As if struck with rigor mortis, Jim Jarmusch’s take on zombies is a DOA satire of sorts, one that’s much too self-aware for its own good. Foregoing the traditional scares of an undead creeper, Jarmusch swings and misses trying to put the “dead” in deadpan comedy. Even his pairing of stars Adam Driver and Bill Murray remains something that sounds better on paper than actually works in this context, their synchronized low-energy, unfazed drift through the world of the undead unable to get much of a rise.

Jarmusch spends much of his runtime in scene-setting, dropping us in the small town of Centerville where the radio blares Sturgill Simpson’s theme-song “The Dead Don’t Die” and news anchors report that polar fracking has thrown Earth off its axis, the film’s deadly cocktail for ghouls rising from the grave. 

[READ MORE: Our review of ‘Logan Lucky‘ starring Adam Driver]

Despite a riveting cast, from RZA to Steve Buscemi, Tilda Swinton to Selena Gomez, Tom Waits to Iggy Pop, few are given much of anything to do, signaling their inclusion as pointless stunt casting and nothing more. There are some moments of blood-stained snickering here and there but Jarmusch’s attention-starved satire about consumerism just isn’t that clever, nor is it particularly insightful. He lays admonishing claim that we’re all zombies to something, be it candy, Ambien, WiFi or power tools, but there are no characters to connect with or plot to engage with, which makes the fact that the fourth wall is repeatedly broken (one character knows they are in a movie, a plot point which really doesn’t work) more cringy than funny.  “It’s going to end badly,” he frequently remarks, a commentary on the finale as much as the film itself. 


A SIFF 2019 Capsule Review 

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