The Dead Don't Die

The Dead Don't Die ★★★★½

When polar fracking causes a disruption with the Earth's axis of rotation, the quaint rural town of Centerville is besieged by dead people who are rising out of their graves. The three local police officers, played by Bill Murray, Adam Driver, and Chloë Sevigny, step into the fray with shotguns, machetes, and stoicism, while their rather eccentric neighbors face the zombie apocalypse on their own terms.

A farmer, played by Steve Buscemi, who wears a “Make America White Again” hat and makes racist comments toward a hardware store owner, played by Danny Glover, finds that protecting his livestock is the least of his problems. A unique local coroner, played by Tilda Swinton, is given a chance to utilize her samurai sword abilities. A visitor, played by Selena Gomez, realizes that this unassuming country community is not as boring as it seems when she stays at a motel with her travel friends. A mail deliveryman, played by RZA, gets one final chance to share some wisdom with the local gas station owner, played by Caleb Landry Jones. The zombies, portrayed by the likes of Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, and Carol Kane, dive into their buffet of human flesh while also gravitating toward their memories of various household products. Meanwhile, a forest-dwelling hermit, played by Tom Waits, watches the events unfold with an uncanny fascination.

The 2019 deadpan horror comedy, The Dead Don't Die, may try the patience of viewers who are not accustomed to the gloriously laconic storytelling idiosyncrasies of director Jim Jarmusch (Stranger Than Paradise, Down by Law), but I found its self-aware narrative and endless capacity for references to classic cinema to be supremely entertaining. Be on the lookout for nods to George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead, Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, and even the Star Wars franchise. One particular camera shot of a cemetery gravestone with the name, “Samuel M. Fuller”, brought a smile to my face.

Like Romero's iconic 1978 feature, Dawn of the Dead, this offbeat tale throws a few witty jabs at consumerism. The satire is somewhat heavy-handed at times, and it does not always hit the mark, but I nonetheless applaud Jarmusch for putting a refreshing spin on a stale premise.

If you are a fan of Sturgill Simpson's music, then you will get a kick out of his theme song. The characters, all of whom seem to know that they are simply playing parts in a movie, are quick to show their own appreciation for the artist.

This horror outing is not for everyone, but I am giving it high marks simply because I appreciate the notion of the end of the world being narrated by Tom Waits.

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