Monday, July 01, 2019

The Dead Don't Die (2019)

Who knew that polar fracking was a bad thing?  I mean, the fracking industry said it’s perfectly safe, so it must be.  Right?  I mean, so the Earth’s orbit was tilted just enough to raise the dead.  No biggie.  How bad could it be?  The people of Centerville are about to find out.

The police department has only three members:  Chief Cliff Robertson, Officer Ronnie Peterson and Officer Mindy Morrison.  (It would seem that Mindy serves mostly as a dispatcher, though.)  It’s a small town with just over 700 residents, not including the undead.  The epidemic starts with two bodies rising from their respective graves searching for coffee instead of brains.  That takes them to the local diner, where the two zombies kill the staff.

Soon, zombies are everywhere.  It becomes overwhelming for the three police officers, who have to defend the town essentially by themselves.  No attempt is made to call in for backup from neighboring towns, but they do have new undertaker Zelda Winston on their side.  As with most zombie movies, decapitation seems to be the main means of stopping the undead., so it’s fortunate that she’s really good with a blade.

The zombies aren’t particularly good in combat, but there are a lot of them.  Each becomes obsessed with what they loved in life.  This could be as general as their favorite type of drink or as specific as a particular brand of candy.  Ronnie and Zelda are each good enough to take out quite a few of them, but it’s not enough.  They just keep coming and there’s no end in sight.

The movie tries to walk the fine line between being subtle and being obvious.  We get that being a zombie is akin to being a good consumer and buying the lies of an entire industry.  But I’m not really sure where the movie is going with it.  All anyone does is try to avoid the zombies.

Farmer Miller is a key example of this.  He wears a Keep America White Again cap and goes so far as to say that his coffee is too black…er…too strong, or whatever.  Everyone just sighs and goes back to what they were doing.  Then, the first zombie Farmer Miller has to deal with is, or was, a black man.

There’s also a certain amount of irony is the anti-consumer message given that there’s a fair number of products mentioned.  Ronnie and Mindy discuss specific brands of cars.  As I mentioned, brads of candy are named.  Ronnie has a Star Wars keychain, prompting Zelda to comment that it was a good piece of fiction.  (Given how many times the title track is mentioned, I suspect this is meant to satirize product placement rather than promote a particular item.)

The movie has its funny moments, but falls flat sometimes.  For instance, I didn’t get the whole thing with the pets and livestock disappearing.  Is it that they knew our time was up?  It’s not shown where they go or what they intend to do.  They simply leave.  (The same could be said of Zelda, for that matter.)

There are even some self-aware moments, such as when Ronnie reveals that Jim (presumably referring to writer/director Jim Jarmusch) let him read the entire script.  I do think that Ronnie was right, though.  This isn’t going to end well.

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