Although it does have its defenders, indie-film legend Jim Jarmusch’s new zom-com The Dead Don’t Die has unfortunately been declared D.O.A. with many critics—only 52% of them gave the film a positive review, according to review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Take The A.V. Club’s A.A. Dowd, who saw the movie at its world premiere at this year’s Cannes and expanded his thoughts into a full-length review in honor of the film’s theatrical release. In it, he writes:
[I]f The Dead Don’t Die endures, it will be as a time capsule of a very bleak moment (or, depending on how bad things get, a death knell for civilization.) But the film feels like a creative resignation, too, meeting the end of the world with a shrug of tepid postmodern shtick. It puts despair itself in quotation marks.
So perhaps, then, it makes sense that in a new interview with Rolling Stone, Jarmusch—whose 2014 vampire movie Only Lovers Left Alive is superior to The Dead Don’t Die—says that he’s “more of a vampire guy,” because vampires are eternally youthful and sexy and just plain cool. He adds, “I have to admit that zombies are not a really big attraction. I’m not a big TV guy, so I’ve never seen The Walking Dead. And I’m not particularly interested in zombie movies.”
He is, however, into the concept of the zombie-as-voodoo-curse that dominated pop culture until the late 1960s, when George Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead forever changed the Western definition of zombies from “hapless puppets of evil sorcerers” to “flesh-eating corpses reanimated by a virus or whatever,” making them an unstoppable force of nature rather than pawns of a human or humans. (In The Dead Don’t Die, it’s something called “polar fracking” that makes the dead spontaneously rise from their graves.) Jarmusch is a fan of Romero’s, too, as can be seen in references to the late horror pioneer’s work throughout The Dead Don’t Die.
Asked why, then, he made a zombie movie, Jarmusch says that he was drawn to the idea of making something “very silly. Something ridiculous, kind of like Coffee & Cigarettes (2003). The characters in those sketches are almost like cartoons. I had an idea that I’d like to make another film like that, and I thought, well, zombies could be interesting.” (Jarmusch is more succinct in an interview with A.V. Club contributor Mike Vanderbilt at Consequence Of Sound, saying, “The obviousness of the metaphor and the times we live in drew me to it.”) So if you find the zombies staggering around groaning “wi-fiiiiii” in The Dead Don’t Die more than a little silly and on the nose, well—for better or for worse, that’s how the director of the film feels about it, too.
But while reactions to the movie itself have been mixed, surely we can all agree that Sturgill Simpson’s theme song is awesome:
The Dead Don’t Die opens in theaters today. You can read the rest of Rolling Stone’s interview with Jarmusch, which includes an amazing anecdote about how he watched the nihilistic 1966 samurai movie Sword Of Doom “two or three times a day” while he was trying to quit smoking, here.