Movie Review: ‘The Dead Don’t Die,’ And Neither Does the Droll Energy in Jim Jarmusch’s Zombie Goof-Off

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CREDIT: Abbot Genser/Focus Features

Starring: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, RZA, Carol Kane, Selena Gomez, Tom Waits, Austin Butler, Eszter Balint, Luka Sabbat, Larry Fessenden

Director: Jim Jarmusch

Running Time: 103 Minutes

Rating: R for Ironic, But Visceral Zombie Violence

Release Date: June 14, 2019 (Limited)

Sometime around 2010, it was determined that it was every filmmaker’s God-given right to make their very own zombie movie. In the case of Jim Jarmusch, he was divinely matched with The Dead Don’t Die, a droll, occasionally fourth wall-breaking portrait of ravaged-by-the-undead small town life patrolled by Police Officers Bill Murray and Adam Driver. In a post-Shaun of the Dead world, The Dead Don’t Die is far from necessary, but it is sufficiently diverting. It adds an environmental wrinkle to the zombie mythos, as fracking is implied to be the culprit behind the upending of nature. If Jarmusch is crying out for us to protect the Earth, that warning is perhaps a little too late, considering how disastrous climate change has already become. But that’s no big deal (for the movie, that is – the planet is screwed), as he seems to have more goofball ideas on his mind anyway.

The zombie blood and guts are sufficiently hardcore, with the bodily fluids as wet and unleashed as the dialogue is dry and bottled-up. But the main attraction are not the ghouls so much as the characters and their unique ways of being human and/or inhuman. That is to say, while Tilda Swinton has badass sword skills as the town’s new undertaker, it’s more amusing that she gets to lean into a hardcore Scottish persona. This is the type of movie in which Selena Gomez tells Caleb Landry Jones, “Your film knowledge is impressive,” after he mentions some pretty basic info about George Romero, and then Larry Fessenden refers to Gomez and her friends who are passing through town as “hipsters from the city” and “hipsters with their irony” (the odds seem to be that they’re from Cleveland). If that sounds hilarious to you, you know who you are, and you can expect to mostly be satisfied, though you may (or may not) have issues with the shaggy, shambling plot structure.

The Dead Don’t Die is Recommended If You Like: Remaining at an ironic remove, but not being too-cool-for-school about it

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Diner Coffee Pots

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Like Me’ Captures the Beautifully Disgusting Travails of an Underground Internet-Famous Renegade

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CREDIT: Kino Lorber

This review was originally posted on News Cult in January 2018.

Starring: Addison Timlin, Larry Fessenden, Ian Nelson, Jeremy Gardner

Director: Robert Mockler

Running Time: 80 Minutes

Rating: Not Rated, But It Could Be R for Its Disturbing Food-Based and Psychedelic Imagery

Release Date: January 26, 2018 (Limited Theatrically)/February 20, 2018 (On Demand)

Is social media breeding new forms of sociopathy, or is it the other way around insofar as those who are already sociopaths are naturally drawn to social media? Or maybe people just use whatever media they have available to them to deliver their messages, whether sociopathic, benign, or somewhere in between. Robert Mockler’s indie horror (or horror-adjacent, but horrific, nonetheless) Like Me does not provide any straightforward answers to any of these questions, but it is vividly drawn enough for viewers to draw their own conclusions.

A sort of 21st Century Taxi Driver with flashes of A Clockwork Orange, Like Me is primarily the portrait of a loner, burning for an outlet for her twisted proclivities. We never got much of a sense what Kiya’s (Addison Timlin) living or familial situation is, but we learn enough to know that she’s able to handle herself, despite her small, seemingly unimposing physicality. It is perhaps that unpredictability that allows her to pull off her … “schemes,” let’s call them. She harasses a convenience store employee into whimpering submission and then she lures a hotel worker with sexual promises into a force-feeding session that concludes with him vomiting milk (with the latter encounter leading into a bizarre buddy flick), broadcasting the most extreme moments for all her social followers to behold. Kiya definitely takes notice of the online reaction she engenders, but it appears to be the thrill of the moment itself that motivates her most.

If you’re like me, you’ll wonder why anyone could behave as Kiya does. Director Robert Mockler is not particularly interested in answering that conundrum, nor do I really want him to. Instead, he is more committed to crafting a sumptuous feast that overwhelms the senses. Kiya’s world is filled with dimly lit overwhelming colors. Gummy worms, a rotating camera, an ominous score heavily indebted to Goblin but with its own edge of urban dysfunction, and psychedelic light streams combine for a toxic blend of anti-satisfying sustenance. Several reaction videos to Kiya’s escapades are presented in Internet windows, captured in their full crappy webcam glory, clashing with the crisp digital photography of the main action. I can imagine this whole thing is a daydream that Mockler had one day, and it is probably healthy that he has now let it all out on the screen.

Like Me is Recommended If You Like: A Clockwork Orange, Taxi Driver, The Shining, Mixed Media Presentations

Grade: 3 out of 5 Forced Feedings