We’ve had zombies films, zombie TV shows galore in the past. Some might say that zombies have had their day at the cinema and we’ll wait until they’re trending again but Jim Jarmusch doesn’t subscribe to what’s the movie landscape is doing. He made a vampire film, Only Lovers Left Alive, outside of the vampire trending films so it’s not surprising that he made another typically genre film once the trend had died down. With just a cameo from Carol Kane saying ‘Chardonnay’ and three local cops looking bewildered, that’s all you need to know that this isn’t just a zombie film, its a Jarmusch zombie film and its deadpan humour is very welcome.
Life goes by slowly in the quiet town of Centerville until the dead rise from their graves, attacking the townsfolk. The local police officers (Bill Murray, Adam Driver and Chloe Sevigny), along with the oddest mortician find themselves fighting for their lives as the town soon becomes overrun with the walking dead. With no back up coming to the rescue, as it seems the whole world is dealing with the same issues, all they can do is fight for survival.
With several characters and stories around town, we meet and get to know a little bit about the townsfolk, even a trio of friends passing through, but the juvenile detention teenagers (yes this small town has this) is an odd addition and doesn’t serve any purpose to the story. We don’t learn anything about them except that they are in the detention centre. Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Rosie Perez, Selena Gomez and Caleb Landry Jones all feature as stereotypes you’d find in a stereotypical small town, something that has been consciously decided on by Jarmusch. The element that makes this film stand out above the rest, is the fact that the film and the characters are self aware. They know the song that continuously plays throughout is the theme song and mention ‘Jim’ (Jarmusch’) as well as the script. They know what’s happening but continue to play the film out anyway. One character that sticks out like a sore thumb is Tilda Swinton’s Scottish mortician, Zelda, who seems to have arrived from an entirely different story all together. From the way she walks, to how she applies make up on the dead bodies, to the fact she is an expert with a samurai sword makes her unique and very expected. Just see what happens when she arrives at the cemetery.
Being a zombie film, there is no doubt that Jarmusch is paying homage to the classics films of the genre (Dawn of the Dead etc) by poking fun at modern society. The thin line in which the zombies are compared to the living is not lost on the audience. Especially as the zombies return to what they loved when they were living, whether its Iggy Pop and Sara Driver as hippy zombies after coffee or child zombies looking for sweets and comics. The fact that Jarmusch is saying we’re all zombies and not in a subtle way just makes the film more enjoyable, acknowledging that we all have our own likes, or addictions, we can guess where it will all head, probably badly, as Officer Ronnie said, several times.
Dir: Jim Jarmusch
Prd: Carter Logan
Scr: Jim Jarmusch
Cast: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Selena Gomez, Carol Kane, Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Austin Butler, Tom Waits
DoP: Frederick Elmes
Running time: 103 minutes