody pulse, with rampaging zombies and killer comedy lines akin to Shaun of the Dead. In some ways, it felt like “they” were trying to market an independent, off-beat film and project it into mainstream culture to ride the coattails of a genre that is hot property right now. You could argue, that this is the job of a production distributor, and if they are comfortable with pulling in the punters and forego the negative backlash, then so be it. In this humble writers mind, it sets the movie in a bad light and the shadow that this may cast will be forever enveloped in darkness.
Those who are more familiar with director Jim Jarmusch’s work though, may have gone in with a more open mind and curious to see how he would weave a horror-themed element into his minimalist narrative. There’s a reason that big-hitter names are constantly drawn to his style of work as Jarmusch favours character development and eccentricity tends to be brought to the fore among a slow-yet-comedic pace. Movies such as Night on Earth, Dead Man, and Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai resonated with the cinema-going public in search of an alternate view on the celluloid screen. So, I was hopeful that TDDD would pep along and perhaps add something to the genre that would offer something fresh to the mix. Unfortunately the offering is stale and weak in comparison to Jarmusch’s early work and there is nothing new on the slab to satiate fans of the genre. It’s almost ironic that the look and feel of the movie is reminiscent of B-Movie horror films of the 50s, (possibly an area true to Jarmusch’s heart) in that TDDD is trapped in this time and place and feels content to sit in its world, unwilling to conform with modern trends and interests. Similarly, its leads Chief Cliff Robertson (Murray) and Officer Ronnie Peterson (Driver) are stuck in the middle-town sentiments, that they are the rest of the town are doomed to the post-apocalyptic zombie crisis that has fallen on them. In fact, it’s the bumbling hermit (Waits) who is content in living amongst the wild and restless that may outlast and outwit them all, which in of itself poses some interesting questions. Questions that by the films conclusion, most viewers would have lost interest.
The acting was strong and a stand out for me was Caleb Landry Jones (Get Out) as the gas station attendant and is fast becoming an actor to watch, but ultimately there wasn’t enough substance to grip my attention.
For horror fans, this movie is D.O.A.
For Jarmusch fans, it’s full of nods and references, but it isn’t on par with his best movies. One for completists only.
- Saul Muerte