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Review: The Dead Don’t Die – “Awkwardly charming and effortlessly cool”

Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch (Paterson), The Dead Don’t Die stars Bill Murray (Lost in Translation), Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Last Jedi), Tom Waits (Seven Psychopaths), Chloe Sevigny (Boys Don’t Cry), Tilda Swinton (Doctor Strange) and Selena Gomez (Springbreakers).

Polar fracking has thrown the Earth slightly off its axis resulting in longer days, a purple moon AND THE DEAD RISING FROM THEIR GRAVES TO DEVOUR HUMAN FLESH. While the authorities and the frackers insist everything is OK the residents of small-town, USA — a.k.a. Centerville — are plunged into a zombie apocalypse. But being an indie auteur Jim Jarmusch film the take on the material is a little completely different from what we’ve seen before.

Murray heads up the cast as a Sheriff who has an extremely louche approach to police work at the best of times, and even with Driver’s deputy — who is so attuned he can even see through the film’s fourth wall — insisting that things “will end badly” unless they “kill the head” of all the ghouls, he is still reluctant to take action.

This wait until the final minutes for ACTION will no doubt be agonising for fans of the typical “zombie movie”, and anyone going into this one wanting to scratch their gore guts and braaiins itch is in for an infuriating time. BUT the half-awake “Geez, aw-shucks” attitude to the horror sub-genre will constantly tickle Jarmusch’s fans.

It feels like JJ hasn’t actually seen a zombie film since the frequently name-checked Night of the Living Dead as there is not really anything new here content-wise and the beaten into the ground joke about the zombies wanting what they did when they were alive (“Chardonnay”, “coffee” hahahahahahahaha) was, you know, done forty-one years ago in the sequel to that movie.

Talking of beaten into the ground jokes, well, they all are, really. The Sturgill Simpson theme song is referenced in every scene and quips are repeated so many times that they transcend being annoying. And that’s why IN SPITE OF EVERYTHING, as eye-rolling as it constantly is, The Dead Don’t Die is still somehow cool. It’s actually a film that succeeds purely on its attitude.

That killer cast ARE HAVING FUN, and watching them riff and stumble and goof through a zombie uprising that they and maybe the maker doesn’t seem too concerned about is awkwardly charming and effortlessly cool. There is no sense of threat or danger to the level where The Dead Don’t Die is actually oddly relaxing and an anti-zombie movie zombie movie.
In fact, The Dead Don’t Die is just a deadpan hang out film with a cracking cast having a whale of a time confounding expectations and just moseying along just like chilling and killing or whatever, man

The Dead Don’t Die is released in the UK on the 12th of July.

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