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A Magazine for Sheffield

The Dead Don't Die

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Art-weird cinema tackles the zombie film in The Dead Don't Die, a shaggy, near-meaningless and characteristically deadpan half-parody from Jim Jarmusch.

Bill Murray, Adam Driver and Chloë Sevigny play small-town cops caught in the middle of an apocalypse made by human hands. 'Polar fracking', we learn in one of many deliberately perfunctory scenes, has pushed the earth's rotation out of whack, and now the sun won't set and the dead are returning from the grave.

The central trio are supported by an absurdly overstuffed cast - Tilda Swinton, Danny Glover, Steve Buscemi, Tom Waits, Selena Gomez, Iggy Pop, Rosie Perez, Caleb Landry Jones and more all pop in and out of the plot at random - and a script so smugly self-referential that it risks coming full circle into thoughtlessness.

Characters appear for no reason and to no effect. The only one that seems to have an inkling what's going on spends the entire film murmuring cryptically in the woods. Subplots disappear suddenly, never to be heard from again, or get resolved by the most flagrant contrivances. The satire - zombies shuffling around groaning 'wifi' instead of 'brains' - is completely sophomoric, and you begin to suspect that its real target is the idea of satire itself. The zombies don't even bleed properly.

And yet all this adds up to an oddly charming and humane whole. The world is ending, Jarmusch is saying, in the film and outside it, and everything is as pointless and stupid as ever. The cast is consistently delightful and a lot of the jokes are funny.

If you can bear to find all this ironic self-awareness amusing rather than infuriating then there is something here that is... well, if not valuable, exactly, then at least provocatively valueless.

Next article in issue 137

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