The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

The Dead Don’t Die. Directed by: Jim Jarmusch. Starring: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloë Sevigny. Runtime: 1h 44 min. Released: June 14, 2019.

My reviews usually contain spoilers so you’ve been warned about that. However, here, I don’t really talk about a lot of the major plot points because nothing really happens. 

This is the first Jim Jarmusch film that I’ve seen and man, I should not have started with this one.

In Centreville, seemingly the only crime reports are Hermit Bob (Tom Waits) causing trouble. But more trouble comes for the town, especially for Officer Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) and Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) when the dead start raising from their graves.

Usually there’s no reason given for why the dead come back to life, and that probably would have worked better for this. Jarmusch uses it as a commentary on the environment, as there’s polar fracking that’s affecting the daylight and everyone comments on it and keeps commenting on it.

It’s a strange set-up, but what’s stranger is that the reason for the dead coming back to life is the polar fracking and because it’s throwing the Earth off its axis. This becomes such a big thing that we get about five or six hints about this before someone literally says the zombies are here because of the polar fracking.

That doesn’t make much sense to me, and just explaining it as they’re zombies, it’s what they do, come back to life is a more believable explanation. One unique thing it brings to zombies is that, since they’re coming back to life because the Earth axis being affected, when they’re killed, blood doesn’t come out. Dirt flows out.

That’s a bit of the on-the-nose commentary you can expect here, but in dialogue it’s usually brought up by Hermit Bob (“the ant colonies are all jacked up like it’s the end of the world.”) By the end of the film, Jarmusch also shoehorns commentary on capitalism as well, the usual staple of George A. Romero’s zombie films.

In this, it’s not subtle. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything as pretentious as Hermit Bob watching the carnage of the zombie horde from the woods and monologuing about the zombies just being hungry for more stuff and basically recapping the film (“remnants of the materialist people, zombies all along.”)

Dead Don't Die article

Adam Driver in “The Dead Don’t Die.” (IMDb)

I don’t know enough about Jarmusch to know if this is always his level of subtlety, but it’s bizarre. His dry sense of humour is unique but I’m not a fan of it. I like dry humour just fine, but it should be funny. For the most part, the film isn’t funny for me. There are a couple of visual things I liked, like when Ronnie pulls up in a smart car. But there aren’t many laughs at all. The humour is more-so just annoying because it repeats so many jokes.

There’s a recurring thing when the film’s original song “The Dead Don’t Die” by Sturgill Simpson plays. It’s a great song and I thought the film was named after it, because it sounds like an old song, but it’s an original song. Everyone always comments “oh, I love this song.” It’s funny the first time it’s used but when the bit is used about six times, it gets old. Same with when Ronnie says “This isn’t going to end well.” He literally says it seven times by the end of it. It’s played for a pay-off joke near the end which might be amusing to people who like the film.

But it didn’t pay off for me because by that point, I was so bored by the film I didn’t care about anything happening on-screen. It’s just one of the most boring films I’ve ever seen. Nothing really happens. The comedy never worked for me and it’s the least scary zombie film I’ve seen. It’s an honest shame, too, because the cast is filled with a lot of funny people.

Adam Driver and Bill Murray play off each other well enough for what the dialogue allows them to do. Tilda Swinton’s a highlight as a samurai-wielding coroner who is just weird and gets weirder as the film progresses. Chloë Sevigny is totally fine for the first half but the character is just dull. Near the end, she’s whining so much and complaining at everything that happens that I honestly couldn’t wait for her to get eaten by the zombies. Am I a bad person? Probably, but if you’ve seen this, you’ll know what I mean.

Donald Glover and Caleb Landry Jones are fine as their characters who hole up in a hardware store when the zombies descend. The criminally underused include Steve Buscemi and especially Selena Gomez. Her arc isn’t even concluded well. There’s also an arc with three kids at a detention centre that you won’t give two shits about. That’s what “The Dead Don’t Die” is for me, a boring film that I didn’t give two shits about.

Score: 38/100

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World War Z (2013)

World War ZRelease Date: June 21, 2013

Director: Marc Forster

Stars: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz

Runtime: 116 min

The zombie sub-genre is a successful one. (And The Walking Dead shows it’s wildly successful on television, as well.) We saw that with Warm Bodies earlier this year, that brought about a unique film to the the zombie sub-genre. World War Z is a more straight-forward zombie movie that doesn’t try to reinvent anything. Apparently movie-goers don’t tire of watching zombies or the world end, either, as this is the second zombie movie and umpteenth apocalyptic flick of 2013.

United Nations employee Gerry Lane traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments, and threatening to destroy humanity itself.

World War Z mashes genres of action, drama and horror together in this zombie feature that’s a little more in the vain of 2007’s I Am Legend  and less TV’s The Walking Dead. If your favourite part of any zombie movie is all of the blood, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The only blood presented are in the form of cuts and bites from the zombies, for the most part. Even when the zombies are shot, there’s hardly a realistic shot of blood – mostly because the majority of the zombies are CGI-animated. It is never, ever gory.

Half of the kills even happen off-screen. That could take half of the fun out of the movie for fans of people getting mauled by zombies. The movie is surprisingly human. That isn’t saying that the zombies themselves are human, even if some have senses of humour. Some tease their victims by clacking their teeth together like Pac Men. It’s funny, yet menacing. Anyway, the human part of this is in Brad Pitt’s character. He, Gerry Lane, is an average UN worker, who others think could play a critical role in stopping this epidemic. His motivations are driven by his family. He wants to find a cure, or at least something to save some of the human population, as quickly as he can so he can keep his family from turning into those monsters. I really like Brad Pitt’s honesty in his portrayal.

One might get the vibe from the trailer that all of of the zombies will be in the form of CGI. Thankfully, that is not the case and there are quite a few humans actually playing the zombies. This movie probably does hold the record for tallest CGI-zombie doggie pile. Generally, the visuals are decent. Some of the movie suffers from shaky cam, which just shouldn’t be present in a big budget movie – because, really, one would think they could pay for cinematographers without Parkinson’s disease. The majority of the scenes are in the dark, and a lot of the camerawork is generally busy. A few scenes, generally near the beginning at the start of the hectic epidemic, are eye sores. I don’t see how 3D visual effects would add anything to the movie; it might even make the movie more excruciating to the eyes.

The story’s a good one, as far as ‘find the cure’ movies go. This film is adapted from the book of the same name written by Max Brooks. I have not read the book, so I cannot comment on any similarities or big differences. All I can say is, it’s a story that plays well on the screen. I like that Drew Goddard has a hand in the screenplay; because he has talent. It’s a traditional ‘find the cure’ type of film, that doesn’t become complicated. If you do miss a few lines of critical dialogue, however, you might be out of the loop for a few minutes. Director Marc Forster brings his A-game, but he could be more aware that his movie suffers from shaky cam. It doesn’t add to the experience at all. Nor would the 3D; but this is the film industry, so they want to make money.

The make-up for the zombies is good, at least those who are human. I wouldn’t exactly call this a horror movie. You might jump once or twice, but not constantly. There is a constant tense and suspenseful atmosphere. You’ll appreciate how the screenplay keeps you guessing (but it’ll be less predictable if you haven’t read the book – I’d assume). The cast is good. James Badge Dale and David Morse are memorable in petite roles. Mireille Enos has been appearing on the small screen since 1994, but this is only her second movie role. Nonetheless, she performs well. Even if her character makes a few unfortunate decisions, that don’t exactly affect her.

The entire feature won’t stand out prominently in memory by the end of the year, but there’s one particular air plane scene that is good, intense fun; if not entirely realistic. This movie isn’t exactly a good horror movie, per se, but it does have scary aspects. It’s mostly just an effective actioner. I also like how it is character-driven and is never boring. For a big-budget action movie, the cinematography is too shaky. I wasn’t anticipating this heavily – so it’s a nice surprise.

75/100