Silly, sel­f­ref­er­en­tial com­edy hor­ror fails to draw blood


Wicklow People (West Edition) - - ENTERTAINM­ENT -

THE liv­ing are mean-spir­ited, spite­ful and lonely, and might as well be dead, in writer-di­rec­tor Jim Jar­musch’s off-kil­ter com­edy, which com­mits half-heart­edly to the gore-slathered de­mands of a zom­bie hor­ror.

Set in the fic­tional Penn­syl­va­nia town of Cen­ter­ville – pop­u­la­tion 738, ‘a real nice place’ – The Dead Don’t Die sinks its gnash­ers into myr­iad gen­res but sel­dom draws blood as an in­con­sis­tent tone ric­o­chets be­tween sin­is­ter, self-ref­er­en­tial and silly.

There are a few nice touches like when Tilda Swin­ton’s bonkers mor­ti­cian spots a metal­lic Star De­stroyer on the key­chain of Adam Driver’s cop and dead­pans, ‘Star Wars – ex­cel­lent fic­tion’ (Driver plays the vil­lain­ous Kylo Ren in a gal­axy far, far away).

Or when the three mem­bers of Cen­ter­ville po­lice depart­ment ar­rive in lazy suc­ces­sion to a grisly crime scene and come to the same con­clu­sion about the likely cul­prits.

How­ever, Jar­musch’s de­ci­sion to al­low char­ac­ters to break the fourth wall and iden­tify them­selves as ac­tors in a ghoul­ish fic­tion un­der­mines any ef­forts to make us care about the starry cast be­ing dis­em­bow­elled and dis­mem­bered by the un­dead.

‘Why does it sound so fa­mil­iar?’ pon­ders Bill Mur­ray’s po­lice chief as Sturgill Simp­son’s the Dead Don’t Die em­anates from his car ra­dio.

‘Be­cause it’s the theme song,’ dryly re­sponds co-star Driver.

En­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age wrought by frack­ing at the mag­netic poles shifts the earth off its axis.

Cen­ter­ville po­lice chief Cliff Robert­son (Mur­ray) and of­fi­cers Ronald Peter­son (Driver) and Min­erva Mor­ri­son (Se­vi­gny) re­spond to a grue­some at­tack at the lo­cal diner and calls about dis­ap­pear­ing live­stock.

‘This ain’t gonna end well,’ cor­rectly de­duces Ronald.

Nearby, quixotic un­der­taker Zelda Win­ston (Swin­ton) prac­tices her samu­rai sword skills in the back room of the Ever Af­ter fu­neral home.

When night falls, corpses re­an­i­mate and Her­mit Bob (Tom Waits) wit­nesses the dev­as­ta­tion through binoc­u­lars.

Res­i­dents in­clud­ing Hank Thomp­son (Danny Glover), Bobby Wig­gins (Caleb Landry Jones) and farmer Frank Miller (Steve Buscemi) arm them­selves against the slaver­ing preda­tors.

Zom­bies quickly over­run Cen­ter­ville in­clud­ing a ju­ve­nile detention building where Geron­imo (Jahi Win­ston), Olivia (Taliyah Whi­taker) and Stella (Maya Del­mont) are in­car­cer­ated.

The Dead Don’t Die pays homage to the satir­i­cal hor­rors of George A Romero with close-ups of fetid hands erupt­ing from graves and some juicy, stomach-churn­ing make-up ef­fects.

Mur­ray and Driver are masters of dead­pan de­liv­ery and their low-key ban­ter is one of the film’s fleet­ing plea­sures.

Swin­ton seems to be in­hab­it­ing a dif­fer­ent plane of ex­is­tence to the rest of the cast, which Jar­musch play­fully squares away with a loopy twist that even the X-Files would have dis­miss as fan­tas­ti­cal.

‘Kill the head,’ Driver re­peat­edly re­minds his co-stars as they re­pel the shuf­fling horde.

A greater fo­cus on the heart might have served the film well.

RAT­ING: 5.5/10

Tilda Swin­ton as Zelda Win­ston in The Dead Don’t Die.

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