The Dead Don't Die
Starring Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi, Caleb Landry Jones, Chloë Sevigny
What filmmaker Jim Jarmusch had in mind for his dry sarcastic zombie flick is not what audiences think they are getting. Let’s be clear, Focus Features edited together a great trailer, featuring some of the films best beats. Murray is here doing what he does best, along with more deadpan humor from Driver, both of whom are Jarmusch veterans. However, “The Dead Don’t Die,” like most other Jarmusch creations, just doesn’t move. It’s stale and stagnates, as the audience struggles both to stay awake and see it to the end. “This is not going to end well,” Driver’s character repeats throughout the script. It’s a fair warning to both the characters dealing with a zombie apocalypse and the audience unlucky enough to be watching the most mundane genre flick of the decade.
There isn’t much that happens in the town of Centerville, and the citizens like it that way. Cliff Robertson (Murray) has been the sheriff of the one diner town for so long he’s forgotten how to do anything else. His deputy Ronnie Peterson (Driver) is in training to be exactly like Robertson when the time is right. Their nightmare begins slowly, as local pets and animals start to go missing, including livestock belonging to Farmer Miller (Buscemi). When the ladies at the diner are half eaten alive, Ronnie says it’s got to be zombies. Sure enough, the moon turns purple and the dead pop out of the ground, craving the same things they did while they were alive. Ronnie and Cliff show little fear or excitement and mostly go on about their business as usual.
While there are a few fleeting moments of dry humor from Murray, much of this screenplay fails to stick, becoming tiresome.
If only “The Dead Don’t Die” was actually funny. The film takes a satirical look at current society; our love for material things, how our energy demands affect the planet, and so on. While there are a few fleeting moments of dry humor from Murray, much of this screenplay fails to stick, becoming tiresome. For instance, during the diner scene, Robertson arrives first to survey the gruesome damage where Handyman Hank (Glover) declares it must have been a wild animal or several wild animals. Robertson repeats this to Peterson who then repeats it to Deputy Morrison (Sevigny) who throws up behind a police car. The unfunny gag is repeated again by news reporter Posie Juarez (Rosie Perez), “wild animal, or several wild animals.”
As usual, Swinton is the most interesting character of the ensemble, a sort of Beatrix Kiddo of this zombie-land who also happens to be a Scottish mortician. Her previous work with Jarmusch in the equally glib “Only Lovers Left Alive,” was far more interesting. The same goes for Driver, who was more interesting as the bus driving poet in “Patterson.” General audiences might get their first (maybe last) dose of Jarmusch as “The Dead Don’t Die” is banking on the popularity of zombie movies and the star appeal of the cast to sell tickets. An unsatisfactory ending will leave you with questions as to what it all means. “The Dead Don’t Die” might be the worst zombie movie ever made. “This is awful,” Robertson says, “Maybe the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”
Dead bodies come to life but the script and dry humor remain lifeless.