Zombie movies. Meh, is what some of you feel about them, right? If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all. Much like the victims of the ravenous flesh-eating bastards feel about their undead oppressors, many movie fans wish zombie flicks would die and stay dead forever. Of course, like rock ‘n’ roll, zombie movies will never die.
That’s not a bad thing, though. As we’ve seen time and time again, there are always going to be filmmakers out there who make good flicks that revitalize the genre when we think it’s stale and beyond saving. When that happens, we’re reminded that perhaps there’s some life left in the undead after all.
Jim Jarmusch is the latest filmmaker to tackle zombies, and that’s an intriguing prospect. He always makes movies that are at least fascinating. Having helmed the likes of Stranger Than Paradise, Dead Man, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Broken Flowers, Only Lovers Left Alive, and Paterson, Jarmusch has built a career on unpredictability and strong outings. Whatever he touches deserves our attention, and The Dead Don’t Die is no different.
News of this one has been quiet since it was initially announced. However, Focus Features just released a trailer for the movie, and it appears to be another winner from the acclaimed indie maverick.
Nothing about that trailer screams bold originality or a grand departure from tried and tested zombie beats. The Dead Don’t Die appears to be a splatstick yarn not unlike countless other movies about hungry undead hordes feasting on the living. So, you ask, why should the anti-zombie brigade care about going out of their way to see this one when it hits screens this June?
I wouldn’t be surprised if this trailer is being presented as a basic crowd pleaser as a means to attract a larger audience. Zombie-centric entertainment is popular despite the stigma attached to it by naysayers. Thus, making this movie seem tailored to average fans is a smart movie. The artier Jarmusch fans will watch anything he makes anyway. Still, trailers are often deceiving, and Jarmusch likes to rip rulebooks to shreds. It’s highly likely that The Dead Don’t Die will stray from the established zombie path in some way, even if the director is just out to make something simple.
Of course, even if the Dead Don’t Die is just another generic zombie comedy, that doesn’t mean the film won’t deliver the goods. We haven’t seen Jarmusch be silly and over-the-top before. If a dumb horror comedy is all The Dead Don’t Die is, it will mark new ground for an exciting filmmaker who’s impossible to place in a box. Plenty of his movies have contained macabre humor, albeit in an understated way. It’s about time he unleashed his funny side full force.
Above all else, though, the main reason to get excited about The Dead Don’t Die is the star-studded cast, which features an array of Jarmusch regulars and peculiar newcomers. The terrific ensemble includes Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Chloë Sevigny, Tom Waits, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, Carol Kane, Danny Glover, RZA, Iggy Pop, and Tilda Swinton. That’s an eclectic mix of noteworthy talent right there, and it’s not often that we get to see some of them get to showcase their goofy side.
The standout from the trailer is Swinton. She gets to speak with a weird accent and wield a katana sword — I suspect it will be used to dismember some undead rascals. Given that her last collaboration with the director was the melancholic vampire tale Only Lovers Left Alive, I’m excited to see something totally different in tone this time around.
Driver also appears to be having a blast, decapitating zombies with baseball bats as if their heads are post boxes, which is a welcome change of pace for the actor following his recent work. Murray is always reliable when it comes to comedy, and he has a tendency to mostly pick strong roles. While he looks weathered in the trailer, he certainly doesn’t appear unenthusiastic to be there. Plus, it’s nice to see him in another horror comedy following his awesome turn in Zombieland.
Don’t be surprised to see Gomez knock it out of the park, either. Having starred in Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, the world-famous pop singer and former Disney Channel sensation has already proven that she works well with oddball directors. Jarmusch has a tendency to cast actors who are also singers and musicians in his movies, so in that sense, Gomez is a natural fit for his crazy cinematic worlds.
Once again, Jarmusch has demonstrated his determination to remain a filmmaker who’s difficult to predict. After decades of blowing our minds with movies that contain deep existential themes, opaque symbolism, gloomy moods, and unconventional plots, he’s surprised us with something completely different. I’m still not convinced that this one will be the basic romp that the trailer suggests it’s going to be. At the same time, if the movie is indeed basic, it’s still going to be a treat seeing a Jarmusch movie tackle straight-up comedy.