The Dead Don't Die
The brand new zombie-comedy film, The Dead Don't Die, is finally out! Find out how an all-star cast spoofs the zombie genre in our official review...
The 4th Wall Doesn’t Exist In All Too Self-Aware Horror-Comedy
What do you get when you put Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, RZA, Selena Gomez, Tom Waits, Chloe Sevigny, and Tilda Swinton in a zombie movie? Cinematic gold, or at least you would think. Every single one of these heavy-hitting Hollywood actors star in the latest zombie film, The Dead Don’t Die. As you might’ve seen in the trailer, it’s not your run-of-the-mill zombie film. Not at all. It’s a humorous take on the zombie horror genre and it doesn’t take any measures to hide it.
The Dead Don’t Die, written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, takes place in a small, rural town known as Centerville. Centerville is home to many nice, neighborly folk, with one universally-disliked fellow in Farmer Frank Miller (Steve Buscemi). While on patrol, Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) and Officer Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) begin to see their once peaceful town become infested with the living dead, or ghouls if you like. It’s up to the police of this fair town to help defend their fellow citizens and survive the zombie apocalypse.
While humorous, Jarmusch’s film is not for everyone. If you’re more into slapstick, outgoing comedy, you’ll be sorely disappointed with The Dead Don’t Die. Instead, the film employs a drier, darker style of comedy that, while funny, isn’t something the general public would usually go for. With players like Bill Murray and Steve Buscemi, it’s not hard to understand why there might be some confusion going in.
Despite having an all-star cast to work with, The Dead Don’t Die suffers from extremely lazy writing by incorporating the 4th wall early and often. Throughout the film, there were several moments where there would be a dialogue between two characters (Usually Driver and Murray), helping to move the story along. Often times, one of them would have no idea what was going on and would need the plot of the story explained for them word-for-word. When asked how they knew so much, the other would just break the 4th wall to get a cheap laugh.
It’s a funny mechanic, at first, but quickly becomes annoying. I’m all for movies like this not taking itself seriously, but the sheer frequency of self-aware jokes completely took me out of this movie. It seemed like when Jarmusch was writing and directing this film, he usually didn’t have a good reason for why something was happening. Instead of connecting the dots and figuring out where the story should go next, he decided the reason was a situation of “because I said so”. Thus, creating a very hollow film from top to bottom.
George Romero/Sturgill Simpson-inspired Story
It’s clear as day that the inspiration Jim Jarmusch took for The Dead Don’t Die stemmed from George Romero horror films and the music of Sturgill Simpson. Of the two, the Sturgill Simpson inspiration is definitely more prominent. For starters, the movie’s title “The Dead Don’t Die” is the title of one of Simpson’s greatest hits. If you’re unfamiliar with it, don’t worry because it’s played in The Dead Don’t Die film about a thousand times. Heck, you might even hear it and wonder “Hmm who sings that song?”. Don’t worry about that either, because they’re about to tell you a thousand times more. If there’s one thing that you’ll, no doubt, takeaway it’s that Sturgill Simpson sand the song “The Dead Don’t Die” and he’s amazing. They said it so many times, I started to believe that the twist was that he was causing the zombie apocalypse.
While Sturgill Simpson’s music is the primary theme of the film, The Dead Don’t Die takes a lot of cues from the classic George Romero horror films. They even mention him in one or two scenes, mainly to give props to his inventive storytelling. His somewhat-cheesy style of storytelling is prevalent throughout The Dead Don’t Die. Romero’s catalog is vast, but the main film I kept thinking about, as I watched this film, was Land of the Dead. It’s just so similar in the way the zombies act and how both the town folk and the zombies are killed. In Land of the Dead, the zombies began to exhibit human tendencies, they learned. Similarly, in The Dead Don’t Die, the zombies went back to the human things they enjoyed doing. So, in a lot of ways, The Dead Don’t Die is actually one big love letter to the iconic George Romero.
Too Many Actors, Too Many Mouths to Feed
In the beginning of this review, I rattled off a slew of big Hollywood names in The Dead Don’t Die. While that tends to build excitement, at first, history has shown that the higher number of prominent actors you have, the more the movie will suffer. The Dead Don’t Die ends up being just another notch in the belt of that statistic.
The Dead Don’t Die features about seven different storylines, but there’s only two that really matter. Bill Murray/Adam Driver’s and Tilda Swinton’s. The rest of the cast and their experiences are ultimately superfluous and include nothing that help or hinder the story. In fact, once the outbreak begins, their stories are thrown to the wayside to focus on the two most important parts.
The biggest example of this is the Juvenile Detention facility of this story. This arc features 3 young actors, Stella (Maya Delmont), Olivia (Taliyah Whitaker), and Geronimo (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) whose only purpose is to be three of the brightest kids in the world. They’re so bright, in fact, they figure out what’s causing the zombie outbreak pretty quickly. The only problem is, when the outbreak occurs, they escape from the detention facility and we never see them again. All of these unnecessary storylines just raise the question of “What was the point of them being here in the first place?”. Unfortunately, it’s a question that’s never answered.
The Most Random Night You’ll Have at the Movies
At the very moment the credits rolled, at the end of The Dead Don’t Die, I began trying to come to terms with what I had just watched. Unfortunately, I don’t know if I’ll ever figure it out, because it’s just so random. You go about 75% of the movie and then Jarmusch decides to flip the script, introduce a new element, and never explain the reason or what is even going on.
Perhaps that’ll help The Dead Don’t Die become a cult classic with a certain variety of moviegoers, but it didn’t resonate with me. All the twists, turns, and random excuses to break the 4th wall felt messy and lazy. The Dead Don’t Die just felt like an excuse to make a movie and be damned if it doesn’t make sense or if moviegoers don’t like it. This was the movie Jim Jarmusch wanted to make and he wasn’t going to be denied. Unfortunately, his vision is all over the place.
I firmly believe that there will be a group of moviegoers that see this as “genius”, but I’m not one of them. The Dead Don’t Die just isn’t worth your time at the theaters. If you do wind up going there for it, though. Get ready for the most random night you’ll have at the movies.