Cannes 2019: The Dead Don’t Die – Review – 3/5

The gap in the market for a quirky indie zombie film had already been long filled by box office hits such as Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Zombieland (2009), of which the later has a squeal coming out this summer. So what made Jim Jarmusch feel the need to release another? Well, for starters The Dead Don’t Die has all the representation of a classic horror film, and the nostalgia of the 1950s. Yet the final product is lacking in plot.

The Dead Don’t Die follows three police members, Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murry), Officer Ronald Peterson (Adam Driver) and Officer Mindy Morrison (Chloe Sevigny). After two women are murdered at the local dinner, the obvious choice for a suspect is a zombie right? A fairly gruesome scene depicts Iggy pop and Sara Driver as the ‘coffee zombies’ in a comedic, but slightly annoying rampage of the dated dinner. In the peaceful suburban town of ‘Centreville’, this is unusual behavior. An addition to the cast, Steve Buscemi plays the outright racist Farmer Miller (with his ‘make America white again hat’ a not so subtle nod to the current political state of the U.S). Buscemi is joined by a trio of naive hipsters, Dean (RZA) Zoe (Selena Gomez) and Jack (Austin Butler). Who all seem to work quite well together. Then there’s Tilda Swinton’s character Zelda.

Zelda a Scottish, martial artist and owner of the local morgue is a complicated mess of a character. Being a huge Swinton fan, this was a disappointing addition to an otherwise quirky set up. At times this script was brilliantly sharp, but the delivery lacked its full potential. The chemistry between Driver and Murry started out as promising, yet it soon became dry and dead.

As for the plot, what the heck was going on? Perhaps this was the intention of Jarmusch. I was thoroughly confused, but it also amused me to witness the oddity of Swinton being taken up in a random spaceship. I think this film is merely watchable for its sudden and strange plot, it was funny at times, and the Grand Theatre Lumiere at the Cannes film festival let me know that.

I’ll admit I had fun watching this film, but there was so many plot holes at the end of it. The plot never seemed to go anywhere, I can’t really see the use of Zelda either. Selena Gomez was a pleasant addition to the film and I’d like to see her doing more independent work as she seems to suit it. Driver by himself had a few Star Wars references that made me smile, as as well Bobby (Caleb Landry Jones) a local gas station and comic book owner, had a few subtle references such as a Nosferatu (1922) T-shirt and nods to iconic movies like Psycho (1960) and Night of the living Dead (1968). I appreciated these cult film additions, and that’s what I think The Dead Don’t Die will become.


My ticket from the screening at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival

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