A small town is forced to deal with a zombie apocalypse. We have the law: Chief Cliff (Bill Murray), Ronnie (Adam Driver), and Mindy (Chloe Sevigny). We have the store owners: hardware guy Hank (Danny Glover) and gas “and stuff” proprietor Bobby (Caleb Landry Jones, here not playing one of his racist-with-a-man-bun characters). We have a trio of kids in juvie: Geronimo (Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Proud Mary), Olivia (Taliyah Whitaker), and Stella (Maya Delmont). We have wacky locals Farmer Frank (Steve Buscemi), Hermit Bob (singer Tom Waits), Danny (genre icon Larry Fessenden), and new coroner Zelda (Tilda Swinton). We have delivery guy Dean (RZA), news anchor Posie (Rosie Perez), waitress Fern (Eszter Balint), and cleaner Lily (Rosal Colon, Orange is the New Black). Plus out-of-towners Zoe (Selena Gomez), Zack (Luka Sabbat), and Jack (Austin Butler, Yoga Hosers. [Wipes sweat from brow] Did I forget anyone?
The film is written and directed by auteur Jim Jarmusch, best known for his dramedy Broken Flowers. However, he has dabbled in the genre with his vampire love story Only Lovers Left Alive. The trailer for the film is a bit disingenuous; it makes the film look like a frenetic laugh-a-minute like Shaun of the Dead. It isn’t (not that there’s anything wrong with Shaun of the Dead). Which has garnered a few complaints about the movie being boring. The humor is very dry, and the delivery is often deadpan. For example, in one scene, Cliff and Ronnie watch Zelda dispatch zombies with a sword, and comment almost disinterestedly: Ronnie–“Darn, she’s really good with that thing, isn’t she?” Cliff– “She sure is.” Ronnie’s un-profane reactions to surprising situations is one of my favorite things: [Upon seeing an especially gory crime scene] “Oh, yuck.” It takes some getting used to, but it’s worth being patient.
It’s certainly thought-provoking. Zombie movies tend to have, at their heart (and spleen, liver, and various other body parts) something to say about how in some way humans are the real zombies. This film is no exception. The zombies gravitate to the same things (often shallow and unhealthy) that they clung to in life: free cable, candy, wi-fi, Xanax. There’s a memorable cameo by Carol Kane as an undead Chardonnay fan, and one by Iggy Pop as a living dead coffee fiend. Also to be expected in a zombie movie is an environmentalist bent, which this film
has as well. Fracking is to blame for the dead coming back to life, as well as for animals fleeing and daylight hours becoming erratic–the earth is off its axis. I read on IMDB that Jarmusch believes that teenagers are the future, so one can read a message in the CDC logo on Stella, Olivia, and Geronimo’s jackets, which in the reality of the movie stands for the correctional facility they start the movie in (for reasons that are never explained). Frank (though I don’t understand the symbolism behind making him a farmer) is a dyed-in-the-wool Republican nightmare, complete with a “Make America White Again” hat and a dog named Rumsfeld. When zombies show up at his house, he calls them “goddamn refugees” and hollers, “Get off my property!”
The movie is quite diverse, especially for that fact that it takes place in a Midwestern town with a population of 738. My only gripe about the movie is that everyone in law
enforcement is white, and that Mindy is totally useless. All she does is whine and cry and give up. Otherwise, I very much loved it. Check it out if you’re in the mood for humor so dry, the zombies don’t even bleed–they emit black clouds that look like toner. And watch for a cameo by Sturgill Simpson as the guitar zombie–if you don’t know his name now, you will by the end of the movie.