Review: The Dead Don’t Die

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Grisly ghoul goofiness

The Dead Don't Die

If you think that a zombie movie is an odd filmmaking choice for a writer/director like Jim Jarmusch, well, then you are forgetting that almost everything this creator does has an avant garde strangeness to it. The Dead Don’t Die might be his most commercial film yet; which is ironic, given the story’s commentary on the mindlessness and soullessness of modern commercialism.

This film is part tribute and part spoof of all the undead films that have come before it. The fourth wall is broken on more than one occasion, with hilarious winks and nods to the Jarmusch and general pop culture fans in the audience. There is a lot of grisly ghoul goofiness going on in this movie.

If you’ve ever watched a zombie flick, then you know the plot of this one – although there are some unexpected surprises. The fun comes from the rather low-key reactions to the zombie-apocalypse from the citizens of small town Centerville.

The Dead Don't Die
Copyright © 2019 Image Eleven Productions, Inc.

Adam Driver as police officer Ronnie Peterson is particularly nonchalant about the whole thing and his chemistry and interactions with Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) are the highlight of the film. (Here’s hoping we see them together in something again someday.)

A running gag throughout the movie is the song, The Dead Don’t Die, by singer/actor Sturgill Simpson, who also makes a cameo in the film. It is easily the best zombie-themed song ever written and has some hilarious moments throughout the story, almost as if it was a character itself.

The Dead Don’t Die has an all-star ensemble cast that includes Steve Buscemi as an irate farmer; Danny Glover as the owner of the hardware store; Selena Gomez as an out-of-town visitor with a cool car; Tilda Swinton as the town’s mysterious mortician; Chloë Sevigny as the police dispatcher; Caleb Landry Jones as a memorabilia store/gas station attendant; and Tom Waits as the town’s ill-tempered Hermit.

The Dead Don't Die
Copyright © 2019 Image Eleven Productions, Inc.

Despite all of its weirdness, it’s extra-strange that this movie was not filmed in black & white, given the directors filmography; but the biggest drawback for me was the heavy-handed way in which he delivers the message of the movie, leaving little room for audience interpretation – or maybe spelling it out so simply is, in fact, saying something about the dumbing down of our society. Either way, the movie should make you stop and think.

If you are tolerable to Jarmusch’s eccentric brand of filmmaking (Down by Law, Dead Man, Stranger Than Paradise), then you will most likely enjoy this, his bloodiest effort; otherwise you may (or may not) leave the theater scratching your head.

Grade: 6.5/10

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.