The Dead Wont Die, And Neither Will Our Culture
Updated: Jun 23, 2019
You have to hand it to Jim Jarmusch. To release a zombie comedy several years past the genre’s moment either takes some serious cojones or a complete obliviousness to contemporary culture. The very notion of the words “Jim Jarmusch” and “zombie comedy” are themselves confounding, pairing an indie cinema icon with one of the most populist and low brow of cinematic tropes. Those of us who still nurture fondness for the silver haired auteur could at least hope the director might add some of his signature wit and unique sensibility to the most well worn of subjects.
The reality of the film, sadly, is that there’s barely a whiff of originality here. The film seems to touch on every zombie convention, from literally name checking George Romero right up to a samurai sword wielding female badass, while adding almost nothing of its own.
Jarmusch’s lack of investment in original concept seems almost to ring of contempt for the genre, as if the entire film itself was a single act of trolling. This could be conceivable if the director’s true targets weren’t already made painfully obvious. Zombies stumble around groaning not the traditional “brains” but words like: “fashion”, “coffee”, “chardonnay”, or “guitars” to convey the addictions they had in life. If that weren’t blunt enough, there’s a wise hermit in the woods (Tom Waits) delivering monologues about what “capitalist” zombies we’ve all become.
Aside from saying “what a fucking world” (literally the last lines of the movie) It’s hard to know what the justification for this film is at all or why it was able to attract such A-List talent, which includes Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Iggy Pop, Rosie Perez, and Karol Kane, amongst others.
Given Jarmusch’s cinematic status, it’s conceivable he will always be able to procure investors and great actors, despite the fact that it would be appropriate to make the “walking dead’ comparison to Jim Jarmusch’s post Broken Flowers (2005) output (if it hadn’t already been used ad nauseam to describe the irony of the everlasting life of the series of the same name).
The fact that independent investors will still finance a “zombie comedy” at this point in time speaks to another ghoulish facet of culture: the fact that is nothing is now allowed to die. From perfect one off season shows that are made to continue, such as, Big Little Lies, or True Detective, to the shows long since gone that are resurrected for no good reason other than that they used to be popular, like; Arrested Development, or Deadwood. Again and again, content providers seem happy to keep replaying the same hits like a tired classic rock radio station from the 90s.
This might seem benign if it weren’t for the super saturated media landscape and the difficulty of truly original ideas breaking through the morass. How much attention does this curdled, bitter corpse of a film have to demand from us? And how much better would it be if it’s investor’s money went to more deserving projects? If we want our arts, culture and society to progress we’re going to have to demand the dead be allowed to stay dead. At the very least, give us some fresh brains to munch on. - Luke Rogers