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Film Review: The Dead Don't Die

22 July 19 words: Amber Hill-Cann

Jim Jarmusch's star-filled zom-com doesn't quite hit all the right notes, but still contains an important message about the ills of modern life.

Director: Jim Jarmusch

Starring: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny

Running time: 104 mins

The Dead Don't Die is a film that is very aware of itself and recognises its own cliché moments. It is set in the sleepy, thoroughly middle-American town of Centerville, Pennsylvania where nothing much happens until the Earth is thrown off its axis by polar fracking, causing the dead to begin rising from their graves.

The film opens with two-thirds of the hapless police department, Cliff (Murray) and Ronnie (Driver) reprimanding local resident 'Hermit Bob' (Tom Waits) who lives on the edge of society with no material possessions. On the way back into town, Cliff and Ronnie notice that despite it being late evening it is still daylight, causing Ronnie to make the assertion for the first, but definitely not the last, time in the film: "this isn't going to end well". Nothing could have prepared the two men and their colleague Mindy (Sevigny) for the events that were to unfold, as Centreville is over-run by hordes of the walking dead. 

Where the film doesn't quite hit the zombie-comedy sweet spot, it provides a perfect commentary on the conspicuous consumption of modern society

The film is cast brilliantly and is full of cameos from the likes of Steve Buscemi, Donald Glover and Wu-Tang Clan's RZA as a philosophical delivery driver for 'Wu-PS'. The most recognisable cameo is that of Selena Gomez, who falls victim to the relentless zombie masses. The scenes in which she stars contain many nods to George A Romero's genre-setting Night of the Living Dead; namely the Pontiac LeMans she drives, which is referred to as 'very Romero'.

Despite all these brilliant cameos, the image that has stuck with me is that of Iggy Pop chewing turtle-like on human flesh before calling out for coffee and proceeding to throw a hot cup of the dark liquid down himself. In fact, this is a theme of the film, with the reanimated dead all calling out for what they had a passion for in life, a few favourites include Xanax, Chardonnay and WIFI. Where the film doesn't quite hit the zombie-comedy sweet spot, it provides a perfect commentary on the conspicuous consumption of modern society, narrated throughout by Hermit Bob who provides insightful observations of the carnage unfolding before him. Commenting on how the living have slowly become more zombie-like, ruled by their possessions. 

The film has all the hallmarks of a good zombie-comedy - reluctant heroes, deadpan delivery and of course, gore. The dark wit of director Jarmusch fills every scene, accompanied by the brilliant touch of black dust that erupt from the undead when they are killed once and for all. However, a lot of the comedic moments fall flat, and the audience is left feeling that there should have been more. This film is definitely worth seeing, if you can take it as the damning analysis of modern life it seems to be intended as.

Did you know? The movie is filled with references to George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead, including an appearance of the infamous naked zombie from the original woman. 

The Dead Don't Die is showing at Broadway Cinema until Thursday 25 July

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