The Dead Don’t Die (dir. Jim Jarmusch, 2019) – Zombies rise in the quiet town of Centerville, pitting its citizens against an unexpected apocalypse.
Auteur Jim Jarmusch lets none of his dark wit obscure what his latest film truly is – a tragic ode to the quiet death of humanity.
Calamity befalls the once peaceful Centerville, where farmer Miller (Steve Buscemi) has reported his poultry missing. Police trio Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray), Ronnie Petersen (Adam Driver), and Mindy Morrison (Chloë Sevigny) soon discover two mutilated corpses at the town’s diner, then two open graves at the cemetery.
“This is all gonna end badly,” Petersen mutters as he identifies the responsible culprits in no time – zombies. He repeats the words, convinced that the town’s destruction is but inevitable.
Consider his mantra a big, pessimistic hint at what Jim Jarmusch may just be saying with his latest elegiac work. Indeed, The Dead Don’t Die is far from the typical cautionary tale. It is an irate, bitter rebuke against the hordes of us, responsible for the mess that is the world today.
The satire is not one for subtlety, either. As the radio bluntly attributes polar fracking to the cause of an imminent apocalypse, the citizens of Centreville look on wide-eyed, helpless in changing things. The state of apathy leaves little wonder why the band of heroes lose hope, just as quickly as the dead alive population grows.
Even the living dead themselves reek of cynicism. Brains are far from their broken minds, craving for wi-fi and Siri as much as they do, drugs. The new breed of zombies takes a notch up on George A. Romero’s original sociopolitical metaphor; the apocalypse is already here.
The dead don’t die, anymore than you and I, Sturgill Simpson croons through the radio. Jarmusch’s cynicism comes through strong and brusque, and would almost certainly find little love in a mainstream audience. Add to that his disinterest in conformity, unafraid to unleash a taste of the outlandish, when the undertaker Zelda (Tilda Swinton) unsheaths her sword before her unpredictable secret.
It all gets a little mad. Yet who can say the real world isn’t just as, if not more absurd? Even with its offbeat tone, the dark satire makes its point loud and clear. The result may very well find a cult following with an astute few, privy to Jarmusch’s depressing reality.