Skip to main content

Jim Jarmusch's The Dead Don't Die (2019): A Smart Zombie Meta Movie

Image by Simon Wijers from Pixabay
Strange things are happening in the town of Centerville. A local man named Farmer Frank (wearing a hat that says "Make American White Again") angrily reports that his chickens are missing and that Bob, the local hermit, must be the culprit. The local sheriffs, Chief Cliff Robertson and Officer Ronnie Peterson, are on the case. They don't really think Bob is the guilty party. As the pair investigates the crime, the rest of the town is introduced through various scenes, and everyone has an opinion about what's really going on. As the town come to the realization that the problem is zombies, people choose to hide out, run away, or fight to the death. 

Although that's an accurate description of the plot of this movie, it doesn't quite capture the essence of the film. Don't go in expecting to find your typical zombie movie with heroic characters and "last man standing" scenario. The Dead Don't Die is a zombie film, and at the same time attempts to be a commentary on the tradition of the form as whole. Many of the familiar elements are here. You have the charming small town, and it's many quirky inhabitants. You have the various structures around town, such as the motel, local hardware store, funeral parlor, the juvenile detention center, and the diner. All are visited and used as landmarks to map out the town. Then there are the outsiders who drive in, making fun of people. There's the town hermit, and the resident geek that runs a convenience store with kitschy souvenirs and comic books. The waitress that works at the diner is nice and friendly.

Then there is Zelda Winston, played by Tilda Swinton, who is the best part of this movie, so I won't say too much about her. She is fun, and bizarre. The duo of Robertson and Peterson (Bill Murray and Adam Driver) also have a good rapport and bring much of the humor to the film.

Because this film is funny. Many of the characters play so deadpan that you know they are emulating characters of the past. It's an homage to the zombie flick and also a rejection of the traditional plot.

That all said, I'm not sure it worked for me. I wanted something different out of the movie. There are certain things I want out of a zombie film, and this didn't deliver. Many people will see it, though, and like it. It's clever, it's hip, and it has a stellar cast. This reminded me more of a film like Pulp Fiction, where the characters exist almost apart from the plot itself. In other words, the point is to laugh at these characters, and laugh along with the characters. The film structure is a vehicle for the characters. It's all in good fun. 


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Ali Abassi's Border (2018): A Dark Swedish Fairy Tale

Have you ever felt like you are alone? Like you exist and move around in a community of people that you are nothing like?

Imagine how Tina feels. She works as a highly competent border guard for the sole reason that her sense of smell is extrasensory. She can smell fear, shame, and any negative emotion on people as they cross through her security area, and she is never wrong about her suspicions. Her work career, however, might be the only thing she has going for her.

She lives on the outskirts of town with a boyfriend that owns a pack of dogs, and from all counts, they live together in a loveless domestic arrangement that is hard to imagine either of them conceiving. Things become a little clearer later as we learn that Tina owns the home and the boyfriend is enjoying the luxury of living rent free. Tina appears to have no family except for the man she calls father, who claims to have adopted her.

Tina is unattractive by human standards and is most often seen staring attentively and …

Yes, You Can: Take a Vacation by Yourself

This is part of my Solo Living: Yes You Can series. Click here to find the intro and all the topics. Solo vacationing can be one of the most freeing and relaxing ways to travel. I'm sure you can think of at least one time when you took a trip only to have your getaway ruined by your companion.

I love a good vacation. There's nothing better than taking a few days off to decompress and get away from the stress of life. In my family, even when we didn't have a lot of money, it was considered important to have these little weekends. Sometimes we stayed with a family member. Sometimes, we would drive an hour away to the closest big city and spend a night in the Holiday Inn Holidome (remember those?). We thought that was big stuff. There was an indoor pool and a video game arcade. Sometimes Mom and Dad would go out for dinner, and we three girls would get to order pizza and watch TV ALONE.

It wasn't always easy sharing a hotel room with 5 people, 4 of them being female. We …

Alfonso Cuarón's Roma (2018) A Window into the Life of a Working Class Woman

For every person who keeps their hands clean and smooth from doing heavy duty manual labor, there are people who work thanklessly in the background, making life comfortable for those few. This is the subject of Roma, a film set in Mexico City with original screenplay written in Spanish. Roma takes one of those hardworking people and brings her front and center.

Cleo is the housekeeper of a middle-class family in the 1970s. She cleans the house, cleans the dog poo off the house entrance, brings the family tea, and serves them at mealtime. Cleo comes across as diligent, hardworking, sweet, shy, non-demanding, and loving. The children seem to adore her. She is a constant in their lives, and they treat her as one would expect a person who demands or expects nothing in return. At times, she’s like wallpaper. Other times, they are affectionate with her and desire her attention.

There isn’t much plot to this movie. Cleo does have some romantic adventures and deals with an unexpected pregn…